Category Archives: Uncategorized

#38 Find your Favourite Museum

Notice anything special about the picture below?

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It looks like the entrance to a children’s adventure world, doesn’t it? A fun place to be if you’re young, but not really a site for adults.

I think they’ve got it all wrong. At this stage of life, I’ve finally realised how important it is to

#38 Find Your Favourite Museum

And I’ve now discovered that Science Museums are definitely my favourite museums, despite the implied suggestion from that banner at Scienceworks in Melbourne’s Spotswood that they’re not catering to my demographic.

But I’ll let you in on a secret: when we arrived there mid week – without any children in tow –  we were welcomed warmly, albeit with surprise, and ushered in for free like some honoured older statespeople!

IMG_1928…and Science certainly works for me

I’ve visited several of the finest museums and galleries around the world:

The Louvre             √
Uffizi                        √
The Guggenheim  √
The Tate                  √
MONA                     √
MCA                         √

Yes, they’re all wonderful, but finding something clever to do and to experiment with rather than something clever to look at and admire is my kind of museum.

Even our own MAMA knows that if you want to get them in the doors, it helps to provide fun and activities for all ages.

Look what the clever folk of Albury recently constructed with nothing more than a big pile of white lego over a few weeks:
Lego

and this wasn’t just built by the littlies…


I’ve revelled in visits to the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney’s Ultimo several times, but had never quite made it to Melbourne’s equivalent. Could it be because the name Scienceworks at Spotswood doesn’t have quite the same cutting-edge, futuristic sound as Powerhouse at Ultimo?

For starters, where is Spotswood? Is that the same Spotswood of Anthony Hopkins and Moccasin fame?

Turns out, it’s a mere six train stops on the Williamstown Line from Southern Cross station:

To Spotswood


The first delight on entering – after finding out that it’s free for honoured older statespeople, of course – was discovering that the next time someone says to me, ‘You’re worth your weight in gold,’ I can put an exact figure on it:

Worth my weight in gold

3.03 million! Who’d have thought?

 Then there was an opportunity to look into the future. By asking you to choose your interests, skills and preferred work sites, a computer attempts to predict where you’ll fit into society in years to come, and then provides you with your work ID.

My companion discovered she’ll be a teacher – but as a hologram rather than a flesh and blood one – whereas my future job sounded much more exotic:

Screen Shot 2016-02-24 at 4.23.46 pm

…move over Homer Simpson

And we’ll all be conveyed in smart little electric concept cars like this GM Holden En-V. It has 2 wheels and self balancing gyroscopic control and drives itself:

Electric car

if only they’d let us have a go in this little beauty…

Then there’s the fun experiment of using a cunningly designed room to create the optical illusion that a person can change size as they walk across it.

Alas, it didn’t translate as well in the photographs as it did in real life. Perhaps it’s true that the camera never lies…


You can be timed racing against a virtual Cathy Freeman for a few seconds, too, to see how your acceleration rate compares to hers.

The short answer is, it doesn’t.

Probably the biggest surprise was doing the ‘height to armspan’ test. This ratio is supposed to be about equal in adult humans, meaning you’re almost as tall as you are wide when your arms are fully outstretched. This seemed to be the case for all the people who tested themselves in the museum that day. Except for one.

With a height of 157 cm and an arm span of 171 cm, I can’t help feeling I’ve been cheated somehow.

But then, there’s always someone worse off. Consider this hungry seagull, who came to visit us as we sat in the outdoor cafe shortly before departure.

Screen Shot 2016-02-24 at 6.14.42 pm

…not happy


So much to experience, so much to ponder. Where did the time go?

Now I’ve found Spotswood, there’s no doubt about it.

I’ll be back…

#37 Cancel January

This may seem rather drastic, but as I began to look at potential activities for January, it struck me that this is a month that always disappears in a hurried blur. Blink and January has gone.

With the New Year break at the beginning of the long summer holidays, and the Australia Day longer weekend at the end, there’s no time for anything to develop. My best option for the month was clear –

#37 Cancel January

It’s not like it would be missed. Nothing happens in Australia in January.

No one goes to the shopping centres:

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Schools are locked, abandoned, unloved:

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It’s too hot. It’s too dry. Paradoxically, it’s even too humid.

The long languid days are filled with the sounds of a few highly paid sportspeople on television thwacking balls with racquets or balls with bats while the rest of us sit and watch. And wait. Wait for January to fade.

Favourite shops go on holiday:

Screen Shot 2016-01-27 at 12.19.55 pm…notice the sign implying 2016 will commence at the end of January?

Even trying to buy something as simple as milk from the corner store on the day before the day of the holiday is thwarted:

IMG_1868… January 25th is a holiday now? 

Where on earth has Australia gone for the month?

The television networks take away their real shows and replace them with… not another interminable episode of QI.

