31 January 2012

St Sava festival

The main reason for our trip to Canberra was so that Sue could attend the annual Serbian St Sava festival at the Hall monastery.   Here are a few pictures that may give just a glimpse of what occurs! However, they fail to give the complete picture, because the kolo music is LOUD!    Novak Djokovic's win in the Australian Open was the icing on the cake!

30 January 2012

Getting to Sydney

The drive from Canberra to our accommodation in Sydney was relatively painless.  I've hardly driven  around Sydney in recent years, and the M5 (the south-western link) was a new experience.   It certainly made for a hassle-free trip from the Cambelltown area into the city, and we then carefully followed the signs and got to Chatswood without incident - somewhat to our surprise and certainly to our relief! 
Of course this meant using the harbour tunnel, rather than the bridge, as we weren't in a mood to experiment in an endeavour to take a more scenic route! 
Our trip was early on a Sunday evening, when the traffic was manageable.   I don't like to think how these roads cope at busy times, given their limited capacity (only 2 lanes in many places).
Our e-tag beeped a number of times, so I will study the account with interest when it arrives to see how much this journey cost me!

29 January 2012

Paying respects

We paid our respects at the graves located at the Serbian monastery at Hall.    Lots of marble, very peaceful, everything very well maintained.

28 January 2012

The Renaissance exhibition

We sampled Renaissance art when we were in Italy last year, but we pretty busy and didn't absorb much of it. Hence we decided that we had to make up for this, and so we visited the current exhibition of Renaissance works at the National Gallery in Canberra. As is well known, this is a collection from the Accademia Carrara at Bergomo, and also includes at least one of the NGA's own works.
Raphael: Saint Sebastian
The display is arranged in a clearly defined sequence, ranging from the Gothic to Renaissance transition through to the High Renaissance and the Late Renaissance. Thus, even relatively uneducated viewers (I'm in this category) can readily discern the evolution in style, accompanied by the change of media from tempera to oils and from wooden panels to canvas, culminating in the amazing colours that really shine out in the last couple of rooms.  Rightly or wrongly, these rooms were the highlight for me.
Of course, the majority of the works have religious themes (including lots of Madonnas!), but there are quite a number of non-religious portraits as well. I was interested that there was even a section devoted to altarpieces, with a number of panels on display – but no complete altarpieces. I now regret not having looked at the Bode's amazing collection of these in more detail (I mentioned this collection a little while back).

27 January 2012


We're staying while in Canberra (well, in the ACT) at a place called Gungahlin (the reason for this choice is another story).  Initially I wondered whether this newish part of Canberra "just happened", but after a moment's reflection I realised that this is Canberra so what we must have here is bureaucracy's attempt to plan suburbia - even though the outcome seems a little strange in parts.   This conclusion was slightly reinforced by the fact that one of the biggest buildings in the area is the public library - directly over the road from the Canberra Raiders club! Perhaps this is as a result of the planners attempting to be socially responsible as well as responsive to the wishes (needs?) of the people.
Gungahlin is obviously intended to be a significant shopping destination, but I was left with the feeling that there's been an effort to give it a “lived in” feel. But it doesn't quite get there. The presumably necessary but not-quite-nice fast-food chains (Maccas and KFC) have been grouped together with 3 pizza chains, a video store, and a Chinese and an Indian restaurant (for some reason, close to our accommodation). In the main shopping area, the rather odd mix of retailers gives it a slightly surreal feel. For example, the big 4 banks are all here – but almost as prominent are a couple of 2nd tier banks as well as some credit unions (has there been a socially conscious effort to redress the balance in the banking sector – commendable, perhaps, but is this a function of the planning process rather than the competition regulator?).
There are still some wastelands, but presumably these will be developed.   I wonder what would be suitable for this space between the fast-food precinct and the service stations/big-box retail precinct?  (Perhaps a government department?   The mind boggles).
 And, what's that temporary structure?   Yes, an amenities block for the bus drivers.  I guess planners can't think of everything.

