Thursday, 31 January 2013

The Toulouse-Lautrec exhibtion

I visited the Toulouse-Lautrec exhibition at the National Gallery while we were in Canberra.    I admit that that I didn't know very much about Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec before I started planning to visit this exhibition, even though I'm now aware that he is one of the best known post-Impressionist painters.  Certainly, his paintings, drawings and posters and other lithographs are often vivid and dramatic.

Being a bit of a fan of the Heidelberg school of painters, it was food for thought for me to read that Toulouse-Lautrec was disdainful of the plein air school, and apparently many of his paintings (and, I think, all those in this exhibition) are portraits or of groups. Of course, generally these are of people from what may be regarded as the "under-belly" of Paris.    I particularly liked At the Bastille.

Interestingly, the Gallery has assembled this exhibition from numerous sources.  Many of the posters are in its own collection.   However, only three paintings have been contributed by the Toulouse-Lautrec Museum at Albi.    I leave it to the experts to say whether this means the paintings in this exhibition are less than fully representative of his work, although as a lay observer, it did seem that there was an adequate number. 

On a minor logistical note, I was able to buy a ticket for immediate admission shortly after the Gallery opened on the Saturday morning of a long week-end.   Of course, I realise that I was taking a  chance by not pre-purchasing, but at least on this occasion, things worked out satisfactorily.

Wednesday, 30 January 2013


We spent some time looking around Leura.  The main street is the Leura Mall, which has a number of "interesting" shops (for those who are into such things) and casual eating places.   Its charm isn't lessened by the Woolworths, because as a relatively late addition, it doesn't have a frontage to the street, but is set behind other shops.

Of particular interest is Leura Cellar's "Downunder" cellar - quite a large collection of mature wines, all for sale.  Prices, of course, reflect the age of the wines, so you'd need to know what you were doing before buying!  All those wines from the '80s.   Why didn't I put a dozen or so away then? 

We had lunch at Zest (previously Fresh) - nice coffee, innovative casual food and some interesting beers.   Then we had dinner at the Alexandra Hotel.   This is tucked away on the other side of the railway line to the main part of Leura, between the railway and the highway, so it can be a little tricky to get access to (and from) it.   However,   it's worth making the effort:   good pub food, generous serves and reasonable prices.

Tuesday, 29 January 2013


The weather as we left Canberra was mild.    We had read that Bowral has a coffee culture and some interesting shops, so we diverted off the freeway to Bowral for a caffeine top-up and early lunch.  We ended up at a place called Palete Pleasure (yes, spelt that way), and it seems that we hit the right spot - at least according to popular vote.

In Bowral
In other words, it was crowded (was it just my imagination, or were we in with the horse-owning set?), and hence the service was, shall I say, ponderous.  But my BLT and Sue's lentil burger were worth the wait.

While we were waiting for our meals, the edge of ex-cyclone Oswald greeted us and the rain started.    Then, for the whole drive from Bowral to Leura (via Penrith), there was not a moment's let-up in the rain.    True, it varied from the torrential at times to merely heavy, but it was constant!   And when we went to bed - hours later - it was still raining. 

It's probably a good view from our room, but all we saw was rain
However the Fairmont Resort is very comfortable.  We briefly thought about venturing out for a meal, but decided that the casual dining option in the Fairmont - even if not bargain priced! - was a lot more attractive that trawling the local streets in the rain looking for somewhere to eat.

But the morning dawned clear with no rain and even some sunshine. The TV continues to be obsessed with the floods, and those affected have our sympathy, but we intend to get on with life!

No floods here in the mountains, so we watched on TV

Monday, 28 January 2013

The National Museum

I caught up with J for coffee at the National Museum, and we then spent some time looking around. It's an  interesting building, in a great location on the lake.

I've previously visited the museum (but apparently I didn't mention it on my blog at the time).  However, I thought the exhibits that I saw this time were more comprehensive.  On reflection, perhaps some areas were closed off last time I was there (perhaps exhibits were in the course of development?) 

The Museum's focus is obviously Australian history, and generally speaking I think it does this well.   It covers a great deal of ground, much too much to describe.    Yes, there's an indigenous theme in a number of the exhibits, but I don't think this is overdone.  In short, definitely worth a visit.

Introduced rabbits

The Saw Doctor's equipment

Reports of floods at Wagga in a previous era

Walter Burley and Marion Griffin

Sunday, 27 January 2013

Storm in Canberra

I spent most the day at the National Gallery (both the Toulouse-Lautrec exhibition - more later on this - and some of the general collection) and at the War Memorial,    But, a storm had been brewing all day and it finally broke early in the evening with torrential rain and lots of thunder and lightning just as I was picking Sue up at the festival.    As soon as I opened the car door, I got almost drenched, so I sat in the car for about  20 minutes until the worst had passed.

