Friday, July 31, 2009

Three snippets of glee

My alarm went off this morning (after several snoozes) and I thought it was 8.00 am but it was only 7.50 am, so I got another 10 minutes of oversleeping done. Yay.

On the way to work I found a little secret pocket on the inside of my parka. Just perfect for my iPod. Sweet.

I bought a pair of jeans tonight for about 75% off. Ace.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Yay...and dang

Coz it's yellow like lemon

This afternoon I got a craving for lemon tart, thanks to Burt's Bees Lemon Butter Cuticle Cream...mmm, tangy (to sniff, not eat).

But since I was at work, I thought I'd make do with a piece of lemon slice from the bakery near my office. It was approaching 5.00 pm and they were closing up when I got there. Everything had been removed from their display cabinet - except the lemon slice.

That was a gleeful coincidence, but sadly the slice itself was disappointingly lacking in lemony tang. Don't buy lemon slice from Kenny's on Queen Steet, OK?

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Choccy sampling, calf-patting and PM chatting

Well! I had a great day today. I emerged from under my doona at about 9.00 am and set out for the Organic Expo in Carlton at around 11.30. The wind was cold, but the sun was shining.

Passing through Fitzroy Gardens on the way to the Organic Expo

A brief stop in the grounds of St Patrick's Cathedral

As I approached the Carlton Gardens, I saw that the fountain in front of the Royal Exhibition Building was in full flow and sparkling in the sun, a sight that gladdened my heart.

The Hochgurtel Fountain

Wow. I'd forgotten how stupendous the interior of the Exhibition Building is. I spent as much time looking up as I did sampling organic food (mostly chocolate, but also tea, cordial, vegetable chips, relish, nuts and goji berries) and skincare.

I also patted a calf in the mini farmyard set up to entertain the youngsters (not that I've never touched a calf before - I've seen them being born). The kids with their tiny little horns were really cute (the goat kind, not the human kind.)

I loved the
Bert's Bees beeswax products and bought myself a lip gloss and a pack of miniature hand, nail and footcare products in tiny little pots and tins.

A close up of the ceiling

I was also really impressed with a product called Onya Weigh, which is a little pouch containing 5 reuseable nylon drawstring tulle bags to use instead of plastic bags when buying fruit and vegies. I bought one of those.

I had planned to go to the Pompeii exhibition, but I was too weighed down with goodies, so I just popped into the gift shop for a quick look. I bought myself a copy of Melbourne: Then and Now, a book of photos of how Melbourne buildings and landmarks used to look and how they look now.

Then I headed for Brunetti's for a hot chocolate pit stop.

One of several pairs of sneakers suspended from power lines in Pelham Street, Carlton

Waiting for my Italian hot chocolate at Brunetti on Faraday Street, Carlton

I dropped into Readings bookshop for a browse. And who should I see there, but Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd. I knew he was in the area because I'd heard someone point out his car parked beside the shop. I was looking at some books and then I looked up and he was standing right beside me. As I was taken by surprise, I just said, "Oh, hello. I didn't realise I was standing right next to you." Yep, inane. He just smiled. (After I got home I realised I had smudges of hot chocolate on either side of my mouth. Inane and grubby! How embarrassing!)

The PM's visit was very low key. A few people approached him and he chatted with them briefly. He posed for a photo. He bought a pile of books and then left. Half the customers in the shop probably had no idea he was even in there. Still, he's not Barack Obama.

A bad photo, but I didn't want to be too obvious!

After buying a book (Ethical Eating by Angela Crocombe) and texting a bunch of people to tell them I'd just talked to Kevin Rudd, I walked back into the city and caught the tram home, very, very weary after covering about 12kms.

It was getting dark - the sky was a deep blue and a smiley moon was hanging over the city. A gleeful end to a gleeful day.

Waiting for my tram

The new soccer and rugby stadium is looking good

Crossing the Yarra

Friday, July 24, 2009

Ah, Fridays....

I love Friday nights, that feeling of being on the brink of the weekend, with two whole days ahead of me without work.

But what I really love is when I don't have to be anywhere at any particular time on Saturday and I can go to bed without setting my alarm. That's how it is tonight. I have quite a bit of stuff I want to do tomorrow, but all of it I can do at my own leisurely pace.

