Posts Tagged ‘Melbourne’


We’re biased, of course, as this blog is from Mrs Wellthisiswhatithink, but it’s a really interesting article about an utterly beautiful product and we thought it was well worth sharing.


Click here:

Includes links to classes where you can come along and learn to work with the glass yourself. Such fun 🙂

“Vue de Monde is thrilled to be awarded number one in Australia for the TripAdvisor Traveller’s Choice Restaurant awards,” Shannon Bennett, Head Chef of Vue de Monde said. “For us, not only does it give a true indication of how our customers feel about the experience we offer but also what we need to do to keep improving and striving to exceed our customers’ expectations.”

Shannon Bennet

Shannon Bennet

Positioned on the 55th floor of Melbourne’s iconic Rialto building, diners at Vue de Monde can enjoy a sweeping view across the city and beyond.

Chef Shannon Bennett tries to create an unparalleled dining experience and has evolved the menu from classical European roots to a more natural menu.

All ingredients are sourced locally and one TripAdvisor reviewer commented:

“This is unlike any other restaurant, we absolutely loved every mouthwatering meal, the beautiful French champagne, the decor, the atmosphere and the personal service from the waiters and chefs.

Not to mention being served by the owner.”

Screen shot 2015-10-14 at 4.35.00 PMThe full list of Top 10 Travellers’ Choice Restaurants in Australia:

1. Vue de Monde – Melbourne, Victoria
2. The Fish House – Burleigh Heads, Queensland
3. Chianti – Adelaide, South Australia
4. Quay Restaurant – Sydney, New South Wales
5. Muse Restaurant – Pokolbin, New South Wales
6. Aria – Brisbane, Queensland
7. Tetsuya’s – Sydney, New South Wales
8. The Stunned Mullet – Port Macquarie, New South Wales
9. Sage Restaurant – Canberra, ACT
10.Coda – Melbourne, Victoria

Congratulations to Shannon and his team. We must admit, our choices would be somewhat more prosaic. And cheaper. If you want our advice for a fantastic feed that won’t break the bank, try Chef Tandoor on Whitehorse Road.

With its plush carpet unruffled by other Indian restaurants moving in around it, it stands firm like its stiff linen while young, rowdier Indian street-food joints grab the limelight.  In its 19th year, Chef’s Tandoor is an elder statesman of north Indian restaurants and the Punjab tradition of the Tandoor oven.

Chef Virender Bist​ (who worked at India’s Taj Hotel group before opening Chef’s Tandoor) works the vertical clay-lined oven in the semi-open kitchen, slapping naan against its side walls, and dipping in skewers threaded with chicken destined for your butter chicken – because you are destined to have butter chicken.

The description on the menu transcends a rollcall of ingredients and characteristics, saying just: “choice of millions”. It’s not hyperbole either, considering the dish was created at Delhi’s famous Moti Mahal restaurant – now in its 95th year. The Moti Mahal is credited with popularising tandoor cooking generally, experimenting with meats and marinades to meet the demand for lighter (less oily) dishes. These days, it’s a 150-restaurant franchise serving more than 100,000 butter chickens a year.

Chef's Tandoor remains a neat local restaurant.

Chef’s Tandoor is doing its bit to add to the butter-chicken count. Char-tipped tandoori chicken pieces are cooked twice, the second time in thick terracotta-coloured gravy that’s creamy and tomato tangy. Irresistable.

The restaurant also wins points for offering Chicken Tikka Masala, a dish which, of course, doesn’t even exist in India, having been created in the UK, where it is now the national dish. That makes the restaurant doubly popular with expats and British visitors. It’s basically chicken tikka cooked with onion, capsicum and tomato in a thick gravy and utterly addictive.

Dhal Makhani was also invented at the Moti Mahal, as a vegetarian alternative to butter chicken using the same sauce. Here, it’s much deeper and earthier than butter chicken – the soft black lentils in a mellow onion-and-tomato based gravy finished with cream. Spoon some out of the copper-handled pots onto a bed of impossibly long fluffy rice, or let it pool on your plate and swipe it with naan hot off the tandoor.

And why stop at staining those bright white tablecloths with just orange and brown splatters? Add a splash of green, and order a Palak Paneer, fresh cubes of paneer cheese bobbing just beneath the surface of a silky smooth, spiced spinach puree. As with all the curries, of which there are nigh on 50 (including vindaloo, korma and masala) you control the heat, nominating mild, medium or hot.

Palak paneer.

Do Come toting that nice bottle of dry riesling from the fridge; there is no corkage.
Don’t Mind a cleansing lager? Kingfisher is on the drinks list. Or match an astringent high-chilli count curry with a bone dry Japanese Asahi.
Vibe Discreet and neat and not trying to be anything it isn’t. Which is a suburban curry house, and a damn good one.

492 Whitehorse Road, Surrey Hills Victoria.

Tel: 03 9830 0655

The view is crap, however.

Really love this blog from Mrs Wellthisiswhatithink (aka Jenie Yolland) on the classes she runs in Melbourne, Australia teaching people to express themselves and learn a new skill by making their own art glass plates and platters.

Article on Jenie’s classes – click here and enjoy a good read!

If you’re heading to Melbourne soon, or you live here, I warmly recommend them. Cheap as chips, and she spreads such joy!



Jenie Yolland's workshop

Jenie Yolland’s workshop


Jenie Yolland workshop

Jenie Yolland’s workshop


Some lovely photos of students’ work throughout the article – and students enjoying themselves – enjoy!

#jenieyolland #glass

The Wellthisiswhatithink crew had an uncharacteristically busy weekend, including visiting the glorious Yarra Valley for a day out wine tasting.

And we unearthed an absolute gem.




The other side of Yarra Glen from Melbourne, on the road to Yea, stand some of the most famous wineries of the region, including De Bortoli, (where the expensive but unique botrytis-affected Black Noble is required tasting),  Yarrawood, (a very pretty spot with affordable food, free music, and well-trained cellar door staff, and the pretty scene seen above), and Balgownie Estate, (where the tasting staff were especially welcoming and knowledgeable too).

The old days when the cellar door was literally that – the barn door to where the wines were maturing, complete with a rough-hewn bar and a couple of stools with a crusty old winemaker waxing lyrical about this year’s crop – have long gone, sadly. These places today are magnificently run tourism destinations with superb restaurants attached and sometimes luxury accommodation too. It’s all very nice, and seductive, but perhaps without quite the rustic, authentic charm that the area used to have.

Which is why we were thrilled, turning right on impulse when leaving Balgownie Estate, to find another tiny little vineyard tucked away at the end of the lane.




Acacia Ridge is like it all used to be. Sure, they do marquees on the lawn and can arrange flash catering for you and all of that good stuff, but on this glorious autumnal day there was just a bona fide miner’s cottage, with the front room packed to the gunwales with a hens’ party checking out all the wines, and a back room for everyone else to enjoy a tasting, presided over by an unshaven and somewhat bleary-eyed vigneron, who was suffering a shocking hangover from the conjunction of the release of his Cab Sav Reserve the day before and his 81st birthday.

But despite a thumping head, his child-like joy in sharing his wines was infectious, (we quickly bought a box of the Cab Sav Reserve about ten seconds after we tasted it), and sat down to hear his story, all the while trying to keep out of the way of his energetic (and we suspect long suffering) wife who was working much harder introducing the girls to their wines, eruditely, to our ears.

