Melbourne. Again…

OK. I know I was talking about never wanting to go to Melbourne ever again (see here), but as Dani’s cousins were here I got dragged into it. We spent a couple of nights in Melbourne taking in the city sights (such as they are) and took a day trip over to Philip Island for the penguin parade.

Original ironmongers work on the lights and bridges along the Yarra river
Statues at the docklands plus three corners near Flinders Station
Dani with the most famous suit of armour
The free trams around the city centre are understandably popular
The Lego shop tram was also very popular

Victoria State Library

The Victoria state library is worth a visit. Just for a walk around to marvel at the fantastic Victorian (era) architecture. They just don’t build them like this any more. It remined me a lot of the big city libraries in the UK. Notably the libraries in Liverpool and Manchester which have similar large, round and domed reading rooms. (I am sure other UK cities too.)

The fabulous dome reading room of the Victoria state library
Ground level view
First level
Second level
Top level view

The library also houses the famous suit of armour worn by that most  infamous/heroic/notorious/famous (you choose) of bushrangers, Ned Kelly. It is instantly recognisable to anyone who knows only the slightest piece of Kelly’s story.

Ned Kelly’s instantly recognisable suit of armour

Which brings me nicely on to the next port of call…

Melbourne Old Gaol

The bleak outer walls of the old gaol. Inside was even bleaker.
The old and the new. Changing Melbourne

This is the place where Ned Kelly was hanged – Melbourne Old Gaol. This place obviously never changes. I first visited it back in the 1990s. It is a typical Victorian era gaol with three floors of small cells with small windows. Very grim and similar to the old prisons in the UK. We also did a tour of the next-door holding cell area which only closed in the mid 90s (we were told). That part I do not recall… But here are some photos from our visit.

The kids in padded cell plus other cells

The hanging floor where Ned Kelly met his end.
Dani with one of his heroes (well sort of)
Mug shots. Susana is almost a complete head taller than Dani
Dani at the gallows

Nearby, we passed by the old swimming baths. Nice to see this fantastic piece of history still standing and going strong. The inside remains almost as good as I remember it, with only some modernisation. We only took a quick peek.

The majestic old Melbourne Public Baths

AC/DC Lane

Almost certainly the most famous band to come out of Australia, AC/DC are well-known the world over. So their home city was bound to pay some kind of tribute. They did so by renaming a narrow backstreet after the rock group.

AC/DC Lane. Renamed, formerly known as Corporation Lane

The street has several bars and restaurants and soon became a beacon for wall art (aka graffiti) – although originally done with the best intentions. A bit like the silo or water-tower art we have seen so much of in the countryside. Blank spaces of wall were offered to artists as blank canvasses. Here is the result…

Malcolm Young. Deceased AC/DC guitar player
Just like the silo art some of the work in this area is quite good.

Statue (built into the wall) of Bon Scott, the legendary original singer of AC/DC who died in 1980
Some of the artwork on AC/DC Lane

John Murray’s ‘Elvis Emu’. Just like the one in Parkes for the Elvis Festival

Not far from AC/DC Lane lies Hosier Lane. Another long backstreet that has been handed over to would-be artists who seem to have sprayed crap over some of the better work. It all starts to get a bit messy around here. But the tourists seemed to like it still and took every photo opportunity they could. Odd I thought but hey…

Hosier Lane
This is one example of a complete mess (side street off Hosier Lane)

It is quite something to say that one of the biggest attractions (if that is even the right word) for tourists seemed to be this area of graffiti covered old buildings. But this definitely looked to be the case. There were tourists aplenty, some even on guided walking tours. Some of the graffiti is clearly artistic and I have no problem with it but there is now more that is basically just wonton vandalism. Still there were plenty of tourists taking the same photos as me. And I seriously doubt many were AC/DC fans.

Penguin Parade

I wish I had some good photos of these little creatures but sadly I don’t. Most were out of focus or too far away. I honestly remember this tourist trap being really good with lots of penguins and even being able to walk amongst them in the nesting areas. Getting really close to them now is a matter of luck it seems. First of all there were not that many penguins emerging from the sea – at least on the night we went. I understand that number can vary day to day, but I seem to recall there being quite a lot when I first came here all those years ago.

Secondly unless the penguins walk right alongside the boardwalk you don’t get close at all. Is my memory clouded in nostalgia I wonder? I am convinced it was much better than this. Anyway, the kids were thrilled with the few penguins we did see, and as that was the main reason for the trip it has to be considered ‘mission accomplished’.