26 January 2012

To Canberra

We're about to leave for Canberra, where Sue will attend the festival at the Serbian monastery and I will otherwise occupy myself (although there are certain parts of the festival where my presence will be required).  So, a solid day's drive (at least, by our standards) lies ahead.
The Church in the Monastery grounds

25 January 2012

Buying event tickets on-line

Although I've frequently conducted transactions on line, for the first time  I recently had to use the Ticketek website.  Perhaps the fact that Ticketek is owned by the Nine group got me off to a bad start, but their website particularly annoyed me.    In order to buy tickets (to an exhibition at a taxpayer-funded gallery, mind you), I was required to register as a Ticketek user.   This couldn't be done without providing (amongst other things) both my home and mobile phone numbers (although I admit that the possibility of entering wrong numbers did occur to me) and de-selecting numerous options along the lines of "let us keep you informed of future events" of various types.
When I came to the payment page, yes, I was aware from earlier screens that there would be a "booking fee" added on, but no-where was it stated that you had no option but to pay by credit card (direct debit wasn't available) - and, yes, there was a 1.5% surcharge for using a credit card! Is my impression correct that this type of undisclosed sting-in-the-tail is of interest to the ACCC?   But even if it is,  can I be bothered taking the matter further?  Or would it be that an organisation that as recently as December incurred a $2.5 million penalty for abuse of market power (see -http://www.accc.gov.au/content/index.phtml/itemId/1023878/fromItemId/2332) would have made sure that its practices were beyond question? 

24 January 2012

Parking signs

So is it unrestricted on Wednesdays?  (Actually, yes)
Is it a symptom of the desire of our civic fathers to micro-manage our lives?    There are some incredibly difficult-to-comprehend parking signs around our streets!   I didn't even have to search for these examples - I go past each of them several times a week!
On Saturdays, ticket required on the left but not if you park on the right?
Arriving at 8 pm, how much money do you put in the meter if you park on the left?
No space here for buses in the afternoon?

23 January 2012

Water consumption (2)

It seems the authorities are determined to reduce the amount of bottled water that we drink.   This trailer-mounted dispenser was on the forecourt of the Arts Centre recently.

22 January 2012

Summer of the Seventeenth Doll

We recently saw the MTC's current production of the Summer of the Seventeenth Doll.  I saw it years ago  - in fact, it may have been one of the first MTC plays that I ever saw.   I hasten to add, however, that was some time after it was first produced in 1955!
I had forgotten the story line, so I looked at this production through fresh eyes.   To recapitulate, for 16 summers, Roo and Barney have spent their long layoff from the cane-cutting season down in Melbourne having a good time with two Carlton barmaids, Olive and Nancy. But back for their 17th summer, it seems time has finally caught up with them. The play is all about the dawning of this realisation and the ability (or inability) of the different characters to "move on".  
The play is, of course, regarded as a classic (perhaps because it was ground-breaking when it wa first produced), so it may be that my thought that some of the initial scenes could have been slightly tightened up is out of place.  Likewise, it's a little odd that the storyline contains no acknowledgement of the fact that it's hard to envisage that there could have been a period of 17 years in the first half of the 20th century when external circumstances (wars, depression etc) would not have brought change to the lives of cane cutters, barmaids and boarding house owners.  
In places, there's some great acting in this production,  even though both Sue and I commented at the first interval that initially we had to strain our ears to decode the 1950s Australian accents!

21 January 2012

Water consumption

With an expensive desalination plant coming on stream in the near future, perhaps the authorities have a vested interest in winding back their previous campaigns to save water.   But I wonder if consumption is going to be increased to any significant extent by the efforts Yarra Valley Water is currently undertaking to persuade us to drink tap water instead of bottled water?    With our recent water account was a reminder that a litre of bottled water is 1,490 times the cost of tap water and the same as 6000 glasses from the tap!
Well, perhaps I'm being unfair!   I guess there really is a useful purpose served by getting us to question our apparent addiction to bottled water.

