Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Hurrah! I'm on holiday and off to sunny Bolwarra to see mum. This was going to be a family vacation but we had a few concerns regarding our options for cat babysitters so Mr C will staying home to look after the gang. I'm a bit disappointed because I was looking forward to spending time with my young man but it's probably the most sensible arrangement. All of which means I'll be travelling courtesy of VicRail. Sigh. This is a long, long journey. Actually the train bit isn't so bad as long as you go first class. But the bus, the bus is a first rate stinker and the very thought of it depresses me. It's always crowded and the seats are built for midgets. It also goes down every country lane between Warnambool and the South Australian border.

I'll be loading up the ipod with the Andrews Sisters and have already packed Secret War Heroes in my library bag. The bulk of my luggage (sadly, no trunks, just a Kathmandu backback), the bulk of my luggage is old movies to watch with mum. I'm looking forward to lazy mornings on the deck, looking out over the paddock with the horses, eating pumpkin scones. See you all next week!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Richmond surprise

I jaunted out to Swan Street, Richmond this afternoon, shopping for library furniture. We went to a dive of a place - but a place that held a marvellous secret. The Swan Street auctionhouse has been a furniture store since the late 50s but before that it led a glamourous life as the Burnley Theatre. Now sadly, there are few photos of this available in online collections so I'll try to give you an idea. Here's this from the National Trust (file no. B7017):

The former Burnley Theatre, designed by Bohringer, Taylor and Johnson, and opened in 1928 is architecturally and historically significant at the state level.

Architecturally the building is particularly notable as an fairly elaborate example of the Neo-Classical / Adam style applied to a cinema, and remains fairly intact despite the new use. The auditorium and lobbies are largely intact, and the walls retain their original textured buff-coloured stucco finish, and details highlighted in various complementary colours.

Historically, it is one of the few examples of a ‘picture palace’, ie. a cinema with a degree of architectural pretentiousness, to remain extant. The theatre is also significant as one of two remaining by the firm Bohringer, Taylor & Johnson and to a lesser degree for its association with Union Theatres Ltd., the forerunner of the present Greater Union Organisation.

The cinema is also notable for its association with films, by far the major form of popular entertainment in the early twentieth century, and is of note for closing soon after the introduction of TV and the Drive-In.

The place fairly took my breath away. Though in a state of disrepair it is remarkably intact, albiet absolutely stuffed to the stalls with tacky furniture. I'd love to share with you the sheer splendour of the place. I can't imagine how glamorous it must have been going out to the cinema here. I'll try and find a photo in a book (the State Library thinks it has a photo of the place but it's wrong and no one else mentions it at all).

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Gosh, ain't it a stinker?

My ability to blog seems directly linked to the weather. My computer is so so ridiculously slow that it just seemed to be one more stress I couldn't cope with in the heat. Now there's a cool breeze a blowin' and Bugs Bunny on the dvd player I'm all set - we've got some catching up to do!

After Clumsy Saturday I spent a delightful Sunday afternoon catching up with Lil and other library folk down at a beach side pub in Port Melbourne. Some canny table snaffling saw us settled in the shade of a palm tree - which by the end of the afternoon turned out to be not so shady! Luckily I'd brought along my pretty pink parasol and a paper fan and felt rather cool in my new $3 Campberwell Market peasant top (I was thinking Betty Grable in Down Argentine Way - though I'm sure she never wore Birkenstocks!) It was good to see Lil as it's certainly been a long time between drinks.

Work's been busy busy. I suffered the AGONY of sending out what I thought was quite a cross email - instantly regretted of course. But it turned out not to have been so rude and nothing bad happened after all. Yay! And yes, I know that five other people had already told me that the email was fine and that... sorry, got distracted by Bugs Bunny hypnotising Elmer Fudd and I've no idea what I was saying.