Gavan Oakley, checking vines for mites

Gavan Oakley, checking vines for mites. His first customers were his patients in his dental practice.

Gavan Oakley used to be a dentist in suburban Blackburn, where deep in the last millenium he was also a Labor candidate for Parliament for the seat of Deakin (drafted in and very narrowly missing out on winning, a prospect he viewed with some consternation), a local Councillor, and well-known local figure.

As he explained, his claim to fame was “saving” the Blackburn Lake from developers, by persuading the then Liberal Premier of Victoria to chuck in a bunch of funds to rejuvenate it, which monies he got matched by his friend and famous Australian Prime Minister Gough Whitlam, and the local Council.

Never let it be said one person cannot make a difference. Blackburn Lake today is one of the small but priceless jewels of Melbourne.

Anyhow, driven by the madness that leads anyone to grow grapes and make wine, and realising he was getting sick of staring inside people’s mouths, presumably, Gavan and his wife Tricia began the establishment of 4ha each of Pinot noir, Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon in 1996. Halliday noted that most of the grapes are sold to other Yarra Valley winemakers, and when the Oakleys decided to have part of the production vinified for the Acacia Ridge label, they and some other small vignerons set up a marketing and grape-sharing co-operative known as Yarra Valley Micromasters. It is through this structure that the Oakleys obtain their Chardonnay, which complements the Cabernet Merlot and Shiraz made from their own plantings.

As their website explains: “The property was planted in 1997. The original plan was to sell fruit to the larger wineries. This is still going on, but because the fruit is of such a high standard, we decided to begin making our own wine. This was done under contract by specialist wine makers, local to the Valley.

The grapes are slow ripening, small bunch clones, ensuring intensity of color and flavour. Irrigation is used to a minimum, to assist us in achieving high quality fruit.  A full range of wines are available to taste, these including the popular Sauv Blanc, Chardonnary, Rose, Pinot, Cabernet Merlot, Shiraz and a few other surprises.”

At the Wellthisiswhatithink tasting desk, which is today feeling just the slightest bit over-trained ourselves, we strongly recommend dropping into Acacia Ridge if you’re anywhere nearby. And grab as much of the Cab Sav Reserve as you can afford. Which at just $25 a bottle, could be a fair bit.

It is drinking now a lot better than many more famous wines at twice or three times the price, (even when sourced at cellar doors), and a couple of years somewhere dark and temperate like your hall cupboard will undoubtedly release yet more complexity, if you can keep your hands off it. It’s already darkly plum-red, luscious in the mouth, and manages to magically combine rich fruit with a dry, grippy edge. Quaffable by all means, yet round and finished with an elegance that entirely defies it’s price. It tastes – and almost certainly is – a labour of love.

The type of love that saves lakes, in fact. In a word, superb. And the joy of finding a bit of the Yarra Valley like it used to be? Priceless.

Related reading:

surprised_horseAh, sub editors.

They do love to just slip one in now and then.

Just to see, you know, if the Editor is actually awake and paying attention.

We love this:

Needs help

Holding the milk crate steady? Lifting the pony’s tail up? The mind doth boggleth.

It’s good to know our judiciary are so thoughtful.

You really should click on the link for the full story.

Ed Byrne

Ed Byrne

So. The Wellthisiswhatithink clan was driving through the rain yesterday evening to a very swanky dinner, (on behalf of departing Monash Uni Vice-Chancellor Ed Byrne and his wife Melissa – a wonderful event which we were thrilled to be asked to, although we are sad to be losing this wonderful couple to London – our loss is their very profound gain), when we came across this hilarious  sign on a building in swanky Malvern, one of Melbourne’s “better” suburbs.


We immediately cracked up.

Patient – “Well, I feel better now, can I stop coming?”

Manipulative physiotherapist – “Oh yes, I’m sure you feel better. Yeah, now worries, stop coming. I’ll find another patient to fill the gap. You go off and enjoy yourself. Knock yourself out. Don’t worry about me. I’ll be fine.”

Yes, yes, we know it doesn’t say emotionally manipulative physiotherapist, but stuck in traffic at 6pm in the rain and dark we just laughed and laughed.

Guess you had to be there.

(Feel free to contribute your personal conversation snippets between patients and the manipulative physio. Let’s see if there are any more people out there with our weird sense of humour.)

Incidentally, some of the musical entertainment provided at the dinner was from the ineffably brilliant jazz musician Paul Grabowsky. It was a true privilege to hear him and a bunch of other leading musicians at close quarters. Blessings in life arrive unexpectedly, don’t they?

This astonishing photograph was taken by Sarah Haddid, flying into Melbourne last night.

What is most terrifying for me is that our house is so close to all that. You can actually put your finger at the end of the Eastern Freeway and pretty much cover the Wellthisiswhatithink compound. The flames came to within two blocks of our local shopping centre. Friends in the middle of it all had to evacuate to us.

And yet, bizarrely, were it not for the emergency authority website, Facebook and radio, we would not have known it was happening. The wind was in the other direction – no smoke or embers. Bizarre.

Melbourne dodged a major bullet this weekend. I find it hard to summon up enough praise for the fire authorities and the volunteers and paid firies who keep us safe, at great risk to themselves.

Incredibly, it was five years to the day since Black Saturday, which very nearly impacted, perhaps fatally, on my family, and which brought death and destruction to so many others.

This is a beautiful land. It is also very frightening, sometimes.

As we write, there are still 26 out of control fires in Victoria. Our prayers and concern go out to everyone involved.

mileyOK, we have no idea who this young lady is.

Her photo was sent to me by a work colleague, cribbed from an official publication.

But, yeah. This is either the best bit of photoshopping ever, or dear little Miley has got a doppleganger working for the nick-nicks on Melbourne trams, or she’s sick of being criticised for getting her kit off and has gone to the other extreme.

Weird or what?

If you happen to know the answer, do let us know.

We are now declaring a moratorium on Miley Cyrus stories for, oh, well, for about three days, based on her current trajectory.

For those of you who will be emotionally destroyed by our abstinence, here are a few other articles from the last 24 hours.

The new normal. God help us.

Angry summer indeed ...

Angry summer indeed …

This has been going on all summer. We smashed heat records in January. And then in February. This is March: South-eastern Australia has been sweltering for well over a week, with the strongest pulse of heat just before the end. This is from Rob Sharpe at the Weather Bureau, about 15 minutes ago. (It’s now 6.30 pm approx AEST on 12/3/13)

South Australia

The heat pushed into South Australia almost two weeks ago beginning an eleven day run of over 30 degree temperatures. This is the third longest run of March heat in over 120 years of records.

Mt Gambier smashed the March record for consecutive days above 30 degrees with eleven. This is five more than the record and is also equal to the summer record set in 1956.


Melbourne has broken multiple records in this run of heat despite having records dating back 156 years. It has had the longest ever run of days above 30 and 32 degrees with nine days reaching 32.7 and above. The previous records were eight days above 30 and seven above 32, set in the same run in February 1961.

Nights have also been very warm in Melbourne meaning that buildings without air conditioning have struggled to cool from the daytime heat. The city has equaled the record of six mornings in a row failing to drop below 20 degrees. Tonight is likely to break the record with the mercury likely to be in the low 30’s or high 20’s most of the night. There is a chance that tonight will break the record for the warmest March minimum of 26.3 degrees.