20 January 2012

One for the pheasants

I suspect that I ought not admit that I sometimes read mX.    Be that as it may, I did happen to be glancing at a copy and there was a note about the Duke of Edinburgh being upset because he's had to give up shooting pheasants.
It seems that there's a risk that the shotgun recoil will dislodge the stent inserted in his artery after his recent heart scare. 
The article is here as well:
Haven't seen the anti-whaling activists taking the credit for this, but perhaps it's only a matter of time.
Is this a pheasant?  Google says it is, but I can't speak from personal knowledge!

19 January 2012

Traffic Lights

I guess we're all experts on traffic lights.  After all, we sit in our cars long enough looking at them.   Perhaps there is indeed a big computer at VicRoads that synchronizes them in some way, but sometimes I wonder.    There are few things more frustrating than to sit at a red light while the next light is green, but that light turns to red just as you approach it.   This sometimes occurs in busy Dandenong Rd in Windsor, where to make matters worse, the second set of lights is a pedestrian crossing that extends only across one side of the road, and could easily and logically be programmed to fit in with the traffic flow without affecting traffic on any side street or even indeed the traffic coming in the other direction!
And there are a couple of other locations in the area - which I have consistently observed over a period of time -  where the synchronisation at most times of the day appears to be nearly as poor.
Given this, I wasn't sure what to make of a report in the Australian IT section this week, about a team researching a theoretical physics-based model.  They aim to design "novel algorithms to run traffic signals in a more intelligent way".  My initial reaction was that a bit of common sense applied to the worst of the existing settings would be a good place to start.
Meanwhile, yesterday there was a team with a laptop computer next to the open control cabinet at a nearby intersection.....not sure what they might have been up to!

18 January 2012

Sea Shepherd

The anti-whaling campaign has been getting a bit of media attention lately. Particularly in relation to the boarding by activists of a Japanese vessel, many of the comments seem to have adopted a tone along the lines that "the end justifies the means".  Or perhaps "one person's terrorist is another person's freedom fighter"? (Not that I'm suggesting that terrorism is involved here, but my point is that perhaps there's a conceptual similarity).
Be that as it may, here's an image of the Sea Shepherd in Hobart during December (not quite sure of the relevance of the Aboriginal flag).

17 January 2012

Bridgeworks (2)

All the effort devoted to rebuilding the local bridge has paid off, and it's now open again to traffic. But that's not to say the work has finished!
There's still work to be done in the footpath area on the south side, and one lane of High Street remains blocked off.    But obviously the pressure no longer exists - there's not a sign of activity to be seen.   Except, that is, for a traffic management person, sitting alone in a nearby vehicle, presumably ready to respond if an unwary motorist runs into anything.   I guess that's our taxes at work?

16 January 2012

Computer literacy and handwriting

There was a very interesting piece in Saturday's Australian  (by Christopher Bantick) under the heading "The writing's on the wall for pen and paper".   In it, the statement was made that handwriting will eventually die out as a form of communication.   Reference was made to reports that more than 40 US states have adopted the Core Curriculum Standards, which don't require the mandatory teaching of long-hand.  Rather, it is left up to schools to teach handwriting if they wish.  It is stated that, central to these standards, is an emphasis on keyboarding skills.
Yes, by all means, ensure that our children are keyboard-literate, but my mind boggles at the thought that we don't need to teach handwriting.   I'm yet to be convinced that we're anywhere near the day when that won't be necessary.

15 January 2012

Lunch with a view

View from the deck
We had a most pleasant lunch and good company at Charles and Pam G's Somers house.    Yes, the breeze was a little cool, but at our age, you don't need heat to enjoy the coast!