Sorry but this is the best photo we got. Not great but…

On reflection I would say that Melbourne really is a more ‘liveable city’ than Sydney. I think it is much easier to get around (suburbs etc included) and that count for a lot. But if someone was to come to Australia for just a few days I would recommend Sydney. It is more “visitable” (is that a new word?).

So, will I go back to Melbourne ever again? I doubt it. But as the saying goes; ‘never say never’.

Athletics Carnival and the Dreaded Parents Race

Yesterday was the school’s “athletics carnival”. Sports day we used to call it when I was in school back in the UK. But, just like the ones I remember from all those years ago, it is not just any sports. It is really just track and field athletics.

I had not been looking forward to it since Dani found out there was a parents race. He insisted I take part. Which I did. Reluctantly and under duress. More on that below.

The “Carnival”

The sports day was held at an athletics track near the Centennial Parklands. One side had a large covered seating area for spectators, and of course the screaming kids from each of the school’s competing houses.

They managed to get through a full day of events where every child participated in three track races (100m, 200m & 800m) plus three field events. To finish there was a series of relay races; the teams made up of the best runners from the previous 100m races. It was complete chaos but somehow they managed it. In fact some of it was comedy gold as it was clear that many of the kids had never tried the (more technical) field events.

The long jump was more like a long hop off the take-off board for many (Dani included). But the high jump would have made for YouTube blockbuster footage. I wish I could have sat there and recorded the whole event close up. Hilarious.

It is hardly surprising that the kids had no idea how to do a long jump or high jump. This was the first time many of them had seen or tried them. This whole sporting event had been cancelled the previous two years due to… Well, you know. The “C” word… Heaven forbid the kids might partake in a bit of sporting activity, keep fit in the fresh air, enjoy themselves and pick up a little dose of vitamin D while doing so eh? Who on earth would want that? Just as well they locked them all up and stopped all such activities instead eh? Anyway, I digress… (yet again).

Parents Race

I never wanted to do it. I hadn’t even done any jogging – let alone trying to sprint – for about a couple of months. And I honestly can’t remember the last time I ran 100m flat out. Would my back hold up? (I have had a little trouble recently.) Will I pull a muscle? Could it be even worse?

I expected a little help. I thought may be there might be some kind of age related handicap. I thought a head-start of 5 metres per year over the age of 40 would be about right. That would put me 90 metres ahead of the (official) start line and the youngest competitors. With only 10 metres to run. I would walk this race. Literally (just to take the piss!).

Alas, no such luck. When I suggested it to the sports teacher he laughed. That ‘yeah mate, piss off, we still have the relay races to run’ kind of a laugh. Not even one metre per year. So much for sportsmanship and fair play eh? I was f*#ked and I knew it!

I lined up with 9 others and the race was underway. I started OK (so I thought) until I saw everyone else ahead of me. I just tried to get into a fast but short stride not wanting to pull a muscle. As it turned out it only lasted a little over 10 seconds. No, no, no! I am not claiming some Olympic qualifying time here. I mean, I was about 10 seconds into the race when I realised I was going to finish last.

About the same time (and by my reckoning at the 80 metres mark) I could feel a little pain in my lower back and some muscle where I didn’t even know I had one. (Somewhere between the groin and top of thigh?) Anyway, I had to slow down. The race was already well and truly lost by that point (just in case you were wondering).

It was not a case of how my fast-twitch sprinting muscles would respond. It was more a case of ‘where the hell were they?’

On the plus side; the oxygen mask I thought I might need at the finish line was not required. In fact I was not even slightly out of breath. Was I really running that slowly? No, I was not. My stamina (lung capacity) was clearly still there but the legs and back simply did not want to play. I think I could have ran a whole lap (400m) at that pace. Could those parents who finished ahead of me? I like to think they would have tired after another 50 metres. Well, it helps to think that. My attempt at a moral victory.

While watching the final (relay) races I caught up with Dani. He seemed disappointed – if not embarrassed. “You came last. You were not very good” was all he had to say. I think I had let him down so tried to put it into some perspective. Mine at least. “Ah well,” I replied, “I was the oldest in the race, by some way.” But he seemed to brush that excuse off quickly.

I suppose that’s another bonus to take away from today. Dani is very unlikely to ask me to join in any ‘parents race’ in the future. But part of me wouldn’t mind trying a similar race again. But only if I had time to prepare properly. I definitely wouldn’t do it again unless I knew I was able to really go for it. Ah… We shall see… I won’t lose any sleep over it either way.