All of Victoria has been bombarded by this heat with temperatures rising as high as 40 degrees at Cape Nelson. This is 19 degrees above the March average and half a degree short of the March record.


Records have been equaled and they have been doubled in Australia’s southern most state.

Launceston has been staggering in its consistently hot temperatures. It has doubled its record run of four days above 30 degrees with a staggering eight days, including a new record March temperature of 33 degrees.

Hobart came very close to its longstanding March record of 37.3 degrees today, reaching a top of 36.7 degrees. Just inland of Hobart, Bushy Park succeeded in equaling its 47 year old March record of 37.6 degrees. Strathgorden and Strathan had their hottest March day in at least 30 years.

Meanwhile, the northern hemisphere shivers, ironically, in appalling cold and snow, which is, of course, equally due to the chaotic disruption of the planet’s man-made warming.

What will it take before people realise we need to take meaningful action now? Yes, it’s going to hurt. It’s going to affect our lifestyles. It’s going to mean business will have to “box smarter”. And no, it’s not all bad news – climate change will produce winners as well as losers. But the scale of change is going to be massive, even if the effect is at the lowest end of what is predicted.

But we can do it – think of the great efforts made by humanity in times of peril before. We can stop it getting worse than it has to be, and we can ameliorate the effects. Just can we please stop arguing and get started?

This is unbearable.

Sometimes simple was best - it let the music shine

Sometimes simple was best – it let the music shine

Last night, for reasons so obscure they do not need elucidation, one found oneself with free tix for self, Mrs Wellthisiswhatithink and Fruit Of One’s Loins at the Melbourne opening night of the latest run of Jersey Boys, the autobiographical re-telling of the rise and rise of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons from the mean streets of New Jersey to mega-stardom and the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

First opening night I had ever been to. Always good to rack up a first when already ensconced in one’s middle years. I don’t suppose it’s likely to happen all that often, so the credit card treated us all to dinner on the pavement at an ancient bistro next to the theatre (the type where you have to ask the price of the bottle of wine then you shouldn’t be there) and it was really quite amusing watching minor celebs arrive and be interviewed on the red carpet and photographed in front of the banners for the show and all that fluffy nonsense. Wannabee starlets primped and preened and wandered around squeezed into dresses that resembled sequin-encrusted handkerchiefs rather than practical garments. Luckily it was a warm night.

The PR hacks and the journos and the publicists and the great and good of Melbourne society swirled around, all trying to work out who was looking at them without anyone noticing that it was them that was doing the looking, and in general, a good time seemed to be being had by all. The whole thing was about three millimetres deep in societal relevance, and all the more fun for that. The former conservative Treasurer of Australia, Peter Costello, sat behind and above us in the circle. What my Mum would have called “the cheap seats, for the genteel poor”. It was only continual nagging by the Memsahib that prevented me from pointing out to him that the socialists had the better seats.

This multi-award winning show, which has already done amazing business in the USA and around the world, just seems to roll on and on. Almost everyone I know had already seen it, and I had actually not bothered last time it was here – “Frankie Valli? Pfft!” – so I wasn’t overly geed up to finally make the show.

But what an error, Dear Reader! This was musical theatre at its most approachable, enjoyable, and even, on occasions, genuinely moving. All around the world right now I have friends and readers telling me how they are flocking to see the musical movie version of Les Miserables and coming away feeling sad and drawn. My advice? Forget “The Glums”, (it’s a thoroughly depressing book, it was a thoroughly depressing stage show, and now, apparently it is a thoroughly depressing movie), and hithe thee instead to the nearest production of Jersey Boys. Fly, if you have to. Because it’s a corker.

With a set that brilliantly combines the raw simplicity of steel, echoing the mills and hardships of the young lads’ backgrounds, with witty, eye catching video effects and massive TV panels (allowing the very clever tromp l’oeil effect of combining on-stage performance with genuine footage of the audiences watching the original Four Seasons performing on shows like American Bandstand), the overall effect is to encourage one to suspend disbelief entirely, and to feel one is back in the late 50s and 60s, witnessing the birth of a genuinely mass-movement popular music phenomenon, and the effect it had on both the participants and the society surrounding them.

Jeff Madden channels Frankie Valli so accurately all disbelief is suspended

The Melbourne production was previously singled out by critics as amongst the most impressive worldwide, and I am sure the same plaudits will rain on the heads of the current cast, choreographers, stage designers and musicians. At times, Canadian actor Jeff Madden channelled Frankie Valli himself with a passion and credibility (and the “voice of an angel” that made Valli so famous, with a natural falsetto that defied belief) that meant one had to pinch oneself to remember that the real Valli is now 78 and all this was a very long time ago. But all the cast were flawless. The sets were tight, the timing impeccable, the dialogue convincing, and above all, the music sublime. It was a perfect reminder, and in my case a reminder was needed, that these young people were responsible for some of the finest pop songs ever written and performed. Their talent and their popularity was certainly rivalling other mega groups like the Beatles at the time, or the later Abba, and they deserve to be recalled with affection and some awe. Especially the song-writing and producing skills of Bob Gaudio, charmingly brought to life by Decaln Egan.

What made the evening truly special were a few moments when the audience, swept away by the talent on display, both inherent in the music and in the performances of the young cast, hollered and whooped their full-throated appreciation.

As if taken somewhat by surprise, the cast allowed themselves a little self-regarding emotion, occasionally just taking a second to the thank the audience for their enthusiasm, throwing in the occasional bow, nods of thanks, and smiles, with sparkling eyes.

It was charming, unforced, and it seemed entirely appropriate.

It further blurred the line between history and today, between acting and reality, between New Jersey and everyone else, between the entertainers and entertained.

For a moment the bond between actors and audience really did feel like that curious and intimate mesh that binds pop idol and fan, that can make one feel bereft and bereaved at the death of a John Lennon or a Freddie Mercury, or in genuine awe of the athletic rawness of a Bruce Springsteen or Roger Daltry, or warmed by the sheer good naturedness of an Olivia Newton-John or Cat Stevens or fundamentally,and sometimes life-changingly, stirred by the righteous wrath of a Bob Dylan. In the music of these giants of the entertainment world we see glimpses of them, the real people behind the carefully-constructed images, and thus in turn of ourselves, expressed in new and meaningful ways.

Now and again, last night, we were privileged to feel what Frankie Valli and his friends gave their many fans. And it seriously rocked.

If you’ve forgotten, well, here you go. Do yaself a favour. Some of the video is a bit dodgy. The music sure as hell isn’t.

Melbourne’s Herald Sun loved the show too. As they did in Adelaide. And in Sydney, the Sunday Telegraph commented “Jersey Boys isn’t just a cut above most musicals;  it’s in a different league”. And the Syndey Morning Herald raved “This is easily the best musical ever – truly thrilling – the hits explode from the stage with verve, polish and conviction.”

You can also see exclusive footage of the Melbourne show with cast interviews on this blog.

Well there ya go, and now you know. Be there or be square, man.

One of the weirdest thing about being a northern hemisphere fellow in a southern hemisphere world is obviously the fact that it’s blazing hot at Christmas-time in the antipodes.