Four Corners?

Screen Shot 2016-01-28 at 10.51.39 am
…gone until February!

Insiders?

Screen Shot 2016-01-28 at 10.53.52 am
…gone until February!

Q&A?
Screen Shot 2016-01-28 at 10.53.13 am

…gone until February!

So I went looking…

and I finally found us:

IMG_1878 - Version 2Who’d have guessed?

There is one massive upside to cancelling January though. With a birthday late in the month, I’ve been able to avoid getting another year older.

#35 Unearth Buried Archaeological Skills

We have a brand new Art Gallery in town, but it’s no sedate country gallery any more.

Known by the acronym MAMA – for Murray Art Museum Albury, it’s a stunningly designed exhibition space with an entrance that excites the moment you step inside – soaring spaces and wonderful use of light on the ground floor…

MAMA ceiling 2

… with an impressive staircase beside an elegantly curved wall leading to more spacious exhibition rooms upstairs:

MAMA stairs

Its new name is an inspired choice to attract locals and visitors alike, because we can now be exhorted to ‘Love your MAMA’, ‘Come to MAMA’, ‘Meet your MAMA’ and all the other combinations of warm motherhood emotions that can be evoked:

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 and the real clincher…

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But the one I found irresistible wasMAMA needs you!’

Yes, MAMA was looking for volunteers. I was looking to get involved. It was a win, win situation.

So this is how I’ve ended up behind the scenes in the curating section at MAMA helping sort through the buried artefacts unearthed when the new foundations were being laid last year. I’m now officially one of ‘MAMA’S Little Helpers’. Bliss!

After a morning’s training session – admittedly quite a bit shorter than a university archaeology degree – I’m able to pretend to be an archaeologist; and isn’t delving into past civilisations a childhood dream shared by many of us?

Together with two other industrious volunteers, we sit in companionable silence – occasionally broken by one of us pointing out an interesting discovery – cleaning, sorting, grouping, bagging, tagging and recording memories from times past, which in this context, means life around Albury’s main street in the1800s.

Here’s how it works:*

Step One: Take large tubs of clumpy-looking, dirty detritus, which in this example, are called the contents of Spit 1. (A Spit, I can advise, is ‘a unit of archaeological excavation with an arbitrarily assigned measurement of depth and extent’.)

Under no circumstances mix the contents of a Spit with the contents of any subsequent Spits that will be coming your way  (which are of course named Spit 2, Spit 3 and so forth).

Step 1 piecesExhibit 1: Could this ever divulge hidden secrets?

Step Two: Transfer pieces of this unloved material into tubs of warm water and scrub gently with a soft toothbrush. Take particular care to clean the broken edges too, as these will often help identify the material:

Screen Shot 2015-11-24 at 10.30.36 am

Step Three:  Rinse the now-clean items in water then leave to air dry on paper resisting the urge to place the artefacts in the sun or use a hair dryer to speed up the process.

This is where it becomes exciting as ancient Albury civilisations emerge before your eyes. (They do appear to include populations who use a lot of bottles):

Step 3b dryWho’d have thought a tub of dirty bits and pieces would end up like this?

Step Four:  Sort the pieces into matching colours or material groupings:

Step b sort

Step sort

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then reconstruct some of the pieces like a jigsaw puzzle!

Step 5a match

Step 5b Match

 

 

 

 

 

Step Five:  Become excited when you find a piece of pottery with an identifying mark on the back such as this portion from the blue platter:

Step 4b identify

Become even more excited when you magnify this to realise it reads “Jabez Blackhurst– Asiatic Pheasants, and discover that Jabez Blackhurst (1843 –1914 ) was a well known Staffordshire potter.

Step Six:  Commence bagging and tagging all the matching pieces of Spit 1 before moving onto Spit 2, the next layer down in the archaeological dig and which may expose even older artefacts than the contents of Spit 1:

Step b Bag

 

Step Seven:  Um … I haven’t been taught Step Seven quite yet, but I’m sure it will be just as satisfying as Steps One to Six.

Here are some great pieces the real archaeologist uncovered earlier, displayed like rare jewels at MAMA:

Step 6a display

It was Agatha Christie who, being married to an archaeologist, famously quipped ‘An archaeologist is the best husband a woman can have. The older she gets, the more interested he is in her.’

Volunteering as an archaeologist when you’re retired is not so different. You keep hoping you may discover some old artefact among the pieces you’re cleaning that will evoke memories of a long gone childhood…

*****
*You can try this at home – but it helps to be under the supervision of a real archaeologist…

#33 Welcome back Spring!

Has anyone else felt that Australia’s been in the grip of a rather miserable winter for two long years? A Narnia-esque feeling that we’ve been under the control of someone or something wanting to keep us cold and afraid?

Until suddenly, on the evening of September 14th, it all changed and the country sprang to life again. So it’s time to celebrate and…

#33 Welcome back Spring!