Tuesday night everything was going fine until we locked ourselves out of the house. We went to the gym because there wasn't anywhere else to go and it seemed like a good idea at the time, then got back to work on the problem of being outside the house while our keys, phones and cats were on the inside. Being so hot we'd locked all the windows and pulled the blinds and curtains. The place was watertight. We were tossing up whether it would be cheaper to call a locksmith out at 9 o'clock at night or to break a window and pay for a glazier. After two OUTRAGEOUS quotes we decided to try craftiness instead. We spent a rotten hour and a great deal of frustration trying to lever out window bolts and do fancy McGyver type moves with credit cards and dead locks, supported by kindly neighbours whose kitchens we raided for breaking-into-the-house implements. When we finally decided to resort to a hammer big ole Lyle cat decided he wanted to know what was going on - sitting on the sill directly beneath the one soon to be smooshed. All ended happily except for the broken window pane, the glass inside and the vase of flowers and pot plant Lyle knocked all over the sofa. But we were inside! Heaven. And in then end Kim managed to fix the window himself for about $30.

Breaking in Rififi style

I was going to write about Rememberance Day but all you get is a gossipy post instead. Now we're just got back from driving a neighbour to the airport and it's way past my bedtime. Nighty night. This time next week we'll be in Portland. Hurrah!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Best present ever

When I was at the hairdresser getting a makeover last week, my young man presented me with a little white box done up in a scarlet ribbon. A white box with a very tiny little silver apple on it. A white box that contains something very much like this:

Yes, it's a new iPod shuffle! It's ever so tiny and discrete and I'm completely in love with it. It's even engraved with words of love and encouragement so every time I get bummed about losing weight and working hard at the gym, or a bit anxious about going to work I put it on, read my message and sing along with Bing Crosby for a bit.

A total waste of makeup

Uh oh. I really should have stayed in bed yesterday. The day began with a series of stupid mistakes of the I love Lucy variety. Bruised, burnt (those wretched curling irons again!) and very very bad tempered I headed off to work. Where a mad woman took a dislike to my eyes and proceeded to tell me why I didn't really exist. I had a cry and forgot my mascara wasn't waterproof so spent the rest of the shift looking like Marilyn Manson.

Came home and got ready for a dinner party of all things. It's over 30 degrees and I'm running late. Spent an hour podding broad beans, unsuccessfully trying to brown chicken and generally making a mess. Contemplate crying. Contemplate calling off stupid dinner party. Super hurrah for Mr C who stepped in and saved the day (and my makeup).

Finally headed off to visit friends David and Lena, who thankfully have a kitchen bigger than ours. Had a late dinner in the backyard under the peach tree: broad bean dip, roast beetroot and feta dip with Turkish bread and a welcome glass of sparkling shiraz; chicken, preserved lemon and green olive tagine with almond cous cous; finished off with icecream and home grown rhubarb. Stayed up way past my bedtime. Got a cuddle from big ole Mr Ed the Irish wolfhound (his entire head is bigger than our biggest cat) who left great streaks of drool on my skirt. Gazed in awe at lovely baby Gala. All very nice and proved that the day wasn't a total waste of makeup after all.