Readers who were on board this time last year will remember the article Home Thoughts From Abroad when Melbourne was visited by the thunderstorm to end all thunderstorms on Christmas Day 2011. I am pleased to report Christmas Day 2012 was much less dramatic.

Summer in the heat has its own traditions. Using the barbecue not the oven, for one. (Indeed, wandering the streets at this time of the year at any mealtime will leave most people salivating by the time they get home, as the air is perpetually heavy with the sweet smell of grilling steaks and snags – otherwise known as sausages or links, depending on where you’re from.) Oyster Bloody Mary shooters are a regular in the Wellthisiswhatithink household – they’re a hell of a good way to start the meal preparation time. Most people down here now choose seafood not turkey on Christmas Day itself – especially lobster, (hang the price), and, of course, the ubiquitous prawns. (Which down here are gigantic, not the shrimps you get around northern Europe.) Heading to the beach or the cricket on Boxing Day is another favourite.

(We actually prefer to call Boxing Day “St Stephen’s Day” in our home, for obvious reasons.)

And not least in the traditions of the Christmas-New Year is the annual “Blimey, it’s Christmas already, we really need to get the pool ready for use!”

It was particularly the case for us this year, because during the off season we had the pool re-painted, after years of it looking like a patchwork quilt of the previous three paint jobs, all of which had worn off the base concrete to some degree or other.

The ineffably beautiful Jacaranda tree, inspiration for our "new" pool.

The ineffably beautiful Jacaranda tree, inspiration for our “new” pool.

So the pool is now unique. No, I don’t mean it’s nice, or new looking, or all that. On a whim, we chose a colour that the pool painter said the paint company told him had never been ordered before! It’s called “Jacaranda”, after the flowers of that lovely tropical tree which abounds throughout Australia at this time of year, or if you feel a little more prosaic, “Purple” would describe it just as well.

We now have the only purple pool in Melbourne. Unless you know different.

So, sure as the most common comment you hear at this time of the year is “My God when is it ever going to rain?” Dad gets despatched to the pool to get the accumulated detritus off the floor of the pool so it can be enjoyed in the warmer months. Our pool is surrounded by very beautiful trees that shed constantly (not a smart idea to plant them in the first place, but we inherited the problem) so a decent blow and it can look like there’s a small field growing on the floor of the pool overnight.

The funny thing is, we have one of those automatic pool cleaners. The ones that quietly vibrate their way around your pool, vacuuming up the crap and cleaning the water at the same time. But ours is seriously old. It was given to us as a gift years ago, and has been quietly putt-putting around on and off ever since, gradually getting less and less efficient. But we can’t bring ourselves to chuck it out. It’s almost like a pet. We call it the Putt-Putt and nurse it back to life every summer with loving care, which this year involved actually taking it to the pool shop in desperation, whereupon Mr Putt-Putt Vet (known to the rest of the community as the man who runs the pool shop) diagnosed a near fatal hole in a critical part of the structure, which he repaired for free with something akin to cement. Thus far, Putt-Putt is well, and I am eternally grateful to his saviour. If you want to know a pool man who actually does something – anything – for free, call me.

But Putt-Putt has a problem. It’s on the end of a hose which doesn’t reach easily to the shallow end of the pool. In addition, the pool was dug many moons ago, when they didn’t make structures that are peacefully sloped to the deep end that isnt so deep anyway.

In our pool, the slope down to the deep end is like the north face of the Eiger and the deep end is so deep that you could drown a brigade of cavalry in it and no one would notice. Putt-Putt simply can’t make it up the hill.

Walking the Putt-Putt ... a time honoured Wellthisiswhatithink Christmas tradition.

Walking the Putt-Putt … a time honoured Wellthisiswhatithink Christmas tradition.

So every year, we undergo a ritual called “Dad’s walking the Putt-Putt”.

This involves me using the device exactly as it isn’t meant to be used, in other words, carefully shepherding it around the shallow end of the pool as if it was, indeed, a gentle old dog needing a bit of help finding his water bowl. Automatic it ain’t.

It’s all worth it in the end. There is nothing much as wonderful as reading the newspaper by a sparkling pool and plonking into it when one gets overheated. Friends come round and share quality time – once they get past worrying that we’ll think they only want to see us because we’ve got a pool – we are quite happy to acknowledge that they want to see us AND we’ve got a pool ready and waiting on a 100 degree day – bonus.

One Christmas tradition in Australia is not so welcome. The fires have started up in Tasmania over the last couple of days and it is feared lives have been lost along with plenty of homes. And today there are over 100 fires burning in New South Wales with over 20 of them out of control. In Victoria, we lost 173 hundred people (with another 414 injured) in February 2009 in an event called Black Saturday. The event is still seared into the minds of the entire community. For twelve terrifying hours the fire separated me from my family, still on holiday in an area with a fire roaring towards it, as I had chosen to return from our family holiday early. My daughter’s best friend was with her and my wife. At one point, her parents phoned my wife and asked for the numberplate of her car. No one needed to ask why. If they got caught in the firefront, they wanted to know how to identify that their daughter had died.

It is hard to explain the horror of the inevitability, the inexorability, the sheer uncontestability of a large grass or bush fire in Australia. Of course, we are not the only country that suffers these frightening events, but as the driest continent in the world we suffer them more often, and more severely.They are a natural part of the bush renewing itself. Essentially, humans were never meant to live here, and we do so at our peril, clinging to the land nervously, knowing full well we are not in charge.

As the world warms, the fires will come earlier, and harder, than ever before, just as they have this year. Indeed, the weather in NSW today was reported earlier as the worst fire danger day ever recorded.

As I walk the Putt-Putt around the shallow end, you can’t see it, but I am praying. You can read below about Australia’s “Dome of Heat”.

OK. Those pesky Mayans ran out of wall, so we all know we’ve all got only nine days left to live, right? So here’s my ultimate guide to what to do with every one of those sleeps in the world’s most liveable city. Money no object. I mean, you can’t take it with you, right?

So before the invisible planet slams into the earth – hop on a jumbo and head here.

I don’t care what the rich and famous tell you about heading to Japan for wafer-thin slices of wagyu beef at $500 bucks a head. Spend one fifth of that and get the most sensational steak you’ve ever eaten at my friend Stefan’s place in suburban Balwyn. The most unprepossessing place you ever saw, but it’s somewhat dowdy facade hides real riches.

He serves sausages, followed by cevapcici, (that’d be skinless sausages to you), followed by steak and salad, followed by either black forest gateaux or pancakes.  Walnut, lemon, or strawberries and cream. If Dirk Diggler came in with a few friends no one would be surprised, this is the 1970s on a stick. Meat, followed by meat, followed by meat, with some sugar and cholesterol to round it off. Perfect. No point worrying about your heart, if you go before the 21st you just miss all the nastiness.

I have always secretly suspected that his wine list seems mainly to comprise excellent bottles of wine left behind by business folks who leave there somewhat befuddled after three or four hours not realising they’ve left a bottle of Grange Hermitage behind. But who cares? The man is a legend, and so his meat.

Stefan's Charcoal Grill

Stefan's Charcoal Grill 2

Stefan's Charcoal Grill 3

A word of advice. Never just choose your favourite cut of steak, instead ask Stefan what’s especially good that day. It’s all on display, he’ll let you know what’s the go.  Stefan’s is just one of many great steak joints in Melbourne, where you can eat the beef that in general gets exported to Japan (and to a lesser extent China and America) before it ever gets to a local supermarket.  If you don’t want to eat 9 different cuisines before we all evaporate into space, then try Vlado’s in Richmond as well, and an honourable mention for Cutler and Co in Fitzroy. That’s three of nine days taken care of.