We decided to have a meal at one of the clubs.   Fortunately, the bistro was still operating, although we were told on arrival that the power supply (or computer link or something) to the pokies had been knocked out by a lightning strike!  There seem to be new, stricter rules about visitors at Canberra clubs (perhaps to go along with the decree that thou shalt not be given free plastic bags at supermarkets?), or maybe it's just the Tradies, but we negotiated our entry.   Later, when returning to our accommodation, all of the carpark and driveway lights were out and there was a firetruck at reception.   I was very apprehensive that the rooms may have also been blacked out but fortunately this wasn't the case so we were able watch the tennis to the background sound of gently falling rain.
Edit - I see that the Canberra storm made the news.

Saturday, 26 January 2013


On the trip up to Canberra, Euroa is a good place for a first stop.   It's reached a couple of hours after leaving home so it's in about the right place for that initial boost of caffeine.   More than that, there's a great cafe there.   This is Albert's.   Good coffee, and impressive cafe food, too (focaccias and the like).  The only catch is finding it.    Although it's in the main street of Euroa, it's fairly inconspicuous.  And the main street itself is tucked away.   But, as I've said, it's all worth the effort.  

Euroa's shopping strip

Friday, 25 January 2013

The proposed European Financial Transaction Tax

I was a bit sceptical a few posts back about the proposed European Financial Transaction Tax (see here).  To recapitulate, this would be a turnover tax on financial markets.    The proposed rate varies:   France is apparently contemplating a rate of 0.2%, the European proposal is 0.1%  (but only 0.01% on derivatives) and the group out on William Street in Melbourne thought 1% would be a good idea.

In this era of the global village and super-thin margins, I wondered how such a tax could be made to operate unless all the major financial centres in the world introduced it (unlikely?) without relegating the markets in the countries that do introduce it to a position off the world stage.  But then I saw in Wikipedia that in fact transfers of shares in London attract a "Stamp Duty reserve tax" of 0.5%!   Now, I don't know all the ins and outs of the British tax (it seems to be limited to shares, and seemingly other financial instruments such as bonds and derivatives aren't covered), but it doesn't seem to have stood in the way of London being a financial centre.  

So when I read that a number of European countries are moving forward with the concept of a FTT- see here and here  - I was forced to reconsider my initial impression that the Germans and the French might be giving a "free-kick" to London's status as a financial centre.   But is the "devil in the detail"?   Perhaps a tax on transfers of shares (as in London) is one thing, but it seems the Europeans are contemplating a much broader tax?  And when the purpose of a tax is stated to be "to discourage financial speculation" (as distinct from raising revenue), I think there is still a basis for reservations.

Thursday, 24 January 2013

So, I didn't get into Law School....

I remember reading something about it at the time, but it came back to me when I came across this blog.   It concerns a mother and daughter who sued Geelong Grammar because the daughter failed to gain admission to law at Sydney University.  The daughter had apparently been identified as "gifted" but it was said that she failed to apply herself to her studies.  The suggestion seems to be that the school didn't do enough to motivate her.   The claim against the school (based on breach of contract and misleading and deceptive conduct) was made despite the daughter achieving marks sufficient to gain admission to another law course (after completing the year at another institution).   To my mind, based on observations over a number of years, litigation has to be a last resort, so how this case even got to first base totally eludes me.  The tribunal threw it out.

Numerous thoughts passed through my mind when I read about the failure of the claim, many of which have already been aired in the blogosphere.   Perhaps it will suffice to mention:   a small victory for personal responsibility?    A commentary on obsessive parenting?   A Googleable-trail accessible to every future employer (even in Houston) - very scary! 

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

The fence

Time to replace the fence
The time had come to replace part of the side fence.     We are happy with the quality of the new fence.   The fencer worked by himself but we especially like the fact that the posts extend to the full height of the trellis, and that there is a rail along the top of the trellis.   The previous trellis, as well as the one on the other side of the house, was just nailed to the top of the fence, and was obviously less durable.

Feeling exposed!

The only problem was getting the guy to start work.    It took longer than we hoped from the time we accepted his quote before he said he would be available, and even then the start date slipped a few days.  However, hopefully the quality will be remembered long after the delay is forgotten!

All done!

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Pen & Ink Sketches of Lorne

All Saints, Lorne
It seems that the Anglican and Uniting churches now operate a combined parish at Lorne, and hence the 8 am service on Sunday at the Anglican church was advertised as a combined service (as was the 10 am service at the Uniting church).    I had never been inside the Anglican church (All Saints) but, encouraged by the fact that I wouldn't be too far out of my depth, I attended the service.    