Friday, November 6, 2009

On the home front

Or more accurately: A feminist view of attitudes towards and the treatment of Australian women in WWII by Kate Darian-Smith. Sigh. I struggled. I really did. And I have to say that I resent you Ms Kate Darian-Smith. This book is in its second edition and there are some really inexcusable editing gaffes (words and sentences repeated; reference to 'Map 5' when there are no maps in the book; the need to define the term 'fifth columnist' while other more obscure historical events and phrases go unexplained). More annoying however is her blatant feminist stance: this grates the way any politically biased view of history does. It purports to be a review of life in Melbourne between 1939-1945 and it really does no such thing. Darian-Smith actually seems a little bored in some of the chapters until she hits the chapter on sexuality and morality and then she really goes to town. It could have been interesting. In the introduction she aims to re-examine warlife in Melbourne and see how it difference from the accepted cultural memory of the era. In some ways she does this - using statistics to challenge contemporary and current views of society during the war. It sounded interesting. But I've never read a less evocative war book. She claims to have interviewed heaps of people as part of her research but I'm damned if I can see any evidence of it. Maybe in a sea of wartime reminiscences it's good have some hard facts. I just get the feeling she kind of muffed it. Much of the writing is extremely clumsy and the presentation of ideas and conclusions not always logical. According to Darian-Smith every woman in Melbourne seems to have been a feminist despite the fact that middle-class women held some of the most oppressive views of the time. And the section on masculinity (two pages) insists that it be considered in relation to femininity; while in the section on feminity (half the book) the converse isn't considered at all. I'm sure once the trauma of slogging through the book has faded I'll find some of the facts interesting. The role of women at this time and prevailing attitudes towards them is a fascinating topic. I just wish someone else had written this book. (And that they'd put pictures in it!)

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The Melbourne Cup

It's the day of the Melbourne Cup! Though horse racing is as crooked as they come I do love to watch it: the horses are beautiful to watch, I'm a firm believer in the wearing of hats and I love the idea that everything stops for a horse race of all things. Plus I get a public holiday! Each year I help run the sweep at work (go Crime Scene!) and always find an old photograph to use. This year my research skills seem to have deserted me but I did want to share with you some images of the Melbourne Cup during World War II. I find these extremely touching. All these images are courtesy of the Australian War Memorial - a truly fantastic resource.

Girls from the Australian Womens Army Service enjoying the race.

Organising the sweep, PNG

Troops of Headquarters, 7th Australian Division gathered around a radio set to listen to the running of the Melbourne Cup (Norman Stuckey 1943). There are similar photos from army bases all over the world. Film footage of the event was also raced to soldiers.

Explaining the Cup to a local, PNG

Melbourne Cup run on mules in Beirut. I managed to lose a related series of pictures from the HMAS Something, which showed sailors on hobby horses racing the deck of a ship while various captainy admiral types looked on in cardboard top hats.

The Heidelberg Repatriation hospital took many injured soldiers along to the Cup in 1945

I love this one for the catalogue record:
HELOUAN, EGYPT. 1940-10-25. Australian and New Zealand patients at the hospital draw the horses in a sweep run on Melbourne Cup. The fortunate and unexpected winner had in the meantime returned to the desert and was last heard of expressing doubts as to the hope of ever seeing his money.
Made from an empty bully beef tin at a Sandakan prisoner of war camp in North Borneo, 1942. Deciding to mark Melbourne Cup day with their own race, the Australian officers at the camp set up a straight track for nine or ten entrants, between the officer's huts. Each track was divided into thirty squares and each competitor wore a coloured top of somekind to represent jockey's silks. Drawing a number from a deck of cards to determine their position on the track, a race caller then proceeded to draw cards which determined how many squares each jockey could advance. The first to reach the end was the winner and was presented with the 'Melbourne Cup'. In October 1943 the officers were transferred to Batu Lintang prisoner of war and internee camp at Kuching in Sarawak. This camp had a parade ground and in November that year the officers built a circular track and competed for the Melbourne Cup again, using the same method. At both events bookies took bets and evidence from the 9 Military History Field Team which collected the cup from the barracks in 1945, suggests that Lieutenant William Peck, of 4 Anti-Tank regiment, won the cup on at least one occasion and possibly both years.

The Australian War Memorial collection also inclueds a similar cup, made of coconut shells in the Sime Road POW Camp in Singapore, which was awarded to the winner of a frog race.

Not from the 1940s but a fabulous image - racehorse trainer Tommy Woodcock with his champion racehorse Reckless on the night before running second to Gold and Black in the Melbourne Cup of 1977, Flemington, 1 November 1977.

Best of luck to you all! Have a great Melbourne Cup.