So, nicely sozzled from lunch? Hop on one of Melbourne’s famous trams and treat yourself to a lazy afternoon watching the cricket at the MCG: yes, the Melbourne Cricket Ground, universally known as the “G” by all Australians, where up to about 90,000 or so screaming fanatics regularly gather for Australian Rules Football, Cricket, and occasionally rugby and soccer too.

If you can, grab a day-night limited overs game, which gets progressively more rowdy as the lights come on and the seagulls swirl around the light towers, and that day’s victims – South Africa? Pakistan? India? New Zealand? Or please God, England  – step out to try and chase the Aussie’s total, or to bowl the Aussies out before they reach the target set by the visitors. It is one of the great sporting moments in the world, and as this is Australia, you can be assured that a fair amount of the amber throat charmer will be drunk before you head home.

day night cricket
Tickets aren’t cheap, but we’re all doomed anyway, so you may as well join in the fun. And as the world’s ending, we’ll probably throw in fireworks, too.

mcg 2

OK, hangover not too bad? Let’s head, then, to one of the finest golf courses in the world, at Royal Melbourne.  Established in its current location since 1930, it offers two of the most exquisitely beautiful and challenging courses in the world – known somewhat prosaically as the East, and the West – and regularly plays host to world class tournaments.

In 1959 the Club was chosen to host the Canada Cup.  In order to avoid crossing busy roads, 12 holes of the West Course and six from the East, all in the “main paddock” were chosen, and this became known as the Composite Course, which for many years was rated in the top 10 courses in the world.  Many important tournaments have been played over this layout, including the Eisenhower Trophy (1968), the World Cup, [previously the Canada Cup] (1972, 1988), the Australian Open on several occasions, the 1988 Australian Bicentennial Trophy, and most recently the Heineken Tournament for four years between 2002-2005.


In 1998 the Club hosted The Presidents Cup, the first time this was held outside the USA.  The event returned to Royal Melbourne in 2011. Now for the casual visitor it costs an arm and a leg to get on there, for sure, but then again, you won’t have much use for your arms and legs soon, so where’s the problem?

The perfect spot for a cool ale after 18 holes in 30 degree heat. Please turn your mobile phone off.

Right, up and at ’em Vita Brits. Lets do some shopping. What about a million dollar car?

holden fx

Well, if you’re quick, apparently an old black Holden (GM) garaged at a country NSW dealership for years is set to become the most expensive car ever made in Australia. It is up for sale for A$1.2 million – the owner has already knocked back an offer for A$900,000.


The 60+-year-old Holden, No.46 of only 112 sold in 1948 – the year the first Holden was made in Australia – is believed to be one of three still around.  The owner, Canowindra car dealer Charlie McCarron, said experts had described his car as “the first Holden that will make a million dollars”.

Mr McCarron said he had been contacted by an agent for an overseas buyer who offered $900,000 but at the time of the news story I read the offer had been rejected.  Mr McCarron commented at the time: “I really want what I’m after ($1.2 million) for it,” he said. And he would prefer a local buyer, saying: “I wouldn’t like to see it go out of the country.”  The car was originally known as a 48-215 Holden but the model has become more commonly called the FX.


They sold new for just over 700 pounds sterling  back in 1948 and Mr McCarron bought his car second-hand for $575 in 1970.
His car has deluxe options, while the other cars known to exist are standard.

What’s the difference? For an extra ten quid the car gained leather trim, safety wheel rims and a passenger’s sun visor.

It only has 21,000 miles (35,000km) on the clock and has had an interesting life, including several TV appearances. Racing legend Peter Brock drove it on a parade lap before his last Bathurst 1000 race in 2004.  Mr McCarron said it was the last car Brock drove at a Bathurst 1000, as Brock’s race car was crashed by his co-driver before he could drive it that day.  “Peter Brock told me after he drove it, ‘I never thought I would ever have the opportunity of driving an as-new 48 Holden’,” Mr McCarron said.  He said the car still ran well and had its original spark plug leads.  The tools, jack, hand pump and handbook are still there and the interior still smells like new.

It had a 2.15-litre, six-cylinder engine with 45kW of power. Today’s six-cylinder GM-Holden Commodore has 172kW.  More than 120,000 FXs were made until 1953, when the FJ took over. The other cars are owned by Holden (No.6) and Melbourne enthusiast Phil Munday (No.19).

The desired $1.2 million price betters the $1 million price a 1971 Ford Falcon GT-HO owner has been asking for his car and the $900,00o plus paid for a Holden Special Vehicles 427 coupe a few years back.

Trivia aside: Who wrote HSV’s well-known slogan “I just want one.”? Yes, the answer wouldn’t be far from the home of  Mr Wellthisiswhatithink …

So last but not least, what about some prime real estate?

Raheen 1
Raheen is an historic 19th-century Italianate mansion located at 92 Studley Park Road in the  suburb of Kew, overlooking the Yarra River. It was built in the 1870s, and its name means “little fort” in Gaelic. It was once the residence of Daniel Mannix, the former Roman Catholic Archbishop of Melbourne. and was purchased by the Church.

The first section of Raheen was commenced in 1870 with an extension added in 1884. It was designed by William Salway and built for Edward Latham of the Carlton Brewery. Sir Henry Wrixon, prominent Melbourne barrister and solicitor, later owned and resided at the property.

Reheen 2

In 1981 the Church sold the property and it reverted to a private residence. Raheen was constructed as a two-storey house in the Italianate style with a four-storey tower over the entrance and single-storey extension. It was designed in an asymmetric and arcaded form, and is built of red brick with cement render. The property retains its garden layout, including an Italianate garden, outbuildings, fence and gates, and internal features including the original stairwell, library, ballroom and cast iron tower stairs.

Raheen is of historic importance because of its association with Melbourne’s elite businessmen through Latham and Wrixon, and illustrates not only the importance of the brewery business and the legal profession in nineteenth century Melbourne, but also the importance of a residence in indicating success and status in society. The house is also of historic importance through its association with the Roman Catholic Church and illustrates the status sought by church hierarchy for Melbourne’s Roman Catholics and the Church prior to the mid-twentieth century.

Raheen 3
It was purchased in 1980 by the Australian businessman Richard Pratt (now deceased) and his family and currently is not open to the public. Many of Melbourne’s great and good – or, in any event, the most powerful – have graced its fine dining and living rooms down through the years, especially the art and theatre community which is extensively patronised by Pratt’s widow, Jeanne.

Before his death, Pratt extensively renovated the house and gardens, including the addition of a new wing designed by Glen Murcutt. Some sources say about a hundred million bucks should be enough to shake it loose from the Pratt’s hands.

Or then again, maybe not.

Apparently villages in France, Turkey and elsewhere are being touted as the right place to wait out Doomsday. In one, aliens are supposed to emerge from a  garage and whisk us all to safety. In Turkey, the Virgin  Mary is supposed to do the trick.

But I recommend Melbourne. The beer’s cheap and cold, the Vietnamese nosh is the best in the world, and we’re really nice people. Now I ask you, what else do you really need?