I'm going to the Organic Expo at the Royal Exhibition Building, partly to look at organic stuff and partly to look at the inside of the World Heritage-listed building. I've been inside a couple of times, but not for a few years and it's always worth a look.

Then, since I'm right next door to the museum, I thought I'd drop in and check out the Pompeii exhibition...and then, who knows? Maybe a hot chocolate at Brunetti's...a poke around Readings bookshop...

Maybe I should set an alarm anyway.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

A tasty coincidence

Last night I conjured up a whole chocolate shop with my mind. No, really.

When I left work, I had a hankering for Lindt's Lindor Balls, so I went in search of them. Then on Collins Street, near Tiffany's, I discovered an entire shop stuffed with Lindt chocolate goodies. I'd never seen it before. It was still open. Mmmmmmm...Lindor Balls.

*imagines Johnny Depp at my front door* ............................Dang.

I love this guy...

The video is crappy (what's a studder?) - just listen.

Useless trivia: I saw Demetri Martin in a coffee shop near my work a couple of years ago during the Comedy Festival.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Open wide, come inside

Well, I did my share of stickybeaking at some of Melbourne's landmark buildings during Melbourne Open House on Sunday. I had a fun day walking around with a friend in the winter sunshine, having a natter and seeing sights I'd never seen before.

I changed my mind about starting at Queens Hall at the State Library and instead arrived early at the Manchester Unity Building to try to beat the crazy queues. And we did. And it was worth it. The highlight of the day for me was walking out on the 12th floor roof top entertainment area of the MU Building to see the corner spire-thing looming up ahead of us against the blue sky (above). I think both of us said "Wow" out loud.

If you look just to the left of the clockface of the Town Hall in the picture below, that's where the outdoor roof top area is.

We then made our way up to the State Library to see Queens Hall, which has some unusual but impressive chandeliers and beautiful pale green and gold leaf ceiling roses (below). It's a little shabby around the edges, but it's apparently going to be renovated and reopened to the public. Yay.

After a quick squiz at the La Trobe Reading Room (no trip to the State Library is complete without it), we jumped on the City Circle tram through the Docklands to our next stop, the Mission to Seafarers. It smelt enticingly of the meat pies and sausage rolls they were selling to the Open House crowds, but we resisted the baked goods. I didn't resist the urge to give the old ship's bell (from the Moreton Bay) in the Celia Little room a tentative "dong". Not quite the same as ringing a bell at St Paul's...

Pull meeeeeeeeee!

The Mission building is still in relatively original condition and features a lovely little chapel with maritime themed stained glass windows and a pulpit carved to look like the side of a ship, a courtyard (with fish pond! Oooh fish!), a private garden and a large, round, domed room that used to be a gymnasium, but which is currently hosting an exhibition of maritime themed photos (below).

We walked back into the CBD with a stop to have a look at the foyer of the Grand Hotel, which, as it turns out, is not that grand really, but it does have a little library and chess boards in it, which I thought was pretty cool. This wasn't part of MOH, we were just nosey.

Next stop was Donkey Wheel House, a narrow building on Bourke Street I'd never noticed before. The building is now owned by the Donkey Wheel Foundation, a philanthropic organisation. It's very much in original - and rather shabby - condition and is mostly empty. It's crying out to be converted into an art gallery or something like that. There are already some art installations in the basement of the building.

Top floor


After that we made another impromptu stop at the St Augustines Catholic Church which is one of the oldest churches in Melbourne (I have never paid so much attention to churches as I have these past two weekends!).

Then we had a quick look at the very modern Denmark House where the thing that most interested me was this newspaper headline:

Is there not a Danish word for sex? I'm assuming sex is not a Danish word for something else!

Niagara Lane, just because

After that we stopped at the Collins Street Baptist Church, which was also a bit of a 'wow' moment - I had no idea there was such a large church behind that facade. It's quite unlike any other church I've been in - a very open space, quite light and airy and with greeny-blue carpet throughout.

Finally, after deciding not to wait 45 minutes to see the kitchen at Jamie Oliver's Fifteen restaurant, we popped into the T&G Building (aka KPMG House). We were captivated by the glass ceiling feature, which changed colour (below).

The modern office tower bit of the T&G Building

And then we were done. I decided not to wait in line to see Capitol Theatre. Instead I treated myself to a Belgian hot chocolate and lemon cheesecake at the Chokolait Hub (becoming a habit...).

