Sunday, October 31, 2010

Halloween: boo!

I know it's the height of indulgence to share my dreams with you but last night I dreamt I went to a Halloween party dressed as RMIT's Storey Hall. Strange, no?

I also know that we don't celebrate Halloween here but I thought I'd be appropriately seasonal with this clip from the Brian Sisters. The Brian Sisters came to fame when Pappa Brian took himself off and Mamma Brian struggled to raise her kids solo during the Depression. Spurred on by the success of Shirley Temple Mrs Brian put her girls on the stage. And they were a hit! Playing clubs such as the Trocadero, many radio shows and appearing as cameos in about 13 films. They were playing on CBS radio when their act was interrupted to announce the bombing of Pearl Harbour. During the war they performed in charity gigs and bond drives. Here's the Boogie Woogie Boogie Man. Oh bother. I'll fix the link tomorrow!

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Friday, October 29, 2010

Ding! Ding!

The beautiful W class trams! These old rattlers are such a symbol of Melbourne. The W class trams were released between 1923 and 1955 before they started withdrawing them from service in 1992. By mid 2000 most of them were gone. These days most of them are mouldering away in a tram yard. We even started giving them away - though they've now put a stop to that. Apparently we gave a refurbished tram to Princess Mary as a wedding present though I'm betting it wasn't on the gift registry.

I have no idea what sort of tram this is but isn't it grand? Is this a cable tram? This is at the top of Bourke Street.

The Liberals reckon they're going to bring them back, Labor says they're no good for prams, disabled and the elderly (true) and the Greens are saying they're going to bring back conductors. All of which are pretty flimsy election platforms if you ask me but I do love these trams and hope they can be saved.

VE Day in Melbourne

I'm trying to think what I know about trams in the war and I know I've read a bit but it's not exactly stuff that springs to mind is it? Cable trams (possibly pictured above) had been replaced by the electric trams we're familiar with in 1941. Windows were papered over for the brownout, including the window between the driver and the travelers. There was huge strain on the public on public transport during the war - largely due to war work. Yes there was petrol rationing but only 8% of folks owned a car in 1939 so this didn't have a huge impact. Tram stops were reduced to limit wear on vehicles and new routes opened up, particularly through Footscray for workers at the munitions factories.

Women became much more visible on trams, particularly in the smoking section, typically a male domain. And of course it was khaki wool and knitting needles the whole way. You also find more women out at night as special trams were put on for night shift workers. Women were also taking over transport jobs. Female ticket inspectors came in for a lot of abuse from male passengers and probably worked for a lower wage than the men they replaced. Thirteen day fortnights were introduced, days off were cancelled and the working day extended, and staff numbers cut. Huge battles between the Tramways Association and Manpower ensued!

Female shoppers and theatre goers came in for criticism for making unnecessary journeys. Kate Darian-Smith, in her book on Melbourne during the war years, describes a tram poster depicting a large woman burdened with shopping parcels hogging a seat while tired shift workers hang from straps:
Here's another Selfish Sue, who dawdles all the morning through, then late she rushes for a tram, and some poor worker has to stand.

My nanna and her sister were conductors on the buses in WA during the war and they had a whale of a time. The uniform was very feminine and I thought it was pretty fancy when I first saw the photos. She loved these years working with the girls on the buses. I don't even think she ever had another job.

Florence and Edie McGee at the Metro Bus Company

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Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Physiological effects of caffeine

Bipolar rule no 2: easy on the caffeine! Problem is, once I'd started with the coffee I felt simply too, too marvelous! Ten (or so) flat whites later and I was completely off my head. I like to think that I was fairly restrained but it seems I still drove my young man batty with the yappity yap. For the next four days I felt pretty grim. I couldn't eat and had a monster headache. Poor me.

Mum was up from the country so Kim and I ventured over the river to Fitzroy for her book launch.