Sydney’s Most Iconic Landmark?

Sydney is synonymous with two iconic man made structures. Everyone the world over will shout them out as soon as the city’s name is mentioned. One is the harbour bridge and the other would be the Opera House. But there is a third. And for me, this one is more interesting than the other two and no doubt has far more visitors. I am talking about Luna Park amusement park.

Luna Park?

OK I know what you are thinking. An amusement park? How can that be compared with the bridge and opera house? Well first of all let me say this. Not only do I think it is right up there, I would actually place Luna Park above those other two. That said, my immediate reaction when we visited was; What a waste of money! More on that contradiction to come. First, let’s look at this fantastic landmark…

The famous Luna Park face
The two lesser Sydney icons viewed from the best; Luna Park

Luna Park – Quick History.

First thing: Get a perspective of exactly where Luna Park is and go to that trusty favourite – google maps. It is located at Milson’s Point right on the north side of the harbour bridge. It is visible from various points on the south side of the bridge (namely The Rocks observatory and Circular Quay in the CBD).

Park employees doing their thing

If you zoom in on google maps you can still see the (original) ‘Olympic Pool’ right next to Luna Park. An old open air, Olympic-sized swimming pool right at one end to the harbour bridge was itself an iconic landmark for many years. The old pool is now being refurbished (work started some time ago) so we never got to swim in the original. But I am sure it will be equally spectacular when work is complete.

The history of that “iconic” entrance mouth
“Coney Island Fun Land” A fun-house as we used to call them
Steep slides inside the Coney Island fun-house
Another attraction inside the fun-house

The park opened in 1935 just a few years after the harbour bridge opened.  Most of the original has been replaced or rebuilt over the years but it has managed to maintain it’s art deco charm and many of (what some might call) the old fashioned rides and attractions.

Top of the Wild Mouse ride viewed from ground level

There is a definite historical feel about the place coupled with that eye-catching retro styling that can transport us older people back in time to our own childhoods. There is certainly something appealing about the park that makes it as exciting a place for adults as it is for kids.

Park employees perform various shows as you walk around

Should we pity the residents who live in this ‘highly desirable’ part of Sydney? Who wants a roller coaster running past your windows and balcony? Then there is the noise and the flashing lights. These apartments must cost millions of dollars. Or is it a case of ‘more fool them’?

You have to feel for anyone who has paid millions to live here. Don’t you?

Luna Park could have been demolished. In fact it is nothing short of a miracle, in a city with some of the most expensive real estate on the planet, that it has survived at all. In fact it came close to disappearing when in the late 1970s most of it was demolished and then rebuilt following protests to save the park. It was only saved when the Luna Park entrance face became an item of national heritage by the National Trust of Australia. The park as a whole was added to the New South Wales State Heritage Register on 5th March 2010. That should protect it for many generations to come (and probably beyond).

Why a ‘Waste of Money’?

OK let’s now address that seemingly contradictory point. We paid in advance. Online. Like pretty much everyone else who was there – and it was busy. Yet when we arrived there was an horrendously long queue to pick up your tickets – actually bar-coded wrist bands to allow access to rides. Although the cost was more if you pay on the day, there was hardly any queue, so effectively you spend less time waiting in line and more time in the park having fun. We waited almost 40 minutes!

Those old school clowns
If the clowns don’t scare you then these fellas probably will

As just about everyone queueing said out loud; “what a waste of time booking online!” You pay up front but lose time in the park hence there is a slight waste of time/money involved. But there is another reason I said “what a waste…!”

Basically, as an adult, it is unlikely that there will be any ride in this park the likes of which you have not been on in the past. It is mainly for the kids. I would have been quite happy to just watch the kids having fun. There is nothing stopping you entering and walking freely around the park. Free entry into a world of nostalgia. Why pay? So for adults it is pretty much a waste of money. But of course there is another side to the story…

As fate would have it Dani is still too small for some rides and there were others where the smaller kids needed adult to accompany them. I was that accompanying adult of course.

So if your budget is tight and you have done these rides before I would say do not “waste” your money. But then there is no substitute for sitting next to your child when it is their first time on a scary ride. Not quite seeing them take their first steps or say your name for the first time but it is up there…

Light Up The Park…

As interesting as the park looks during the day it almost takes on another identity when the sun goes down and the lights come on. The mix of the coloured lights on those 1930s style buildings (and amusements) is sure to make you want to walk around the whole park again.