Then I caught the tram home. I'd walked just over 12 kms by the time I got home and I was worn out. I had a long soak in the bath and was in my pjs before 7pm! Just like when I was 10, only there was no soup and toasties in front of the Wonderful World of Disney on the telly.

See my other blog for a few more pictures.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Melbourne love

I bin up in that there spire, I have

I was feeling a teeny bit deflated going back to work on Monday after my ace mini road-trip last weekend. I had been looking forward to it for so long...and then all of a sudden it was over.

But, Melbourne being the hive of events and culture and awesomeness that it is, there's always something to look forward to and I'm feeling inflated with gleeful anticipation once again. For serious, my cheeks are even puffed out.

This weekend, I'm having a sticky beak at a bunch of old city buildings during the second annual Melbourne Open House (MOH) on Sunday. It's part of the State of Design Festival and boasts an impressively expanded line up of 32 buildings this year. Some are old and some are new; all are architecturally or otherwise significant. Most of the buildings are not routinely open to the public, if it all.

You may recall that I'm excited about seeing Queens Hall at the State Library. That's where I'm going to start and I plan to get there early so I don't miss out. Last year a massive crowd descended on the CBD for MOH, which meant I missed out on getting my foot in the door of a few of the buildings on my list...but I did get to ring a great big bell at St Paul's Cathedral (above)! Bing bonnnnggggg!

I also want to see:

The bizarrely named Donkey Wheel House (formerly the Melbourne Tramway and Omnibus Company Building), which was built in 1891 and hasn't been renovated so "its character is beautifully exposed", according to the MOH program.

The Mission to Seafarers building in the Docklands. Built in 1916-17, it is the Melbourne home of the Anglican Church-run Mission to Seafarers, which "cares for the practical and spiritual welfare of seafarers of all nationalities and faiths". Its interior, featuring Tasmanian hardwood panelling, is also largely intact.

Capitol Theatre. I visited it last year, but I want to see it again because it's spectacular.

Manchester Unity Building (below). I missed out on getting inside this Melbourne landmark last year, so I'm going to have another crack at it. The tour includes the 12th floor rooftop entertainment area and the "magnificent" Boardroom.

And a few others too. There's an MOH photography competition running, so I will of course have my trusty Canon clamped to my hand (not that I wouldn't have anyway!)

So much to do, so little time

I know I have said this before, but I love the way that no matter how well I think I know Melbourne, there's ALWAYS something new to discover. And there's always new stuff to see and do.

A couple of weeks back I grabbed a copy of the litte Winter Hot Spots 09 book produced by That's Melbourne. It is a compact treasure trove of events and activities the city, written in a refreshingly fun and quirky style (Melbourne staid and stuffy? Pah!).

Some stuff I have highlighted:

The City of Melbourne Laneways Commissions, which are being progressively unveilled in city lanes (the first can already be seen in Lingham Lane). I'm looking forward to the arrival of Call Notes in Hardware Lane on 8 August. It's a series of solar powered sound devices which will play popular tunes from the last 60 years...sung by birdies! The brighter the sun, the louder the birds will sing. This is right near my work and preferred sushi provider so I will be able to hear it every day.

Craft Victoria. I didn't know Craft Victoria on Flinders Lane has a gift shop featuring the work of local designers. But then I keep forgetting craft isn't just for nannas anymore.

In a similar crafty vein (not that I'm crafty, but I like to buy stuff), North Melbourne is home to the Thread Den "sewing lounge" and fashion boutique. Hot Spots 09 says Thread Den:

"..conjures up images of bobby socks, Chevys and hula hoops. The den recently underwent a make over and now has a powder room...a kitchen with an aqua hutch, flying ducks on the walls and a garden made of Astroturf".

They sell local designers' creations, vintage gear, and cute accessories; they run sewing classes and they have eight sewing machines for hire. They can even hover at your elbow like Mrs Krepp from Year 8 Textiles to help you with that tricky zip, if need be.

Outside-in Cinema.
Free movies at the State Library! Every second Wednesday there's a movie (mostly docos) on the big screen. The State Library could host an evening of sandpapering your own eyeballs and I would think it was an awesome idea.

Also in North Melbourne are Arthurs Circus - "home to real, down-home collectible shiz, things that make you nod your head and smile" and Wally Johnson's Antiques - "one of Melbourne's most obscure curiosities [with] 6000 square feet of tightly packed, dimly lit, old world gold".

