We were invited to a breakfast organised by the Wine Guild of Australia, Victoria branch, http://www.wineguild.com.au. It was as well done as any breakfast could be, despite being run by the few for the many, as is so common.
I must say that the Aussies know how to ‘wine and dine’… or ‘wine and breakfast’, or ‘wine and anything’. It was not so much that the picnic food itself was vastly different from any cooked English-style breakfast, but the setting on the Yarra was extremely pleasant.
The Yarra is a big river that runs through the centre of Melbourne, and has been turned into a wonderful busy recreation area, rather like the Berg River in Paarl around the canoe club could be if it was treated better by the people picnicking in Paarl; even better, it comes without the muggers normally attendant in the Paarl Arboretum:
In fact, there were so many fit people running, walking, rowing, boating or cycling that I felt very bad being there just to eat and drink. I wished I had a sign on my back saying, “I am going for a walk after I’ve eaten, I promise.”
And then I was happy to be there, “unhealthy” as the food and champagne was (I hasten to add that there was fresh fruit afterwards):
Below is a view of the picnic area and the free gas cookers embedded in the stainless steel tables, which are left immaculate after use.In fact, they are LEFT after use, not taken home as any in Paarl would be:
Australians give the impression of having been born good, a condition acquired about the time they forgot that they originated from a penal colony. To my surprise, I learnt that it’s only in the past decade or two that Australians leave their picnic areas looking so clean, and at that time you could walk over the Yarra on floating debris. Apparently there was a big public campaign to pick up after yourself, and then peer pressure meant that everyone started doing it. How pleasant it makes things for everyone!
However the wind was so very bad that day that some things were blown away before they could get to the bins – people lost their paper plates and even their champagne glasses if they weren’t sure to hold on to them while breakfasting. Later on, during our walk back from the train station at the end of the day, we found our road was uncharacteristically littered because the wind had tipped dustbins and mixed the contents with fresh leaves torn from the trees, but I would guess that it was already cleaned up by the next morning.
As we left the picnic for our walk through the Botanic Gardens to Melbourne CBD and the train station, we realised that we were in some danger, and had a debate about what to do if we saw more branches falling:
I wondered if a blow on the head would be the first we knew about it, but Kel thought we would hear the cracking and would be able to look up and judge which way to run. I agreed about hearing the crack first, but I learnt within a few minutes that one doesn’t take time to LOOK, one just RUNS.
We saw an interesting pine cone on the ground, under a Norfolk Pine or some such tree:
I took a couple of photos from different angles, till I remembered that where there is one pine cone, there could be hundreds of similar size, and only able to move in one direction. So we made for open space toute-suite. (See french.about.com/od/vocabulary/a/tout-de-suite.htm for commentary about my spelling, but it seems wrong to me any other way)
We reached the Flower Clock on St Kilda Rd, opposite the National Gallery, just before 1 pm….
…and saw the statue of The Pathfinder (a sculpture by John Robinson – and if you can understand why what looks like a hammer thrower is called The Pathfinder, please let me know! Maybe The Path-Maker as everyone scatters…..)
Mining giant Conzinc Riotinto (now known as Rio Tinto) commissioned Robinson’s The Pathfinder, which they planned to install in their proposed new building. When the building failed to go ahead, the ‘dynamic’ sculpture of the hammer thrower in action was placed on long-term loan with the City of Melbourne, which sited the bronze in the Queen Victoria Gardens. The hammer held by the figure has been stolen several times and duly returned or replaced by another.
Hammer currently missing. So some Australians are not as well-behaved as they would all like you to think. In addition, here is graffiti on the bust of Hercules, argh.
Apparently Melbourne has some of the strictest anti-graffiti laws in the world….. yet they still have a huge problem. You can even call the City Council to remove graffiti from your premises (as long as no ladders are involved, which would eliminate about 50% of their help) OR you can get a free graffiti-removal kit from the council (ie 5 L cans of paint and/or solvent). How appalling that so much waste of time, resources and effort is caused by these mindless vandals.
After the Queen Victoria Park, we crossed the Yarra into town and walked in the area of the small alleys (blissfully cool and wind sheltered!) with famous street art, and let me point out that while I was photographing the crocodile taking the unwary tourist, I could not make head or tail of what it was all about – it seemed like random lines when close up.
Of course some of the alleys weren’t quite so nice, and ditto with the art work:
As we came back to the Flinders St Station….
……..there was a demonstration passing. Syrian expats were protesting about the government killing of up to 300 citizens in Syria the day before.
The interesting thing about the demo, which I realised later, is that the flag being used there is not the current Syrian flag, which is:
Wikipedia lists a variety of flags used by Syria in the past century in http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flag_of_Syria and the one carried yesterday was used from 1932-58 and again from 1961-3. There are a few possibilities here: that this was a political statement, or that there was a glut of old flags going cheap, or that the people protesting had all come to Australia before 1963 and didn’t know any better, or perhaps someone had taken an old atlas to the flag-maker and said, “I’d like 20 of these Syrian ones, please.”
It was a sobering end to a good outing, because what the Syrians are going through… it’s no picnic.