I have long been a critic of “public service” advertising. In my view, after 25 years in the advertising and marketing business, it is largely boring, tedious, un-impactful, and ineffective.

Sometimes, though, it seems the creative teams involved become  truly inspired by the importance of what they are doing: which is, of course, changing attitudes.

Check this out. This new little animated spot has been created by Metro Trains in Melbourne*.

I am just dumbstruck by how clever it is, how brilliantly focused and targeted (given that teenagers and young adults would be the primary audience), and how the message remains with you long after you’ve seen it. I know I will remember it whenever I am anywhere around a train, and I sincerely hope they reinforce the “dumb ways to die” message at “point of sale”,  that is to say, at stations and level crossings.

Another point. At three minutes long, it gives the viewer plenty of time to digest the message in a low-stress, humorous manner. The mood it inculcates in the viewer will increase the effectiveness of the message. It is not generally possible, of course, to deliver a three minute message on TV. So this is a super use of new media to get a story across in a meaningful, powerful manner. It’s been viewed 5 million times is 6 days on YouTube. Huzzah.

Regular readers of Wellthisiswhatithink will also notice that – although vastly different in tone and style – it uses the same brilliant insight into its target audience, and many of the same understandings, as this innovative pro-condom ad from France, that I have glowingly written about before.

I was also reminded of the famous Grim Reaper campaign from 1987 in Australia. It certainly pulled no punches. And though it is easy, in retrospect, to criticise its creative content as now somewhat dated, its overall strategy (or even  its medical accuracy), and the climate of near-hysteria it created at the time, there is no question that it dramatically reduced the ongoing incidence of HIV infection – Australia has one of the best performances in preventing HIV transmission in the world.

Another brilliantly successful campaign has been the Victorian campaign by the Transport Accident Commission against road trauma. Over the years it has created much controversial comment – it is just so damn difficult to watch some of the ads – but it has also undoubtedly saved thousands of lives, too, especially since they started putting up billboards to drive home the message as well. (A decision in which I played a small and hitherto unknown role, of which I am proud.)

Anyhow, I defy anyone to watch this spot – just one of dozens and dozens over the years – and not re-think their decision to drive home after a few drinks this Christmas.

Be safe out there.

So – takes a deep breath – sometimes, public service advertising gets it very right. Bravo to all concerned.

Now if only our political and social masters would demand standards as high as this for ALL public service advertising, instead of the anodyne, committee-squashed over-safe crap we usually get, then I might not mind paying my taxes quite as much.


For those interested in the genesis of the “Dumb Ways To Die” campaign, it’s strategy (which I am glad to say I divined correctly) and more information on it generally, this story ran in Ad News in Australia today:

With Metro Train’s ‘Dumb Ways to Die’ video now swelling to 12 million views on YouTube, both the agency and the brand have hinted at a possible sequel to the popular animated push.

The video, which shows animated characters exploring various ways to die, had amassed over 12.7 million hits (as of midday on 21 November 2012) since its 16 November launch, while its theme song has entered both the local and international Top 10 iTunes charts.

It was created by McCann and is part of a broader campaign aimed at the under 25’s currently spanning across several platforms. McCann executive creative director John Mescall said that while he wasn’t able to divulge all the details, a follow-up to the campaign may be on the cards.

He told AdNews: “Both Metro and McCann have been working together to make sure that Metro’s customers enjoy the advertising, and this is the latest campaign in a progression of this theme.

“While commercial confidences mean I can’t say exactly what we’ll be doing with this campaign in the future, we definitely won’t stop trying to inform Metro’s customers in an entertaining way.”

Meanwhile, Metro Trains hinted it may continue to use irreverent ads in the future and explore non-traditional marketing themes thanks to greater brand awareness and consumer sentiment.

It also admitted the approach wouldn’t have worked for the brand in the past and wasn’t suitable for all companies.

General manager corporate relations Leah Waymark said: “We’ve had a unique opportunity to establish a brand from scratch over the past three years and the evolution of the brand is now at a point where we have very strong operational performance and an improved customer experience, so we can take greater risks in our marketing approach.

“A light-hearted animation and song would not work for all brands and would not have worked for the Metro brand eighteen months ago.”

Waymark also said the campaign’s position on digital was “critical, especially when targeting the under 25 market and commuters”.

Metro Trains added it wasn’t worried about the campaign’s light-hearted portrayal of death and said it was hopeful its message will resonate with youth.

“Some people might have an issue with us making light of what is a serious topic, but if we can save one life or avoid serious injury, then that’s how we’ll measure the success of this campaign,” Waymark said.

“We set out to find an innovative way to reach young people who see themselves as indestructible. We felt images of body bags were more likely to have an impact on their parents, so we wanted to engage with young people in a way we think they might appeal to them a bit more.”

Waymark also said that while the brand was expecting some success, it wasn’t predicting nearly 12 million YouTube hits.

“We’re not surprised that this campaign has been well received but you can never predict the speed and take-up which, in this case, has been amazing.

“Importantly, we can see from feedback being posted that the safety message is not being lost which is great news.”

Mescall said: “We knew it’d get shared because it had the perfect mix of contentiousness and likeability. But you don’t expect 10 million views in five days.

“The fact that the whole thing feels joyfully subversive is probably the key to its success. The idea, the lyrics, the music and the animation are all equally important.”

Its song was produced by Australian keyboardist and Cat Empire member Ollie McGill and sung by Melbourne-based artist Tangerine Kitty. A special well done to them them – it’s a great piece of creative work.

Yesterday, leading creatives praised the video as a strong piece of branded content.

Exploding Heads

The future of comedy is safe, apparently.

If you are within cooo-ee of Melbourne, do yourselves a favour and go.

An excited Dolly Parton fan and sexually liberated strippers in Morocco | Exploding Heads Impro.

Click the link, peeps. And if you get a chance to see this great show during the Melbourne Fringe trust me, just get there.

The 86 Bar, Smith Street Fitzroy. (Which is also a very cool bar, by the way.) You can find all the info you want about times, venues, dates, book tickets (as cheap as eight bucks a head) etc etc here

Went to the opening night and just absoloodle cacked meself with laughter. So much breathtaking young talent: so clever to think it all up as you go, and create pathos, and make people rock with laughter.

Respect. Well done all!

Click this link to read a fun article called Stop Sausaging Around from See! Travel Mag.

I love the little story I have highlighted above, because it is all about sausages. In this case, German sausages, specifically. Go read that article then come back here 🙂

Sausage maker

You put the smergle in the kefuptnik, hit the guntraager button, unt out comes the wassenwitchit in one long line. Yumbo.

I love sausages so much I recently spent $250 on a genuine sausage maker.

I even bought proper pig’s intestine to form the casing of the sausages, not that horrid plastic stuff that commercial sausage makers make.

Then I went and sourced superb pork belly from the best butcher in Melbourne, and added in all the spices I wanted, following the recipes I had downloaded from the internet to the letter.

Mein Gott In Himmel! Do you guys have ANY idea how bad sausages are for us? They are little tubular fat and cholesterol BOMBS!

I ate them with one finger on my pulse, anxiously checking to ensure the pump was still beating. And that was the only time I made sausages. I will do so again, but I am letting my system adjust. I think it will be safe to eat another sausage in about, oh, say three months? I have even reduced my supermarket trawl for them, which could often lead to me eating sausages every day for a week. (And never getting bored.)