On my way out, I noticed that for a very reasonable sum, I could obtain a booklet entitled Pen & Ink Sketches of Lorne.

This is a fascinating publication!  It was actually first printed in 1890 (but reprinted in 1985), and was marked as being in aid of the Building Fund of the Church of England, Lorne.  I wondered if the proceeds of its continued sale over 120 years later were being similarly applied!

The booklet contains a number of interesting entries, including one on Teddy's Lookout.  I've previously blogged on the reason why the lookout is so named, and the booklet agrees that the story about the donkey named Teddy is unfounded.   In other words, even in 1890, the version about the donkey descending from the lookout at its own risk was being dismissed.   Instead, it supports the more boring view that the lookout is named after an early cattleman who came to this point to watch out for stray beasts.

Monday, 21 January 2013

Trust for Nature

The Sunday Age recently had a front page article on Trust for Nature's 30,000   hectare "Neds Corner" property (don't know where the apostrophe went).  TFN is a non-profit organisation which works to protect native animals and plants on private property (see here).  It does this both by encouraging private landowners to place conservation covenants on their land as well as itself buying and  preserving appropriate properties.  Properties bought by TFN are then, in some cases, on-sold to interested people with a conservation covenant attached.

This has always impressed me as a practical and apparently effective way of achieving a desirable outcome, even if TFN's work seems to have been fairly low-key (at least, until the Sunday Age's article).

Brother-in-law Rob has been involved in this, and has written about his family's bush properties   (reduced images at right, but downloadable  here).

Slaty Creek in 2009
We have visited Slaty Creek and were most impressed indeed with the work they're doing.  From the recent article, it seems to have come on well since 2009, when we were there.

Saturday, 19 January 2013

Factory outlets

We were out Fairfield way, driving along Darebin Road.   "Stop", I was told by family members.  No, it wasn't so as to make a closer inspection of the National Bowls Centre.   It seems that the interest lay on the other side of the road - shoe factory outlet territory.

Not sure of the relationship between the various outlets, but lots of fun for shoe fanatics (by definition, female!)   However, I admit that even I made a purchase.

The Bowls Centre, on the other side of Darebin Rd

Friday, 18 January 2013


Baghdatis in the doubles
We were given tickets for an evening session at the Australian Open.  Warm, but a great way to spend an evening!    We took advantage of the fact that evening admission is allowed from 5 pm, so we were in time to snatch a view of the final games of a doubles match in which Baghdatis was playing.   
Centre court
The Centre Court matches were then Federer v Davydenko (a great display of skill by both players, with Federer inevitably prevailing) and then Laura Robson v Petra Kvitova. 
Robson is an up-and-coming player and Kvitova was 8th seed.  The match started with numerous errors from both players, and although Kvitova won the first set, Robson eventually won.    We left (so as to catch the train) when Robson was down 3-0 in the final set, but when we got home the match was still in progress!    So we were able to watch the final games on TV and see Robson eventually win the 3rd set 11-9 (see report here).

It's a couple of years since I've been to Melbourne Park.  It has certainly expanded.  The atmosphere now reminds me of the Show years ago (although I haven't been there for years),  with lots of activities for the crowd to take in around the grounds.  Of course, there aren't any side-shows, unless some of the activity on the outside courts counts towards this!

Crowd scene

Thursday, 17 January 2013

In your face!

I've become immune to the promotional screens located above the moving walkways at our local shopping centre, and I hardly take any notice of the screens in the lift at work extolling the offerings of the building's retail tenants.   This may have something to do with the fact that there's no sound attached to either of these.

But when filling up with petrol at one of the service stations that I occasionally frequent, I was taken aback to be confronted with advertisements being played on a large screen - complete with sound blaring at me from close range.

This "development" may have occurred elsewhere so I may be in "catch-up" mode here, but this was a new experience for me.  Yes, buying petrol is boring, and it's depressing to watch the dollars mount up, but I'd rather not be ear-bashed at the same time!

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Internet access

I use a pre-paid wi-fi "dongle" in conjunction with my netbook while away from home so as to have access to the internet.   Yes, I know that technology has moved on, but this system is tried and true and I find a netbook convenient.

Catch - during the summer at busy beach resorts there's a lot a demand placed on the networks.   In our household we had users of all three networks, and all basically encountered the same problem:   the reception bars can indicate good reception (often "excellent", but it does depend on where you are), but this is no guarantee that you'll have good access to the internet.    It seems to me that the networks  become congested so that, even though the reception is OK,  response times on the internet are s-o-o-o slow that access becomes impossible (websites time out before a proper connection is made).

I understand that this is a seasonal issue, and at other times of the year, things are better.   Moreover, I had no such problem last year.