‘Coney Island’ fun-house lighting up as the sun goes down

Comparing Sydney Icons

Look the bridge is just a bridge. Get used to it. There are plenty of bigger and more eye-catching bridges the world over. It serves a transportation process in a big city. For me that’s more or less it.

As for the Opera House I have to say it is impressive and certainly different. But it is only adults that are impressed. Ask any child under (say) 12 where they would rather visit. Make that under 18 even, who knows? My point is that the Opera House is not necessarily everyone’s cup of tea. Photogenic, yes. But to go inside? Most people who make a B-line for the Opera House to photograph it do not go inside. It may as well be a sculpture.

On the other hand: They just don’t make places like Luna Park any more. It is a place for all the family, young and old. You really cannot say that about the Opera House. Of course both the Opera House and bridge will be by far the more photographed (often together) but Luna Park will have more paying visitors. (A bridge technically does not have visitors in the same way.) And for it to be located smack in the middle of a city of 5 million people!? That has to be near impossible nowadays.

Of course all this is just my personal opinion. Feel free to comment if you disagree… or comment even if you agree…

The Daintree Rainforest

Daniel had studied the Daintree Rainforest in his first school year here in Australia. I distinctly remember him telling me all about it. That was two years ago and he has all but forgotten most of what he learnt but he remembers that after those lessons he wanted to visit the place.

Queensland coastline north of Cairns

The rainforest is named after Richard Daintree, an Australian geologist and photographer. The Daintree region is in the northeast coast of Queensland, north of Mossman (which is itself about 75 km north of Cairns). It covers an area of around 1,200 square kilometres (460 sq miles), which makes it about half the size of Luxembourg. Daintree is a part of the largest continuous area of tropical rainforest in Australia. The tropical forest runs along the coastline north of the Daintree River and grows right down to the edge of the sea.

View to the mountains from the Daintree River

This area is home to salt water crocodiles. These scary creatures live along the coast and spend plenty of time in the Daintree River where we took a kind of croc-spotting cruise. Of course the river and its banks are home to many other animals but everyone was mainly interested in the “salty” (as the salt water crocodile is often called) – the largest member of the crocodile family.  We were not disappointed.

An adult crocodile facing into the river
There’s young crocodiles in these two pictures…
…apparently about one year old. Can you spot them?
A bigger specimen
A closer look

These trips do not throw food out for the crocodiles so they never approach the boats as they have become accustomed to doing in other parts of the country (namely Northern Territory). That means that we don’t get to see them  jumping out of the water like some circus act. As exciting as that can be I do think the Daintree park way is a more natural approach.

An even larger crocodile. Likely to be one of the alpha males
… and here he is close up

Into the ‘Jungle’?

Is a rainforest jungle? Or is a jungle just one type of rainforest? I really don’t know and although I did try to find out I could not find any really conclusive answers. I use the terms interchangeably (rightly or wrongly).

At the top of the rainforest covered mountain

The rainforest itself is similar to others we have visited but definitely seemed a lot more dense. The vegetation is incredible. There could be an animal only a few metres away and you would never see it. As luck would have it, we never saw much in the way of animals…

A basket fern

Basket ferns grow on tree trunks and form their own little environment for other plants to sprout as well as a place for animals like birds, snakes, frogs and insects to live. They thrive at all levels, but when you look up you will always see them struggling for light near the top of the forest canopy.

Basket ferns high up in the canopy

Deep inside the forest
A python curls up on the rainforest floor
Dani above the canopy

The one creature I really wanted us to see was the cassowary. A large flightless bird unique to this part of the world. Not only Australia but this specific part of Australia. Sadly we never got to see one. So, as the saying goes, we need to try again. So here’s looking forward to another trip to the north Queensland ‘jungle’.

Cape Tribulation

The rainforest spills down the mountainside to meet the Pacific ocean. One of the places where this rainforest meets beach experience can be witnessed is at Cape Tribulation.

Cape Tribulation beach
Cape Tribulation

Cape Tribulation was named by Lieutenant James Cook on 10 June 1770 after his ship hit a reef north east of the cape. Later the ship ran aground, on what is now named Endeavour Reef (after Cook’s ship). The ship was badly damaged, but Cook and his crew famously managed to refloat it the following day. Cook named Cape Tribulation because, as he wrote, “here begun all our troubles“.

At one end of the beach there is a great example of a mangrove forest. The word ‘mangrove’ does not actually refer to one specific plant or tree but is a generic term for any plant that can survive in saline waters.

