Sights of opulence and decrepitude

sightseeing in MelbourneAlthough I only had one week in Melbourne, I wanted to see as much of the city as possible, from the good to the bad, the glamourous to the vile. I like getting right into the city, getting to know both of its faces, even if some of the things I see are not pretty. Every city has these two sides to it, the rich and the poor, the proper and the depraved – and I think experiencing both is the only way to travel. How else are you going to get to truly know a place?

Sure, sightseeing in Melbourne is a lot of fun when you go to all of the famous places. But how about the infamous? Take a tour through Melbourne’s most luxurious suburbs of Toorak and Prahan, spot heritage mansions of the rich and famous, and stroll through elite schools and universities. Then when you’ve had your fill of wine and cheese and sparkling wine, get off the beaten asphalt and into the grungier parts of town. The city has its back alleys and dives. It may seem ironic but it’s places like these where the city’s culture has its inception. Take the suburb of Fitzroy, which was the one-time crime capital of the state. Now the graffiti on the walls and bohemian haunts add millions in value to the properties in the area.

City sightseeing around Melbourne has been a lot of fun during our stay here. I particularly enjoyed Victoria Market, which I learned was once a cemetery and still has bodies under the ground – the bodies of the non-Christians which the state didn’t bother to exhume when moving the graveyard to Parkville. And then there’s Lygon Street, where the mafia lords hang out and imagine themselves as mini Marlon Brandos. It’s these insider secrets that give the city its character.

From spring cleaning to roof cleaning

roof restorationEvery year, when the first of September rolls around and the birds are chirping away in the fresh morning light, I get so excited because this is the time for new beginnings. I think there’s something to be said for the pagan rituals surrounding spring equinox, because the symbolism of renewal has a powerful effect on our lives, spiritually, psychically and practically. Thus, one of my favourite things to do around the onset of spring, is a good old fashioned home clean up. This year, I hardly realised that my efforts would be hampered by a lack of roof maintenance in Melbourne.

I love spring cleaning not just because it makes the house sparkle, but for so many other reasons. I love getting into a cleaning frenzy, working all day for a few days, and cleaning all those forgotten nooks and crannies that have been neglected throughout the year. I also love the feeling of satisfaction you get afterwards – it seems to give me a clean slate to start on for the coming year.

This year, after two days of dawn til dusk labour, I stood in my front garden looking at the house, thinking that I’d outdone myself. ‘This is the best cleaning job I’ve done yet.’I said to myself. ‘Not a speck of dirt remains!’ As I took my first step back towards the house, I halted. There on the roof – moss-coated shingles, discoloured tiles and a gutter full of leaf litter frowned down upon me. I was going to have to call for roof restoration around Melbourne. I collapsed to my knees, defeated.

I guess in many ways, spring cleaning time for me is a lot like New Years for other people – that sense of starting over, new resolves and new goals. It’s a powerful time of year. That’s why I’m committed to hiring roof cleaning services as soon as possible, so that this year’s spring cleaning can be complete.

Trestle ladders don’t get much better than this

trestle ladderThere’s nothing like getting your platforms custom made. For too long I’ve been struggling with dodgy aluminium scaffolding and work platforms that aren’t quite right. Sometimes they’re not built well, other times they’re stable but not right for the job. They might be a couple of inches too short, or not wide enough to move around on. They might be the wrong shape or awkward to push around. That’s what I was stoked to discover some Melbourne companies that will custom build you platforms to suit your needs.

Because I work in a shipping yard, we need container access platforms as well as mobile scaffolds that can be moved around easily. When it comes to aluminium work platforms in Melbourne, there’s nothing better than the folding platforms and steps which you can pack up quickly and chuck in the back of your truck. Let me tell you, working in this industry has been a dream since discovering the companies that custom make for you. The people that make our equipment now listen to what we need very carefully and give us exactly that. Sometimes they even go well and beyond the call of duty and give us tips on what types of platforms will work better. They’ve got a lot of experience that’s for sure. I’ve ordered everything from cantilever platforms to trestle ladders around Melbourne for use on the docks.

Wish I could sing as many praises for supermarkets these days. Went to the local grocery yesterday and bought my food for the week, only to bring it home and find half the veggies are rotten. They’re such garbage because they’ve been grown and picked days or even weeks before, sometimes frozen and not even fresh. Not to mention the modifications. Tomatoes are the worst, you cut them open and they’re like rubber water balloons, and taste about as good. Come on Australia, get your supermarkets sorted out.