14 January 2012

Garden hose

I was given a new hose reel and hose at Christmas.  The hose reel had to be assembled, which as usual was something of a challenge.  However, we got there.    The bits are on the left, the assembled product is on the right.
The instructions that came with the hose were interesting.    It was said that, before putting it on the reel, it ought to be laid out flat in the sun for a day or so, on the basis that - "This will help release the 'memory' retained by the materials to make [the] hose", and thus make it easier to manage and reduce kinks.   Hmmm, I did this, but the jury is still out as to whether this has been effective to "de-kink" it.

13 January 2012

Bye-bye "Beechie"

I was asked recently whether I had ever travelled on the Beech Forest line, and my answer, that I had, was received with just a little surprise.   This line was of course one of the 4 Victorian narrow gauge lines, and the last on which regular trains operated (that is, excluding "Puffing Billy"). I can remember travelling on the line, and also hiking in the area in scouting days.  However, I have no real recollection of the circumstances of the trip.   Only when looking for something else a day or so ago did I come across the brochure from my trip.
 (Apologies for poor quality of this image, but I am still working on how to upload  pdf files to blogspot.)
It seems that there were 2 "last trip" excursions, on 3 and 24 March 1962.  I can't remember which one I travelled on.    In fact, there were a number of excursions on the line in 1959 and subsequently, conducted by the Australian Railway Historical Society and others using narrow-gauge rolling stock transferred from Gembrook at the cost of the ARHS (including a Garratt loco, I think [Edit - on reflection, this may already have been there as the line was still in regular use at that time]). Although the brochure described the excursion traffic as "extensive", it seems that this alone alone couldn't offset the losses the line was making, and it was closed in June 1962.
The 1962 excursions were scheduled to reach the end of the line at Weeaproinah.    By this time, the portion of the line that extended to Crowes had been closed.  Crowes was the southernmost point of any railway on the Australian mainland (per Robert Lee, The Railways of Victoria 1854 - 2004).
I would have taken photos but I suspect they disappeared many years ago.

12 January 2012

Agapanthus (2)


You see them at holiday
houses, blue agapanthus,
standing by gateways,
reflecting summer skies.

One is struck by their sturdy
independence. Expecting no
pruning, fertiliser or
fussy programs of gardeners

they quietly do all that
is required, surviving dogs,
boys, salt, wind and January sun
– almost bluer for our neglect.

Showing no weakness, they
provide no soil for our caring.
This is why there are no
societies of agapanthus lovers.

                        William Rush
 (Reproduced with the very kind permission of the poet.  Much more eloquent than my blog on the subject a little while back).

11 January 2012


The authorities are busy rebuilding the High Street bridge over the railway line.  Last year, it was the Wattletree Road bridge, so given the number of bridges in the area, this type of work might be an annual occurrence each January for a few years to come.    The road is completely closed but at this time of year the traffic diversions are manageable.

There are temporary crossovers to let the trams reverse on either side of the work (passengers have to walk the past the work, over the bridge), and plenty of workmen to keep the job moving along!

10 January 2012


I mentioned (in connection with Epiphany) an altarpiece in the Bode Museum (Berlin).  The altarpiece that the image came from is just one of the museum's most impressive collection of these items.

09 January 2012


Epiphany is the celebration on 6 January (or the first Sunday after 1 January) of the visit of the Magi to the infant Jesus.    The wise men or Kings, who represent the non-Jewish peoples of the world, are said in Matthew to have brought gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.   But how many of them were there?    Rev Kylie Crabbe reminded us in her sermon this week (not yet here, but hopefully it will be soon - http://www.armadale.unitingchurch.org.au/index.htm) that the account in Matthew refers only to "wise men from the East".  Apparently the fact that there were three gifts leads us to assume that there were three Magi.   
Altarpiece, Bode Museum, Berlin

08 January 2012

Serbian Christmas

We celebrated Serbian Christmas at Sue's sister's home.    Lots of good things to eat and drink.  I was going to say that it's just as well for our health that Christmas only comes once a year, but since this is our 2nd Christmas in 2 weeks, I will re-phrase that to - "just as well it's nearly a year to next Christmas"!