The home-made heart-stoppers were bloody delicious, mind you.

Actually, reading back, I think the only thing I can say is “Don’t play the sore liver sausage”  you wuss. Hang the risk, get sausage making again. Hmmmm. Tempting.

Anyhow, how brilliant is it to have a culture like the Dear Old Deutsch where sausages are so prevalent they even have sayings about them?

Actually, there’s an Aussie saying called “Sink The Sausage”  come to think of it. Not to mention “Hide the Baby Salami”.

English: Sausages, seen in Covered Market, Oxford.

Sausages, seen in Covered Market, Oxford. (Wikipedia)

They mean about the same thing. I’m sure you can work it out.

And now I’ve included them in this article, you can guarantee my story on sausages won’t get Freshly Pressed. Hey ho.

By the way, NEVER prick sausages to release the fat.*shakes in horror*

Defeats the whole purpose of making them. The trick to the puuuurfect sausage is to cook it slowly, turning constantly, over a low heat, until it is thoroughly cooked through and gently browned. Never pierce it with a fork or knife tip. Apart from losing lots of lusciousness, red hot pork fat in the eye hurts.

OK – I want to know YOUR favourite sausage, Dear Reader. Lincolnshire? Cumberland? Chicken with Chives? Duck with orange and sage? Italian? Or your favourite really silly sausage story. Or your best home-made sausage recipe – and if it’s good, I promise I will make a batch and post photos.

Yes, I think I will make some more sausages. Life’s too short. If I suddenly stop posting, you’ll know I have had a coronary, and life got even shorter. F*** it, eh?

Sometimes, the weather just cries out “let yourself off the lead, come and play”. Today was just one of those days. And a Sunday, too, when one doesn’t have to work. How lovely.

Yum Cha

Yum Cha: that’s Chinese for “Diet? Pfffft.”

After a brisk, cheery Yum Cha lunch at Wealth Garden – almost the only Westerners in a huge restaurant full of Chinese, which is always a good sign – She Who Must Be Obeyed suggested a ramble along the Yarra River at lovely nearby Warrandyte. Stuffed to the gunwales with prawn and pork dim sum, noodles and some things that it would probably be better not to know what they were – stuck it in your mouth, chow down, yummy, that’s all you need to know, gwai lo – all sloshing about in what seemed like an ocean of delicious tea,  it seemed like a very sensible idea.

What a joyous decision. Apart from running into not one but two good friends with similar ideas, it was simply the most glorious day imaginable. Clear, sunny, gentle breeze, the land green with winter rains, the river swollen and rushing and actually looking like a real river for once.

(The Yarra, whilst iconic for all Melburnians, is notorious for being something of a trickle, and very brown and muddy from silt washed down from up country.)

Out came the iPhone, and as we walked I snapped luscious scene after scene. They’re quite high resolution, so if you like them, please feel free to steal them. And I hope you enjoy sharing our day. Lots of love, Wellthisiswhatithink.

Yarra River

Blossom by Yarra

Wild garlic by Yarra

Blossom and Light

Green bank and light

Pretty riverside path

Soaring fir tree against blue sky

River and light and path

Exquisite view and light

Magnificent stand of gums

Wild garlic close up




Contented author and photographer. No, I don’t expect anyone to download this one.

The 21st birthday, set in 1920s Chicago. No, it has not escaped my attention that she looks ever more gorgeous, and I just look fatter. Helas, it was ever thus.

So last night, see, for reasons which need not concern us here, The Family Wellthisiswhatithink are schlepping all over rural Victoria in the darkness and pouring rain. Cue an hour and a half of trying not to get written off by wayward road-trains, or driving off the side of the unlit road into a gum tree, or aquaplaning into a swaying oncoming caravan.

She Who Must Be Obeyed is very kindly driving as Father has cried off with sore eyes. (An inevitable result of too much blogging which does sometimes get one out of driving.) Fruit of One’s Loins is in the backseat, half asleep between texts to various friends.

We have all just listened to a fascinating but rather tiring BBC podcast about the history of mathematics, trying to keep awake – specifically about a Swiss guy called Leonhard Euler who is well worth checking out, interesting dude, actually – but understanding what he did that was so clever has left us all a bit brain numbed, so we have now resorted to desultory conversation and flicking around the outer reaches of Father’s iPod listening to “driving Music”. (Usually long-lost one-hit-wonder 1970s bands.)

The rain slows to a steady drizzle, Melbourne’s lights loom vertically and vaguely in the far distance, the largest skyscrapers punching through the gloom, and planes landing at Tullamarine light up the sky with their nose searchlights, picking out the way home. At this moment a warm bed and sweet oblivion seem worth trading ten years of one’s life for.

You get the general picture.

For some reason, we fall to discussing the foibles of Fruit of One’s Loins early conversations with us. The way, like all kids, she couldn’t pronounce certain words properly, so just did her best, and how those words pass into the fabric of a family, un-noticed and un-remarked, until they become a habit.

My nephew, par example, aged one and a bit, christened all road-working heavy equipment as “Tac Tacs” as he couldn’t manage “tractor”, and would scream “Tac Tac!” delightedly whenever the car passed any yellow-painted earth-moving thing of any type. Gradually, generations of us decided to agree with him and repeated it. I confidently expect Tac Tac to pass into the English language one day.

“I upped the adorableness meter a few notches, Daddy, is that OK?” (Un-retouched photograph from cheap bedside frame where it has resided for, oh, about 20 years.)

It was a gentle conversation as we drove through the night-laden, moonlessly sodden suburbs. I recalled that she christened wallabies wobble-ies, which in retrospect seems a better name altogether given their bizarre ambulatory habit, and their propensity for ending up as roadkill. For some reason, she never learned to say “By myself” as in, “I can do that by myself”. She preferred “By my own.” Which makes perfect sense, even if it’s incorrect English, and to this day, every member of my family now says “By my own” to describe a solitary act. Vitamins were morphed into “Bitamins”, and so on.

As she grew a little older, and established a command of the English language that makes her writer Father proud, she never, ironically, learned to apply a concomitant filter to her thought processes, encouraged, one supposes, by a laissez-faire attitude to free discussion that her mother and I encouraged as being about the only thing we thought we knew about parenting beyond “love all your kids to bits”, which seemed just obvious and sensible.

She would simply say the first thing that came into her fertile, creative mind, often long before she has paused to consider the logic of it, a characteristic which I am delighted to see she still exhibits. It makes her refreshing, charming and sometimes hilarious company.

So it was that in her middle teen years – and attending a Christian school – she was one day sun-baking on a forty degree day by the backyard swimming pool when she asked her parents, with all the seriousness of not stopping to parse an idle thought adequately, “It must have been hot in olden days too, before swimming pools and air-conditioners. I bet people died of the heat back then. I wonder what Jesus died of?”

Suggestions came flying as what she had said dawned on her. “Really bad diarrhoea?” “Smallpox? Wasn’t there a lot of smallpox around back then?” “Old age?” “Maybe a car accident?”

It would be some years before she would be allowed to forget that one. Correction, it will be some years. Perhaps never. Of such little moments are the history of a family made, and each family’s is unique, and really rather wonderful.