Hallelujah! No more doom and gloom.
Ring the bells…

Bells and chickens

 …because there’s a snowflake‘s chance in hell of continuing to scare us now .

And give Tough Border Protection a new meaning as you work out the best way to stop those sneaky chickens from making it over the border and into the spinach bed…

Spinach barrier


Worried about bombs in Syria?  Put your mind at rest in the knowledge that you can have rockets in the kitchen instead.

Rocket

And rather than fretting about ‘Death Cults’, watch the streets come alive with blossoms:

Vicotira street blossoms


If you’re tired of meaningless three-word slogans, create your own, better ones.

Like Magnolias in Bloom… 

Magnolia

or how about Asparagus for Lunch?

Asparagus bedFinding these in the garden each morning is equivalent to an Easter egg hunt –  for grown-ups

We all know that climate change isn’t crap, that the Bureau of Meteorology didn’t fudge their temperature readings, that another hot, dry Summer’s just around the corner.
And we realise that we’ll forget these heady, exciting days of Spring soon enough, but isn’t it great that even for a few, brief weeks, colour has returned to our lives with a vengeance?

Red camelia

So thank you Aslan …or Malcolm …or whichever lion-hearted creature brought this about.

.

#32 Live the Dream … Revisit the scenes of a Favourite Advertisement

At the turn of this century, Tourism Victoria was tasked with promoting Melbourne, the State’s capital, by making television advertisements to showcase the city’s beauty and vibrancy.

They did it with such élan that I can still vividly recall it and have been able to rediscover the grainy, black and white footage of that promotion which cemented my love for this beautiful city. Shamelessly romantic, and set to a background of an overwrought, yet perfect rendition of the classic song, ‘Falling in Love Again’, it was a 90 second love story that ended, like so many love stories, in loss and yearning.

With the Hotel Windsor at its heart, I was smitten.

That was nearly 15 years ago. Now comes the sad news that the Hotel may have to close her doors due to financial and planning woes. The time had come for me to rediscover her, along with the best of Melbourne.

And what better way to do it than:

#32 Live the Dream … Revisit the scenes of a Favourite Advertisement

So I booked into the Hotel Windsor and, together with a friend who had generously taken me to the outback a year earlier, we explored this city all over again.

Hotel Windsor B&W

The hotel’s known as the Duchess of Spring Street and as is befitting her class, is surrounded by neoclassical architecture and buildings reminiscent of the grandeur of Europe.

Parliament House

 Parliament House with its striking colonnade and portico and elegant street lamps sits opposite

Parliament House detail

But Melbourne is much more, of course.

Who could resist a trip into the very nucleus of her existence:

Panorama MCG

The MCG on a Saturday afternoon in August
Richmond v Collingwood.
What says
 ‘Melbourne’ more than that?

MCGAnd close enough to see the sweat and hear the thud of toned body on toned body…

We discovered a vibrant deli tucked away just a dozen metres from the hotel:

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While a coffee at Pelligrini’s is always an option:

Pelligrini's B&W

Or a visit to Koko Black for a chocolate or four

Koko black chocs

Of course, Melbourne shouts its food credentials from on high, so dinner at il solito posto situated – in such a quintessential Melbourne manner  –  down some twisted stairs, into a basement, that’s off a lane, that’s off a street, was the perfect place to sample heritage and new beetroot carpaccio with mozzarella cheese and roasted walnuts:

Beetroot carpacio Il Solito porto

And did I mention a meal at The European the previous day?

Screen Shot 2015-08-25 at 11.12.06 am
Of course, you’d never leave the Hotel Windsor without enjoying a cooked breakfast served in the elaborate, high-ceilinged dining room with starched tablecloths and silver cutlery.

Windsor breakfast

How will I ever adjust to my life in the country now?

Oh yes, it’s happened again.

Never Leave B&W

A love affair that’s ended with loss and yearning…

#30 Do Something Out of Character

There’s a certain pleasure in doing something out of character, especially when it surprises those closest to you.

I remember some years ago how stunned a friend was to discover I loved Aussie rules football and fanatically supported a – now sadly-disgraced – Melbourne team. Or when another pal found out I boisterously sang along to Patsy Cline on long car trips. I guess nothing in my general demeanour had prepared them for this. Apparently I look more like a theatre-going, classical music lover than a yobbo in the outer who also listens to overly sentimental C&W music.

So recently, when I had another opportunity to

#30 Do Something Out Of Character

I decided to run with it. There I was in Bowral, in the New South Wales Southern Highlands and there was the Bradman Museum. Bingo!

Bradman Museum

Now I confess to finding cricket yawningly boring, but with so many aficionados of the game out there, perhaps I’m missing something. Could a visit to the museum convert me? My first surprise was discovering that Don Bradman wasn’t a tall man, if his bronze statue is to scale.