And then there's Salvador Dali: Liquid Desire at the National Gallery of Victoria and the A Day in Pompeii exhibition at the Melbourne Museum.

So much to do...Do you ever go to bed on Friday night feeling impatient for it to be morning so you can get out there and do stuff? Like a little kid on Christmas Eve?

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Surprise book and smitten with Sunday

Gee, I love that feeling when I discover that a favourite author has a new book out. It's nice to have the anticipation leading up to the release of a new book and then finally getting your hands on it, but it's also ace when you had no clue one was even in the works and then you find out it's on the shelves Right Now and suddenly, it's yours! Wham, bam, new book!

That's what happened to me yesterday. I found out in a fairly random way (via Twitter) that Aussie writer
Nick Earls has released a new novel, The True Story of Butterfish. Oh, yay! Not only that, but I had a gift card in my wallet for the book shop near my work. No prizes for guessing where I went on my lunch break yesterday.

I love, love, LOVE Nick Earls' stuff - his books are so smart and real and laugh-out-loud funny, and his characters so appealing, quite often in a rather nerdy and inept way. I have read all of his books, including the young adult ones. I've read many of them more than once and some more than twice, including Zigzag Street, the first one I read. I clearly remember the day, in Dymocks at Collins Place in the city on my lunch break, when I picked up Zigzag Street and was amused to see the F word in the first line of the back cover blurb.

And now I have his new one. I cast aside the book I was already reading without a second thought and got started on it last night. So far so good.

Love at first sight

That wasn't the only book I left the shop with. I am now officially incapable of leaving a bookshop with only one book. As I was heading to the register with The True Story of Butterfish, I spied a kids' picture book on display called Sunday Chutney. Anyone know it?

At first I was smitten with the picture of the bespectacled Sunday on the cover - and the little flower in her hat and its little flower shadow - and then I picked it up and enjoyed the feel of the smooth, matte cover in my hands. I opened it up and the inky smell wafted up to my nose, transporting me straight back to childhood.

But my affection quickly grew beyond such superficial things when I started reading it. It starts off:

I'm Sunday Chutney... and I'm a bit unusual
You see, because of my dad's job I've lived all over the world.
Which is great. Trouble is, I'm always starting at new schools.
So I'm always the new kid.
And everyone thinks the new kid is a bit weird.
But guess what?
I don't care.
(accompanied by a pirouetting, laughing Sunday in red stripey tights)

Sold to the girl with the Nick Earls book under her arm!

I finished reading it back at my desk and fell completely in love with it by the end. It's cool and cute and funny and quirky and I love the message - it's OK to be a little bit different (at least that's what it says to me).

And it really strange for a 37-year-old to relate to a character in a book for very small children? I also have glasses, I've been the new kid in school, I enjoy my own company, I care about worthy cause and I love crumpets too.

It's written and beautifully illustrated by former Aussie actor Aaron Blabey. I even love the "About the author" bit inside the back cover:

The author of this book really likes:
old armchairs,
lovely sharp pencils,
the way trees look when their leaves fall off,
his unfashionable record collection,
and looking scuffy.

It's Blabey's second book too, so now I must buy the first one, Pearl Barley and Charlie Parsley too.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Wagons West Birthday Extravaganza - Part 2

The screechy correllas out the back of our cabin

Day two of my Wagons West Birthday Extravaganza Road Trip Down Memory Lane ensues...

Dunkeld to Warrnambool

After a bad night's sleep (for me, anyway), Anthony and I hit the road towards the coast at 9.00 on Sunday morning. Nothing was open for breakfast, so we pressed on with empty bellies.

We saw another purdy full rainbow as we approached Penshurst, even though it wasn't raining, despite there being some fantastic fat clouds about.

We stopped off at the tiny town of Hawkesdale, where I completed my final three years of high school (that school looked pretty much as I remembered) and then continued on to the charming town of Koroit where we hoped we might find a cafe serving breakfast, but we were out of luck. Maybe we were too early, or perhaps breakfasting outside the home hasn't really caught on in small towns yet.