“Could someone get me up from here?” Kind regards, Big Bird

Swerving off the freeway to catch a turn-off to home that she had nearly missed, the car teetering on what felt like two wheels but probably wasn’t, the Leader of the Opposition suddenly said to me “I’ll tell you one you don’t know, if you promise not to tease her about it.”

“Sure,” I said, “Go for it. I promise.”

A worried little voice warbled up from the back seat … “Is it about ….?” No, it wasn’t. I knew that one already. “Then is it ….?” No, I knew that one too.

“Well,” said my wife, cheerfully carving up an incautious motorcylist or two who had dared to travel on the same road as us at the same time – obviously hadn’t got the memo – “She used to wake up with sleep in her eyes …”

“Oh yes, yes, I know this one,” came the backseat cry, “I know, I used to wipe the sleep from my eyes, and you told me it was Fairy Dust that the faeries had put there to send me to sleep, so in the mornings I would wipe the sleep from my eyes and then rub it into my shoulder blades, because then one day I would grow real fairy wings of my own.”

I turned to look at her, charmed by the story. With all the good-naturedness of her affable, life-affirming 21 years she beamed at me.

I turned back to my wife, and said to her. “That’s not silly at all. I can completely see that. I bet it works, too. I bet you do grow fairy wings if you do it often enough. Yeah, good one. I might try that myself.”

The car fell silent again as we negotiated the last few sets of traffic lights and roundabouts before home. The rain started up once more, hammering on the roof of the car, turning the whole landscape into some sort of vast film noir set. I half expected to see Phillip Marlowe standing in a bus shelter, collar upturned, silently watching the world for clues, head turned away from the icy Antarctic wind which by now was bending the trees almost horizontal again.

I glanced back at my daughter again, and was rewarded with another grin. And it occurred to me that she had never grown fairy wings, no matter how hard her little four year old hands had rubbed her shoulders and dreamed of flying through the air in clouds of glitter and magical primary colours. But that, huddled in the back seat, and secreted under the coat and scarf and wooly jumper and warm shirt and thermal undies, she was almost certainly hiding a fine set of angel wings.

And I made a mental note to remember that more often. And to be grateful. And to smile more, even on winter nights, even when the road winds on forever, and the sky cries its eyes out, and the dark seems darker than nothingness.

About two hours into the count, and early booth results imply a swing away from Labor to the Greens, but its patchy: it looks like it’s probably enough for the “third party” to take the seat, but it also definitely looks like it will be close.

This confirms my prediction of a very narrow Greens victory, on preferences. However, preference flows will be crucial, and they are fiendishly difficult to predict with a field of 16 candidates, and at least two of the minority candidates being well known. Of the popular independents, one is a Liberal member and preferencing Labor, and one, the Sex Party candidate, is also preferencing Labor. So the ALP could squeak in, too, with the help of a curious collection of friends. (Update, as at Sunday morning, it appears that this is the most likely result.)

Photograph of Malcolm Turnbull, New South Wale...

Malcolm Turnbull, New South Wales Liberal politician.

But in my opinion, whatever the final result is it will show no great enthusiasm for either the Greens or Labor. I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see “Others” polling 20-25% of the first preference votes, and possibly even more.

Which leads me to conclude, once again, that there is plenty of room in Australian politics for a new party that is neither as mired in factionalism, corruption and lack of respect as Labor, as fanatically right wing and rat-baggery as the Liberal-National Coalition, nor as niche marketed as the Greens.

If Australia had a centrist, reformist, business-friendly, social-justice aware party which essentially believed in a mixed economy and high standards of public accountability, in my opinion it would be swept to power by a grateful public and with massive financial backing – and BOTH old parties would be swept aside.

What it needs is a leader.

Step forward, Malcolm Turnbull.

History awaits.

The lazy man’s way to blog is, of course, to re-blog other people’s blogs when you agree with them. The page I link to below is short, charming, and thought-provoking. We should all remember this.

The rest of sgmarinova’s blog is good too. Why not look around while you’re there?

BBQ Pork Buns 茶居

BBQ Pork Buns – picture stolen unashamedly from internet. Copyright be buggered. Look, it’s Sunday, right? Be nice.

Anyway, personally, I am not putting off going to Taipan for Yum Cha lunch for another Sunday.

Monosodium glutamate overload here I come. I may re-deem myself later by posting a nice photo or two of some food. Celebrating authentic Chinese culture. And, er … eating.

I am not sure the Buddha would agree that chowing down on seemingly endless dishes of squid tentacles, pork buns (see pic) and various non-identifiable masses wrapped in rice paper is noble. Not to mention sticky rice, that amazing invention that sits in your gut like a cannon ball for days. Comfort food for winter. (And winter has arrived in Melbourne with a vengeance … brrrr.)

Well, maybe the little fat smiling Buddha outside my front door would approve. But given the Buddha sat under a tree not eating much for years, where did the fat Buddha come from in world consciousness?

Hmmm. I feel some Google research coming on.


Busy, crowded, chaotic, noisy, delicious. Yum Cha at its finest at Tai Pan in Doncaster, Melbourne

Too much is never enough.

Nom, nom, nom …

Poet in pub

I am not playing pool until I can work out what the fuck rhymes with “buttock”.

People usually enjoy it when I post my own poetry here, and I am happy to do so, so long as some of you buy the book occasionally too. Remember, any profits benefit a number of wonderful charities. You can head to: where it is available in both book format and download.

I am always – like most writers – pondering the nature of writing and the creative process. 

This is not mere self-absorption, I feel. Well, I hope it isn’t.

Like a musician who hears notes constantly in their head which won’t go away until he plays them, or an artist who perceives the lines and colours of the world in a particular way and feels compelled to depict them, so the writer is frequently the victim of his or her words, not their master or mistress.

Sometimes – often – I simply feel an urge to write things down, to express them just so. If I ignore the urge, it becomes a mental nagging, then an indescribable emotional itch, then a full-blown obsession.

Like all writers I have been tortured by words or phrases, and eventually tossed back the sweat-drenched sheets and stumbled angrily to my typewriter or computer, willing the damn things down onto the empty page, so I can get some damn sleep.

And as any writer will tell you, it is the day you forget your shiny new portable electronic device, or more prosaically, your notepad, that the thoughts come flooding thick and fast, insistently, clamouring for attention, and you have to press confused bystanders or friends into giving you pen or paper immediately less the internal howling becomes too intense.

So: I wrote a poem about it. As you do. (Well, as you do if you’re a poet.) About how writing doesn’t just invade my life, it really is my life – has been for as long as I can recall, actually – and the rest of my life goes on around it, sometimes uninterrupted, and sometimes completely dominated by it.

The poem’s very long, but I do hope you find it enjoyable. It describes a real evening, long, long ago. Deep in the last millennium. Or perhaps, an amalgam of evenings. The pub was the Leinster Arms in Collingwood, in Melbourne, which for a while I seemingly kept open almost single-handedly through my contributions, (it would have been cheaper to rent an office, as I later did), and I only reveal that location now because I am perfectly sure that no-one there remembers me at all, and most of those that I now report on are either dead, demented, or simply moved on. And anyway, the poem is written with affection, and “no names, no pack-drill”, eh?

I am sure other poets and writers of all kinds – indeed, creative people of all kinds – will find echoes of themselves in here.

The Writer, by Stephen Yolland