Bradman statue

Clearly cricket is a great sporting leveller where skill and practice can trump developmental deficits

And the words of the great man were so inspiring that…

Screen Shot 2015-06-17 at 11.02.36 am

…I began to feel my life, and my character, may have missed out on something very important.

Of course, there’s a quaintness about the Don and I don’t just mean his cable-knit jumper. His noble exhortations don’t quite sit with today’s players’ tendency to relentlessly sledge their opponents and to sneer at the losing team. Not to mention all those match-fixing rumours prevalent on the international circuit…

But perhaps if I could get a handle on all the obscure terms used in cricket, like mid-on, mid-off, silly point and leg slip, not to mention cover point, I too could begin to serve my nation with courage, honour and humility.

Delightfully, the museum caters for absolute beginners, and thanks to this magnificent mural, I’ve learnt so much about cricket that I’m almost looking forward to next Summer’s season and the development of some truly magnificent personal character traits.

Cricket placings…almost

But the best bit of the visit?

Mentioning later to a friend who knows me well that I’d been to the Bradman cricket museum and having her say, ‘You? Visiting a cricket museum? You’re joking!’

#26 Explore Your City like a Newcomer

A young friend of mine has recently moved to Milan for love – and possibly work –  so is blogging about her experiences at The Impoverished Hedonist.

Dauntie's site

 

She’s finding the experience challenging, because the Italian city’s not the easiest place in the world to be seriously impecunious while seeking out pleasure and barely speaking the language. In addition, if the population of a city doesn’t appear to put a premium on civic pride it can be difficult for the newcomer to see beyond the superficial squalor.

But my friend’s adjusting well to the challenge by seeking out the very best, sometimes hidden, gems of Milan and its surrounds rather than dwelling on any downsides.

So thank you, D (you know who you are) for inspiring this blog entry:

#26 Explore Your City Like a Newcomer

There can be so much to like about your own city, if you just remember to look.

My place is Albury on the New South Wales/Victorian border, which has a mighty river only a minute from the centre of town:

 Screenshot Noreuil B&WThanks to the wonderful River Deck Cafe at Noreuil Park for this image

And I was particularly interested to explore our newest addition, a walking/bike-riding trail that meanders along the Murray River and is dotted with the most amazing Indigenous sculptures along its length called the Yindyamarra Sculpture Walk.

Yindyamurra trail

 

The sculptures speak for themselves, nestled in the superb bushland beside the lagoons and the river:

Sculpture one

Reconciliation Shield by Tamara Murray 

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Creature seatsCreature Seats: Goanna: Liam Campbell, Turtle: Sara Jackson-Edwards, Snake: Raymond Jackson–Edwards and Goanna: Jaidyn Hampton

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Goanna

‘Googar’ Goanna Sculpture by Darren Wighton

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Wirradjuri woman 2

Wiradjuri Woman by Leonie McIntosh 

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Sculpture Walk 2The views between sculptures…

Horseshow lagoon

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Message stick 2

Vertical Message Sticks by Girralang (Carmel Taylor)

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Bogong mothsBogong Moth Migration by Ruth Davys

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net‘Maya’ Fish Trap Sculpture by Uncle Ken (Tunny) Murray, Darren Wighton and Andom Rendell

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Screenshot 2015-02-27 15.35.12

Yindyamarra missing sculpture

It must be somewhere! How can I not find it? 

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Frame 2

The Bigger Picture by Katrina Weston

or for a completely different perspective:

Frame Reversed 2

The Bigger Picture by Katrina Weston

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Screenshot 2015-02-27 13.02.21

by The Wagirra Crew – working on the trail

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face

Teaming Life of Milawa Billa (Murray River) by Yindyamarra Sculpture Walk Steering Committee 

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Wonga goanna

Goanna by Kianna Edwards

Despite my missing sculpture (somewhere between the ‘Maya’ Fish Trap and The Bigger Picture) the Yindyamarra Sculpture Walk is such a delight that even this not-very-fit novice bushwalker was entranced along its length. And of course, it’s a smorgasbord for keen bird watchers.

The whippet and I even had a close encounter with a snake, who slithered away in horror faster than we did.

We would loved to have glimpsed a mammal but you can’t have it all. And we did spot something moving past us so fast it seemed to be fleeing for its life.  Just a whir and a blur and a flash of colour. Possibly a mamil

Massive accolades to Albury City Council and the Indigenous artists and community for creating this hidden gem.

The trail deserves to be hugely popular.

***

STOP PRESS

The mystery of the ‘missing’ sculpture has been solved. Although there are twelve red dots on the map marking the site of each sculpture, I could only find eleven.

But here’s an excerpt from the Council’s newsletter:

Yindyamarra 11 sculptures!

Eleven, not twelve sculptures…