Times, Technology and Change

keyboardI’m grateful to live in an age where we can catch up television online. Back in the day, not that I was alive back then, but back in the day that just wasn’t really any option. You saw what you could see and that was that. To be fair, workplace standards were a bit more lax, so maybe if there was a big game on the boss would let you watch it while you cleaned the counters or manned the store or filed some arrest warrants. It was a simpler time indeed.

Except now you can go to a college in Melbourne and get a video game design course, easy as anything. Imagine if you travelled back in time, using…I don’t know, some kind of machine. Like a machine that manipulates time. Like a time…machine. So you had one of those, like the Time And Space Perambulatory Inspection Service vehicle from Professor What (or just the TASPIS). That takes you wherever you like, so let’s say you went back to 1970s Melbourne where televisions were tiny little things and some were still in black and white maybe. And you told these people that one day, there would be game design courses in Melbourne! They’d think you perhaps meant sport type games. That’s what they used to call the subjects of sport and P.E.: games. You’d have a games master and they’d be the ones in charge of all the sporting equipment. In fact, I bet they still have similar things at private boarding schools and places in the country where they speak in a very proper fashion. But anyway, those were games, whereas nowadays we have sport and video games, which many people think are opposed. Those people have never heard of Mii Badminton. But I digress.

Technology is great, basically. Now I’ll never miss an episode of anything because you can pick up that stuff online, easy as pie. And you can actually do a game design course, and it has nothing to do with tennis or cricket unless that’s the game you’re making. But Mii already did that.


The best retirement village

Lorne accommodationHaving retired in a vibrant little seaside village, I can safely say that everyday is a holiday. Whether it’s the peaceful period during the winter or the hectic time during school break, there’s always something on, something to do, some way to keep yourself entertained. Even just going for a walk on the hills is a wonderful, delightful experience. Living in Lorne I get the opportunity to embrace life and nature during my twilight years.

It’s always fun to watch from afar as the all the Lorne hotels fill with people, to talk to the owners and staff about their experiences with the ebb and flow of tourists in and out of the town. Everyone living and working here always has their own adventures, but whether those experiences are flattering or not depends on both the guest and the host. Be rest assured all the walls in this bustling country hub have a story to tell.

Every now and then, there are places in Lorne that function as renowned conference venues. It can be an unexpected dichotomy to see such focused, intent business people out here, in the fusion of village wilderness that Lorne embodies. You can always distinguish the conference goers from the tourists as well. Their whole air is different, their very way of being. The approach their stay with a completely different mindset, as you’d expect from someone going to a fantastic destination on a work trip. It’s just that they make it overwhelmingly obvious their trip isn’t about the destination, it’s about the conference. Sometimes I just wish they’d take a moment or two to enjoy the town itself. Of all the wisdom I could give to the young people of today, I would ask them to just enjoy the moment as it unfolds. Afterall, life is short, and experiences like this don’t come around every day of the week.

Re-Learning the Green Thumb

Hyacinth Gypsy PrincessIt’s not weird, taking a night course on how to grow plants…right? I mean, some of us just aren’t gifted in that area. I, in particular, struggle with all of that…business. Alright, I’ve killed everything I’ve ever grown. It’s true! If there was some kind of plant-based police, I’d be public enemy number one, a dangerous serial killer whose good intentions have claimed dozens of victims. Part of it is because I’m forgetful- the complete lack of watering is why the hyacinth bulbs I planted didn’t go anywhere- and the other parts, I’m not sure. I suppose I’ve never been one for instructions, because it conflicts with my devil-may-care attitude and lack of regard for protocol. Huh, maybe that’s it.

But then I was reading the paper, looking for used Cadillacs as I tend to do on most mornings, and then I saw it. Plant course, free! Well, the first lesson is free, and you can see how you like it. They tell you how to grow anything you could imagine, right from tulips and daffodils and culminating in that weird flower that only blooms once per year. Personally, I’m fine with just the tulips, but I’ll take what I can get. See, my parents always had the most beautiful garden, and now that I have a place of my own I think they expect me to at least make SOMETHING of it. At the moment, all I have is grass, dirt and a really scraggly tree that’s currently dropping these sharp little leaves all over the doorstep and ruining the mat. No, I need some education, and I can’t just ask Mum because it’d be embarrassing. Like, “Hi Mum, everything you taught me went in one ear and out the other, what a failure I am, want to teach me everything you know again?”

I have to do this by myself. All they want you to bring for the first lesson is a set of tulip varieties, to start off. Maybe this time, under the watchful eye of a teacher…I can grow something to make my parents proud.