I had also hoped that the signage on the outskirts of town would still read: "Koroit - a green and pleasant land" as it did when I was a kid and which I always read with an Irish accent (the area has a strong Irish heritage), but alas, it was gone. I was quite taken with the old red phone box in front of the bluestone post office though (below). Koroit's main street has a nice old world feel to it, with old buildings and footpaths shaded by old shop verandahs.

As we headed towards Warrnambool, the ocean came into view. I said, "I see the sea!", which is what my brother and I always used to say as kids when we spotted the ocean. I couldn't help it.

We also passed the little house where my nanna used to live, just near what used to be the Nestle factory. I still remember the stench of coffee from when I stayed there as a kid.

Warrnambool is a large regional centre and popular tourist destination with a population of about 30,000. It's best known for the southern right whales who visit every year to give birth and its maritime history.

Anthony and I were both feeling pretty hungry by the time we arrived so we were pleased to find a few places serving breakfast in Warrnambool. I had a big cooked breakfast. Yum.

From there we headed to Logan's Beach, which is the "whale nursery". As we got out of the car, a man told us there were no whales there, but there was one near the mouth of the Hopkins River. Thanks for ruining the anticipation, Mister... although, to be honest, I wasn't really expecting to see any. And we didn't - at Logan's Beach or the river mouth, but we didn't really have time to linger, waiting, because we had a long road ahead of us.

Whale spotting...

Warrnambool onwards

From there we hit the Great Ocean Road. Wheeee! It's been about five years since I've travelled the GOR and I was really looking forward to it, not least because I'd get to cross it off my 101/40 list once the trip was complete.

There's a reason why the GOR is one of Australia's top tourist destinations, with 7 million visitors a year. There's rugged coastline with spectacular rock formations, lush temperate rainforest, lovely little seaside villages and towns, rivers and creeks flowing to the sea, and farms with rolling green hills studded with livestock.

London Arch was known as London Bridge until 1990 when the rock arch joining those two bits together collapsed into the sea, stranding a few people in the process.

Loch Ard Gorge is a nice little cove with a narrow mouth (at the right of the picture above). It was named after the Loch Ard which was shipwrecked nearby in 1878 on a voyage from England. There were two survivors, who came ashore at the gorge. When I was in Grade 6 I won a story writing competition in which we had to imagine we were one of the survivors. My story was published in the local paper, The Standard, and I got a book voucher for my efforts.

The most recognisable of the formations is the Twelve Apostles (although there's only 8 left now). The view was complimented by more fabulous clouds. There was ace cloudage all day, in fact. I was pleased. It was the cherry on top.

From the 12 Apostles we headed inland through forest and farmland, with the Hawthorn v North Melbourne (AFL) game on the radio. Anthony's an enthusiastic Hawks fan while I'm a half-hearted North supporter. North was leading as we approoched Apollo Bay and I felt conflicted. I wanted them to win, but I didn't back them in the tipping competition at work (I'm in third place).

Outside Apollo Bay, yet another rainbow appeared, and this one hung around for ages. It was there when we stopped in the town for coffee and cake and it was still there when we emerged from the cafe. North Melbourne was no longer in front in the footy though. The Hawks had come from behind to score a win. Anthony was very happy.

Apollo Bay foreshore

We hit the road again and didn't stop until Anthony dropped me off at my place, tired but happy.

Split Point Lighthouse near Lorne (taken from the moving car)

So...that's it! The weekend lived up to - no, exceeded - my expectations. The gig was great and it was wonderful - in a bittersweet way - to revisit places from my childhood. It still feels a little bit like home. I feel a new sense of fondness for it.

South-west Victoria is lovely in the cooler months when everything is lush and green. It always makes me think of the closing lines of the poem Binsey Poplars by Gerard Manly Hopkins:

Rural scene, a rural scene,

Sweet especial rural scene.

A ginormous thank you to Anthony for helping me to make my whim a reality. I couldn't be more grateful if I tried.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Wagons West Birthday Extravaganza - Part 1

Last weekend I headed off with my friend Anthony on my long-awaited Wagons West Birthday Extravaganza Road Trip Down Memory Lane. It was a splendiferous weekend. Here's what happened on day one.

Melbourne to Ballarat

We set off in the wind and light rain down the Western Freeway towards Ballarat. Anthony, a self-confessed "map nerd", experienced his first moment of glee when we travelled on the new...some new bypass. I forget what it was called. I experienced my first gleeful moment when we saw a full rainbow around the coincidentally named Anthony's Cutting near Bacchus Marsh. I pronounced it a good omen.