07 January 2012

Христос се роди

7 January is Serbian Christmas.   Hristos se Rodi! Vaistinu se Rodi! (Christ is Born! Indeed He is Born!).

06 January 2012

Christmas Eve

The Serbian Church [edit] follows the Julian calendar, so 6 January is Serbian Orthodox Christmas Eve.  Traditionally, early in the morning of Christmas Eve, the head of the family would go to a forest in order to cut badnjak, a young oak, which was taken into the church to be blessed by the priest. The tree is stripped of its branches and combined with wheat and other grain products to be burned in the fireplace. This is considered a sacrifice to God so that the coming year may bring plenty of food, happiness, love, luck and riches. 

05 January 2012


For some reason shrouded in the mists of time, one of our household insurance premiums falls due just before Christmas.   When it comes to insurance, in the past I often just paid the renewal premium, perhaps in the vague hope that if I ever need to make a claim, being a long-term policy-holder might assist in some way.  In the case of this particular policy, for a number of years I've just paid the amount asked.

Not any more.  With the advent of the era of on-line quotes, for the last year or so, I've obtained at least one other quote every time an insurance premium has fallen due.   While my philosophy has remained that I won't switch for the sake a few dollars and I stick to brands that I know, I have found that in fact there can be very significant differences in the premiums on offer.   This year, in spite of it being a busy time of year, I obtained some other quotations for the insurance that recently became due.   The best quote (from a well-respected Australian owned insurer) was about 60% of the price being asked by the original insurer, being a difference of several hundred dollars.

I  realise that not all policies are the same, so I carefully studied the policy document when it arrived.  Yes, there are some differences in the cover provided, but these are not all in favour of the original policy.    In some respects the new policy provides slightly better coverage, in other respects, the old policy did.  At least there's been a non-financial benefit of the exercise - I have read the policy and am now aware of where we stand.   And, yes, "flood" is excluded but "storm" (including stormwater runoff from areas surrounding the house) is covered. 

04 January 2012

Drive safely

Although these signs have been on the Great Ocean Road for a few years now, they still amuse me!

03 January 2012

Why "Teddy's"?

Why is Teddy's Lookout (at Lorne) so called?
In enquiring locally (after a comment on a blog posting), I was told that someone called Teddy used to use the place as a lookout.   In fact, this is consistent with one of the explanations given in Doug Stirling's book, "Lorne, Living History".   The author states that it is said that one of the early cattlemen who used the lookout to spot stray cattle was called Teddy.   However, he says that no-one really knows how the lookout got its name, and another possibility is that it was named after Edward, the then Prince of Wales, because the reserve surrounding it was (and still is) named Queen's Park in honour of his mother, Queen Victoria.
He also puts forward another story:   there was a man who owned a donkey called Teddy that  roamed around the area.  The donkey often came too close to the edge of the steep hill overlooking St George's River.   Someone asked the owner if he was worried that the animal might fall over the edge, but he replied, "Well, that would be Teddy's look-out, wouldn't it?"
 (Painting is a view of St George's River from the air, from a point close to Teddy's Lookout)

02 January 2012

Drama - Armadale style

We were returning from Lorne.    It was very hot and a total fire ban day (as happens on the day you leave the beach!).  However, the trip was uneventful until we were nearly home.   At that stage, there was obviously smoke in the air.   As we crossed the Kooyong Rd railway bridge, we could see a small fire on the railway reserve.  It was generating lots of smoke and although the flames weren't very large, they were increasing in size.   After the onlookers had gathered, the fire engines turned up and fixed things pretty quickly.

The trains seemed to have stopped, and on the tracks were a couple of official-looking men, who I assume were from Metro.  In fact, I reckon they may have been on the scene more quickly than the fire brigade!