Looks pretty good doesn't it? It's about Australia's very own Willy Wonka - think Freddo Frogs and Cherryripe. Anyway, it's by my mum and I'm proud of her! Mum was busy with interviews and walking tours but we found time to take tea at the gallery (even though I was still feeling a bit queasome). Once again, it was too cold to wear a frock but I got to wear a new shirt, made to measure from a vintage pattern in repro fabric by the lovely Jack's Daughter. I am so in love with this shirt I think I'll get another one made.

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Monday, October 18, 2010

Girlish nonsense

I'm a big fan of UK label Vivien of Holloway and swear that their wide legged swing pants are the only trousers a forties gal needs. This Saturday I got to play and try on heaps of their clothes for fun. Vivien has a sister Christine living down my way and she regularly turns up at rockabilly events - not quite my scene. On the weekend she made an appearance at the Penny Rose Boutique in Fitzroy, complete with cupcakes and cups of tea. I made the considerable journey (ACROSS THE RIVER!) to Fitzroy early in the morning. It was quite a novel experience trying on clothes as I buy most of my stuff online - and boy did I try on a lot!

Things I am in love with:

Cotton frocks are a staple of the forties wardrobe. I plan to wear a lot this summer.

High waisted trousers with suspenders! Perfect for the swing shift at the munitions factory, er, library.

Now my pins are far from lovely but I love the idea of these for summer weekends.

Pin up perfect! Thus playsuit doesn't fit me as I'm too long in the body. But isn't it cute?

Not for me, but if you're a Madmen fan you might like this number. Super flattering cut.

A Dorothy Lamour sarong dress. Not what I would have picked for me but - va va voom! What a dish! What a dream! What a dame! Pushes you in and out in all the right places!

Because I was there early I was the only one trying things on and I left with a list of items and the sizes I needed (dreaming away of course, there's no way I could afford this!) I got into the city and called my young man to tell him how much fun I'd had and he asked why I hadn't bought anything. Oh. Hadn't thought of that. So I caught a tram right back to Fitzroy! And the place was packed. Because I'm not dancing at the moment I don't get to hang out with like minded souls all that often. So this was a lot of girly fun. I was the only forties girl there, the rest was rockabilly but there was such a flurry of petticoats and circle dresses and everyone looked awesome.

I ended up snapping up an absolute bargain - a tea dress that is awfully grown up AND half price. But boy do I wish I had a hat! I'm hoping I can show you a pic of me in it when I take tea with my mum this weekend. But given that the weather has ruined my frock wearing plans pretty frequently at the moment I'm not holding my breath.

Good news: my little Jack cat has started sleeping on the bed for the first time in a year. And we've abandoned his special diet and he's eating for happiness rather than health. He's old and he's sick so he can have whatever he likes. Plus he's put on 600g - so there's a race with Donna's baby to see who will get beefy first! I just wish I knew where his new daytime sleeping spot is. I don't know how you lose a cat in a one bedroom apartment but he's got me stumped!
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Friday, October 15, 2010

Mr and Mrs Newton

We went to a wedding on the weekend - my friend Penny got married to her young man Dave. Once again, my plans for wearing a frock were scuppered by the lack of sunshine - which is just as well because we were going to Redhill and I'd forgotten that it would be colder up there. It took us a while to get to The Vines Winery, a very pretty little venue out in the country. The ceremony took place in the beautiful gardens and was nice and snappy - Penny is such a practical girl. She wore a simple strapless number and looked absolutely beautiful. I liked her flowers very much, simple bunches of flannel flowers, Geraldton wax and proteas in soft peach, cream and grey tones. We were seated on the cyclists table so the reception was most enjoyable and I got to catch up with some of my old cycling buddies which was really nice. We got very well fed and the bride and groom called it a day in good time. I was very glad to get home because I'd had a little bit of beer and I was sleepy. Little bit sad because the happy couple are moving up to Canberra in a few months.

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Monday, October 11, 2010

The cat & dog meat man

Ok, I promise this will be my last post on meat for a while!