We arrived in Ballarat around 10am. The city, Victoria's third largest, is renowned for being cold and it lived up to its reputation. There was a gale blowing directly from the Antarctic and light rain. I was grateful for my furry-hooded, doona-like parka.

We made our first pitstop at the Bridge Mall, which was almost deserted. I had a very yummy hot chocolate while Anthony relieved his growing caffeine headache with a latte.

After refuelling ourselves, we chucked a lap of the big brown blight on the landscape that used to be Lake Wendouree before years of drought took their toll (below). It's a sad sight. We braved the gale to take some photos. (I hear a project is afoot to refill it with reclaimed water though. Yay.)

Boat shed and jetty

Ballarat to Lake Bolac

We hit the road again heading towards the little township of Lake Bolac, where I completed my first three years of high school. The school - which is now a P12 college (primary and secondary school combined) - has changed a little since I was there in er...1988 (ack!), and of course it all looks smaller than I remember.

The brown bit in the foreground used to be lake

As you might suspect, the town gets its name from the large freshwater lake it's perched against. This lake has also been desiccated by drought, although there was some water visible in the distance. It was another sad sight. I have memories of all the students and teachers going swimming there during the last two units on hot Friday afternoons.

As we made our way to look at the dried up lake, we passed the local football ground and there was a game on - Wickliffe/Lake Bolac v Hawkesdale/Macarthur. We pulled up to watch. My brother used to play football for Wickliffe/Lake Bolac and I used to play netball for them and, coincidentally, I finished my high school education at Hawkesdale College. I recognised one of the guys with the team.

Home team in black and white

At quarter time in the game, which was around lunch time, we decided to grab a bite to eat at the canteen. Anthony got a pie and a sausage roll and I got a pastie (which was superb) and we sat in the clubrooms to eat. No one paid any attention to the blow ins.

We saw on the telly later that night that Lake Bolac was soundly beaten.

Lake Bolac to Chatsworth

From Lake Bolac we drove towards the teeny, tiny hamlet of Chatsworth flanked by lots of green paddocks dotted with snowy lambs and sheep trying to find shelter from the appalling weather. We passed the farm where I lived from age five to 15. The house we lived in hadn't changed much, although the Cape Wattle trees my parents planted and the garden my mother established and lovingly tended over 10 appeared to have gone. I'm not sure anyone lives in it anymore. I couldn't see any signs of habitation. It made me feel a little bit sad too. Sigh.

The area looks mostly unchanged, although predictably, everything is smaller than it was in my mind's eye, especially the series of hills that seemed massive to me as a kid riding my bike. We drove past the roadside table drains where my brother and I and the neighbours' kids used to catch tadpoles which we'd keep in a big jar and watch as they turned into frogs. The drains were full of water. I was tempted to ask Anthony to pull up so I could try to spot some tadpoles, but I resisted. It was nice and warm in the car.

We crossed the Hopkins River, close to the water hole where I used to swim (and sometimes skinny dip) into Chatsworth. I spotted the church and fell in love with it. I can't recall paying the least bit of attention to it when I was a kid.

Chatsworth to Caramut

We pressed on, past more green paddocks full of sheep and lambs (it's a major wool growing district, known for its fine merino wool). I love the contrast of sheep against green grass and green grass against grey sky. I tried to take photos of the sheep, but they ran away from me.


We passed the houses of kids I went to school with - I could even remember their names - on the way to Caramut, where I attended primary school. Fortunately, I knew that the school had closed a few years ago due to lack of pupils, so I wasn't too dismayed when I saw the drift of leaves piled against the front gate, the sandpit overgrown with grass and a sheet of tin peeling from the roof of the entrance. Sigh again.

Caramut also has a cute little bluestone church (above), this one with sheep grazing in the churchyard.

Caramut to Penshurst

From Caramut, we headed to the small town of Penshurst, which is where I lived from aged 15 to when I left for Melbourne to attend university. I don't feel a huge attachment to the town because I lived there for a comparatively short time, and it wasn't an overly happy period of my life because I had to change high schools when we moved there and leave all my friends.

But I did want to visit the town's Botanic Gardens, which were established after I left. On the way we passed cows grazing on the verge of the road and the house of a boy I had a crush on in Year 11.