It does depend on the time of day, so a "work-around" is to log-on at less popular times.  In practice, this means early in the morning (seemingly Facebook users aren't early starters) or very late at night.

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Mixing with the trendies?

We went for dinner with T and W at Penny Farthing in Northcote.  Great venue!     It's small but has a fascinating, innovative menu as well as interesting boutique coffees and beers.  We then walked down High Street through the Westgarth area. 

Old bike in restaurant window
Although we've been this way previously, this was the first time in years that we'd walked down the hill.  By walking we were able to appreciate to the full just how trendy and alive this part of the city is, with lots of little bars and eating places.  Yes, a bit of what might be termed "grunge", but definitely lots of character.

Northcote Town Hall

(Photos aren't great, but are the best I could do)

Monday, 14 January 2013

Summer traffic

We left Lorne as the crowds were arriving for the "Pier-to-the-Pub" weekend.
Traffic banked up before New Year

The roads can get very congested indeed during the summer at coastal resorts, although it's a bit of a mystery to me where all the cars go!

Nevertheless, apart from the traffic,  in my limited experience, the towns seem to cope quite well with the influx of short-term visitors.  Only once couldn't we get a seat in our preferred café when we were looking for a coffee (what greater test can there be than that?)  In fact, except on the very busiest of days, there even seems to be parking available (even if a bit of a walk is required).

Of course, the area largely depends on tourism for its economic well-being, so it's not surprising that the facilities manage to cope, albeit that they are sometimes a little stretched. And even if you are in the car, with a bit of planning, there are routes to avoid the worst of the congestion.

Saturday, 12 January 2013

Wye River

We ventured down to Wye River. The 20 minute or so drive from Lorne to Wye River is over one of the most spectacular parts of the Great Ocean Road (it includes the bit that winds around Mt Defiance), and Wye River has a nice beach. The particular attraction for us is the hotel, which has a great deck overlooking the beach.

View from hotel deck
We have always found the food here to be good and this occasion was no exception.

After chilling out for a while on the beach, we retreated to the Wye General Store Café for coffee. I was vaguely aware that this café has had some good reviews, but it wasn't until after our visit that I followed up on these. Here's a review and here's another (this reviewer certainly seems keen on this place!  Although it's a little while ago, two reviews in seven months?   What's was going on here?)   And here are some comments (may need to scroll down).

I warmed to the comment about “pretentious inner-city yuppie food imperialism and [the Age's] hero worship of chefs as modern rock gods”. For our part, while we found it pleasant enough, I wouldn't place this café in the “rave” category. There wasn't anything special about the ambiance that can't be found  at quite a few other cafes in the region (many of which aren't level with and about four metres from a main road), and the same goes for the coffee and the food (although the latter is based on a somewhat limited observation).

Friday, 11 January 2013

Stony Creek

D and I went for a walk along Stony Creek (North Lorne).  The walk up the creek valley is not a long one, and is usually regarded as ending at what is known as the "Lilypond".

As it happened, we could climb a little further as the creek was not flowing at all and we were able to walk along the rocky cascade for a hundred metres or so until the way was blocked by the bush.

Another walker drew our attention to an echidna digging away in the bush.  It was there all right, but not easily seen and we would never have noticed it.   We asked how she had known it was there.  She told us that the give away is the noise it makes!


Thursday, 10 January 2013

The Pier Restaurant

It doesn't look great as you approach, but the Pier Restaurant (Lorne) checks all the other boxes:   a nice atmosphere (inside), good food and reasonable service.  We've been there on a couple of occasions recently.  On the first occasion, it was a lovely evening, and not all requests to sit outside could be met.   However, we were happy to sit just inside with proper seats instead of benches, and to our minds, the view was just as good! On the second occasion, we reserved a table outside and that was good, too.   There were lots of staff who were competent and good-natured but even so, because the venue was busy, the staff were hard-pressed to keep up at times.

There's a good range of seafood (other options are also available), and we were impressed by the attractive appearance of a number of the dishes as they passed by us on the way to other diners.   I had the snapper on our first visit, and the blue eye on the second, both of which were excellent.    The deserts, too, were great.  As a bonus, you can BYO, but if you don't, the wine list includes a couple of local Bellarine wines.

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Lorne pier

The Lorne pier was rebuilt a few years back, and it is as popular as ever, particularly with fishermen.
Stub of the old pier

When the  pier was rebuilt, the stub of the old pier was retained.  Some displays have been erected giving some of its history.

Playground equipment built from timbers from old pier

The old pier lives on in another way, too.  The playground in town incorporates a structure built from timber taken from the former pier, and even includes a replica of one of the fishing boats that used to be winched up and stored on the pier.

The old pier
Looking back along the pier