Inside Scuffle, Taking Risks

tulipsThose superhero movie universes sure are taking off. I can’t quite believe we’re up to Phase 3 of the Marvell Cinema Multiverse; seems like just yesterday that we were eagerly awaiting Revengers while staving off all the naysayers who thought it was going to flop. And then PC decides that they want their own universe and…well, it’s a bit late to the party, but it could still work.

What I’m really worried about right now is Colonel Canada: Inside Scuffle. They’re introducing the character of Greenery, the lady who controls plants, and she’s not all that popular in the comics. If she’s not standing around filling whole panels about how her tulip bulb collections enrich the lives of all who visit Superhero HQ, she’s generally trying to fight and getting knocked out in four seconds. I only question her inclusion because I care, being something of a garden enthusiast myself. I myself own tulips, and I can say that while they’re gorgeous flowers, they’re not Earth-shattering. Greenery always did preach a bit too much.

See, if she belonged to PC, they’d reboot her character into being dark and gritty like she was in the 90s (though to be fair, a lot of heroes were also that in the 90s). They made it so she went nuts and started trying to cover America in hyacinths, because she thought in her madness that there was going to be an alien invasion and they could only be repelled by hyacinths. Oh, and then there was the big crisis crossover where it’s revealed that there were aliens living on Earth the whole time, and they WERE weak to both hyacinths and hyacinth bulbs, and Greenery was suddenly not crazy anymore and the heroes welcomed her back with open arms. No mention was ever made of her temporary insanity ever again.

I hope the Inside Scuffle version is more grounded and useful. Still, they’ve done a great job of keeping her out of the marketing. Haven’t even seen a glimpse of green in any of the trailers so far.


My Flowers Upstaged, My Plan Ruined

Hyacinth Delft BlueYou may already know the pain of the office resident who is seemingly capable of everything. My calculations were solid, and my predictions were well-grounded in my personal algorithm. The only unexpected factor…was him. Even his daffodil varieties are perfect, and it took almost no nudging to cause him to bring them into the office. My area of ultimate expertise, taken away from me. The adoration, ultimately lost. My days upon weeks of triumph, coloured black and grey in sorrow.

To make matters worse, he brushes off his incredible ability with nary a mention, such an arrogance that I can barely contain my rage. Before he came along, I had the office resting in my well-sanitised palm. My policies were being accepted one after another, and I had won employee of the month three months running for my suggestions of new legislation. There was to be no running in the hallways, no swapping of printer codes and certainly no re-using of plastic cups when engaging the services of the water cooler. It was a clean, sanitary working environment that I was aiming for, and best of all, I was accomplishing this without sacrificing any of my colleague’s approval. My changes were viewed for the better, and I was a popular figure. It also helped that my own false modesty was programmed to each exact contraction of my facial muscles. I tell you, humans are putty when you run the numbers. Number have never lied to me, ever, and I was on track for promotion. In fact, after my gift of daffodil bulbs to the entire office, an expression of my ‘gratitude’, I was more popular than ever.

But this newcomer…he is either the most disgustingly genuine person I’ve ever met or his skill with numbers surpasses mine, which I cannot accept. His natural skill, charm and hint of mystery have ruined everything, and his skill at growing hyacinths is the final straw. I must do something drastic, and quickly.


I adopted an Amazonian

paintersA few years ago my partner and I were travelling through Peru. My partner Jess has a special interest in the Amazon rainforest so we took guided tours and stayed at an eco-lodge in the jungle. During our travels, we didn’t come into contact with any indigenous in the forest but we did come into contact with something we were not expecting… an abandoned child living among the trees.

The child is now sitting in my living room. She’s had a heck of a time trying to adapt. Unfortunately now she’s having to grapple with the house painters. Around Melbourne, where we live, has a lot of old houses like ours that need renovations. So our adopted daughter has been disturbed by the whole newness of the thing. When we found her, she had been living in the rainforest for at least a year according to the doctor and child psychologist. We don’t know how she got there; whether she ran away or was abandoned by a villager living near the forest. The only reason why she survived is because she was raised by monkeys. The chimps must have discovered that she was no threat to them and then invited her into their clan. She still carries some of the mannerisms from time to time, such as walking on all fours from and gripping things that are handed to her with both thumbs. I was slightly concerned that the house painters would lift an eyebrow at some of her strange behaviour but they just focused and got on with their work. I guess the company we hired was pretty good for painters in Melbourne.

Our adopted daughter is now learning to integrate with fellow humans. She’s very happy and smiles a lot but I can see that the trauma of moving back into the city has been hard on her. She remembered little Spanish from before she was lost in the Amazon and now she’s learning English and becoming Australian. Hopefully she integrates fully.