Even in the middle of winter, the gardens were quite pretty. There was a little rotunda, skeletal trees covered in lichen and lagoons linked by a stream that flowed around mossy rocks and over a tiny waterfall. The lagoons are fed by a natural, never-failing spring, which also provides the town's water supply.

Licheny tree

We then went down the main street (past the lubritorium!) and then looped back past the house my family lived in. It was also mostly devoid of the garden my mum planted and the nice little tree in the front yard. (What's wrong with people these days? Don't they like flowers and trees?)

The lubritorium

I took some photos of Penshurst's lovely little bluestone church (sensing a theme?) and then we set out for Mount Rouse, the large hill on the fringe of the town which is a dormant volcano. Easten Australia is home to many dormant volcanoes - I'm sure I read somewhere it's the most volcanic part of the world, though it's been more than 7000 years since any of them erupted.

We spotted several black wallabies as the road wound towards the top of the hill. I don't remember seeing any when I lived there.

It was windy up on the peak and the view wasn't as good as it would have been on a clear day, but it was still pretty good. Lots of big, lichen-covered volcanic rock up there...and mossy rocks too. Bit of trivia - my dad built the fire lookout on top of Mr Rouse.

I think I see my old house from here

Penshurt to Dunkeld

And then we were heading towards Dunkeld, at the southern end of the Grampians where we were to spend the night.

We arrived about 3.30 and checked into our little log cabin (above, with the fabulous tree in front of it) and then headed up to the Royal Mail Hotel, which is now an award-winning gastro-pub popular with city slickers. We sat in the bar where there was an open fire and a view of Mr Abrupt with its shroud of cloud (below). We read the paper over a hot beverage until dinner time arrived.

I nearly clapped my hands with glee when I saw corned beef and mashed potato on the bar menu. Hurrah! I'm sorry to say that despite winning awards for its food, the Royal Mail's corned beef was not as good as Bridie O'Reilly's, although that's actually a good thing since Bridie's is walking distance from my house.

And then at about 7.30 we hit the road to Hamilton for the Wagons gig. I was excited but also a little apprehensive, because I didn't want it to be like their last gig in the town when only a handful of people showed up. More people = better atmosphere.

There weren't many people at the bar when we arrived. We played a game of pool, chatted to the owner of the bar and had a few beverages. I'm not ashamed to tell you that I drank a passionfruit flavoured UDL can. I thought, "Well, while I'm reliving my youth....". It looked like Berocca and tasted like Passiona. I um...didn't hate it.

Time wore on, the support act played, the members of Wagons appeared in the bar (only four of the usual six though) and Frontman Henry Wagons (on whom, you might remember, I have an Embarrassing Adolescent Crush) was right near me. I am embarassed to admit that I felt a little jittery with nervousness. I tried not to look at him though. I didn't attempt to speak to him. I acted cool, calm and collected. I'm 37, not 15.

The bar had started to fill with people and I was relieved. And you know what? I wasn't the only Melbourne fan who made the trip to see Wagons play in Hamilton. For serious! There were a few other people with ties to the area who had also come along. I was relieved.

The show...

I needn't have worried - it was a great show. The band was set up in a corner of the bar (a converted pizza shop) and there was no stage so I got pretty close and had a mostly uninterupted view. They played some old stuff and some new stuff (including an awesome rendition of Good Town) and Henry was his usual dry witted, chatty self. The crowd was really into it, which was great to see.

They were selling their latest CD after the show so I took advantage of the opportunity to speak to Henry and another band member. Don't worry, I didn't fawn or gush or titter nervously. I was cool, calm and collected....although I forgot I had already bought the actual CD the day it came out instead of just downloading it, so now I have two copies. This one is special though because it has Henry's "man sweat" on it (that's what he told me). I said I didn't mind.

We didn't linger long after the gig, although Henry invited everyone to party on. I was mindful of the fact Anthony was tired (I was too - I'm too old and worn out to be a proper groupie) and we had an earlyish start in the morning.


Back at our cabin, we let our electric blankets do their thing before climbing into our beds (Anthony kindly let me have the double while he took the single). My bed was super comfy and I was warm and cosy and tuckered out and happy. And then rain started to patter on the tin roof. Just perfect.

PS I apologise if this is poorly edited. My bottom is numb, it's late and I must sleeeeeep.