This is a pre War photo of the cat and dog meat man in the Eastend of London. The meat is horseflesh and other bits and pieces, dyed green so unscrupulous butchers couldn't pass it on to unsuspecting patrons. Unfortunately, it often proved unfit for animal consumption (think maggoty ew!) Feeding your pet during the war years was difficult and in Britain, sadly, many animals were put down rather than face starvation. This makes me very sad.

My little Jack cat is unwell at the moment. He's got the cat flu which seems to be going around - all our big cats have had it. Turns out it's not influenza at all but usually a type of herpes. So we're on three different meds that all need to be mooshed up into his smoosh. The poor little guy has FIV so we need to treat it quite aggressively. When I was at the vet she looked at his blood tests from last year and realised that he has a bad liver. Apparently a cat's liver can be damaged within two days if they stop eating - and last year he hardly ate at all for MONTHS and got scary skinny. So now his liver is shot, he's about two kilos underweight and, because the liver wasn't functioning here's been a build up of ammonia in his brain, which has contributed to his dementia. Sigh. But his weight isn't as bad as it was at the beginning of the year and he's on a special diet, and I'm coming home at lunch to give him an extra feed so fingers crossed. Oh, and he's been given a shot of steroids (so he's no longer UCI legal). He's also in excellent spirits and now his cat flu's improving he no longer has foetid meat breath (= a lot easier to love).

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Out of the frying pan into the firing line (1942)

As promised - a short about bacon fat! In America animal fats were used as a source of glycerin, which went into making nitro glycerin,which of course is used to make explosives. Housewives were encouraged to save their food grease in a tin. Once they had a pound they took it to their local butcher who would give them cash or coupons for it.

Here we have Minnie and Pluto saving their bacon fat. It's the only time you'll see Mickey in uniform, which you'll just catch a glimpse of in a photo on the wall.

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Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Meatless Mondays

America went for voluntary rationing during World War 1. It didn't work so well but one of the things that did survive was Meatless Monday. Initially promoted by Hoover as a means of limiting meat consumption during a time of shortage, it reappeared in World War 2.

I've a great cartoon about saving fats for production of glycerine for explosives.

So this week we're having a meat free week. Last night we had du Puy lentils and roast field mushrooms with garlic and rosemary. I dunno why I thought it was cold but I finished this off with a wintery red cabbage dish. Tonight we're having an Ethiopian meal: a red lentil stew, with injeri and braised silver beet. Not v WWII I know!

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Monday, October 4, 2010

Enough already with the drumming!!

I was going to stay up and watch the opening ceremony of the Commonwealth Games. Then I remembered the Canadian winter Olympics and how I got tricked into watching an hour of clog dancing, so I got wise to those shenanigans and went to bed instead.

Watching the replay now and already here's been more drumming than is strictly necessary. And the bit were the athletes walk in is excruciating. But it turns out I can only name five Commonwealth countries and then I'm just picking Pacific islands at random. So it's educational! Just noisy.

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Sunday, October 3, 2010

Uci world road race championships

Isn't the sunshine just dandy! I took a few days off to watch the cycling and it was absolutely fabulous! I spent a lot of time cheering at the television. So exciting! I was quite giddy at seeing some of the best cyclists in the world in our Fed Square. Things didn't go quite so well for St Kilda in the AFL Grand Final replay but that's ok because I really enjoyed last week's draw. I missed the game because I went to a bridal shower - afternoon tea at the Westin Hotel in the City Square. The hotel is a bit meh, just a bland hotel lobby, so a bit short on atmosphere. The food though was great. Very dainty and charming. For those who are interested it's $45 a head, which embarrassingly, I forgot to pay! I feel frightfully rude! I'd left early so I could get home safely away from the footy crowd and only realized I'd left them to pick up my bill once I was on the train. Whoops!

Today was the last day of the cycling and we enjoyed it with a cycling friend who popped over. We enjoyed some birthday cake we'd made for a friend who sadly couldn't make it. Plus we managed to find time to pop out to Bunnings to pick up some seedlings to brighten up our garden. Which of course involved stopping by the sausage sizzle! Yay for sunshine and sport!

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