Cape Tribulation mangrove forest

Cape Tribulation beach above the mangrove forest

A House DownUnder

So, you’ve all heard about living in Australia and how things are upside down here right? It is not called the land down-under for nothing. Of course we all know that is not the case. We know that things are not upside-down in Australia. Or do we? Dani and his cousin Susana visited an unlikely tourist attraction to discover what it might be like if it was true…

Experience what it would be like if we really did live upside-down in Australia

The weather wasn’t great on their first day in Australia but we did get to see this odd place (currently in the “Entertainment Quarter” near Sydney Cricket Ground).  Dani and Susana had a taste of what it would be like if that was true. And, in case you were wondering, three-year-old Roberto was fast asleep waiting outside – clearly suffering the effects of jetlag.

The rest is speaks for itself, so let’s go inside this weird house…

First check the PC and where we are exactly on this globe…
Piano practice

Solving the Rubik’s cube
Hanging from the ceiling while hiding?
There’s a bed but these kids look like they are sleeping like bats.
Fry-up anyone?
Preparing breakfast in a fully equipped kitchen
Careful not to fall in the toilet!
Now wash your hands kids…

Not only was the house upside down it was also on a slight incline. So walking on the “ceilings” while looking up at the furniture on the “floors” causes a weird sensation. You almost feel like you are on a ship rolling in the waves. If you get the chance give it a try.

Meanwhile, in the merry old land of Oz….

While we had the opportunity – and with Dani in his preferred red trainers – I just had to take this one… Well, it’s in my all time top 10 movies.

Easy one for any of you film buffs. Actually should be easy for anyone.

Can you guess the movie? Or course you can. Write your answers in the comments please.

Great Barrier Reef

The title is self-explanatory I suppose. This was part of a short trip to Cairns with Dani’s abuelos. There are several things to do in and around Cairns, but the main one is just offshore. That means a visit to what is easily Australia’s most famous landmark – even if it is out at sea.

Off to the Great Barrier Reef…

Cairns is probably the Great Barrier Reef’s main launch point for tourists. That is largely to do with the fact that the reef is only an hour and a half away by fast boat. The city has grown in recent years and the port is full of large boats offering all kinds of diving, snorkelling and other trips to the reef. We met our boat for an 8am departure.

On the boat trip out to the reef Dani met the official tour photographer and his impressive underwater camera. A bit bigger than Dani’s V-Tech Action Cam by Kodak (cheap-ish camera we bought online), but we did OK with that little device as you will see…

Dani comparing underwater photography options

Getting to grips with this snorkelling thing…

It was his first time snorkelling so he was understandably a little bit anxious. But he soon picked it up. Before long he was happily moving around the reef taking pictures with his go-pro device.

The trip took us to two separate parts of the reef but they were both pretty much in the same area. The boats use anchor points specifically made for these tours using large concrete blocks. If nothing else it limits the number of tours and the places they can stop. When you see some of the reef has clearly died it can make you wonder about tourism. But then when you stop and think that the Great Barrier Reef covers an area larger than Italy, then it does not seem so bad. The area of Italy is only 87% the size of the reef. You can look it up for yourself, but here is the results of a comparison using the website mapfight.xyz. Tourists are only visiting a tiny fraction of the reef.

More Photos

Here are a few more photos from Dani’s camera including a few of every kids’ favourite reef fish; Nemo – aka the clown fish or anemone fish because they live around the anemone plants. Hence “Nemo”. I had never realised that – doh! Hey! I have only seen the movie once so why would I even give it any thought? Hahaa…

   

And finally here is a little video of Dani snorkelling. Clearly after he had gained his confidence.

A fitting brew after a hard day’s snorkelling

The Reef Exposed

Even this far off the coast the tide has a dramatic effect. When we first arrived at the reef the topmost coral was clearly visible just below the surface. But after the first dive/snorkel expedition the level dropped exposing the top surface of the reef. You could (theoretically) walk along the reef when the tide is so low although that clearly wouldn’t be allowed (nor would it be a good idea).

The reef as seen from our boat
The topmost coral becomes exposed at low tide
Cairns viewed from the sea on our return to land

Dani’s Cousins Land Today

Later today Dani’s Spanish cousins will land in Sydney. They are in the air as I type. Susana and Roberto will be excited to reunite with Dani. The feeling is mutual – when he can prize himself away from an iPad or PC screen. Actually I think he is quite excited.

Unfortunately the weather is predicted to be suitably shit. Those weather forecasts can and do often change, like, well, the weather itself! So hopefully it will not be that bad. But if it is raining most days then we will need to get creative.

One thing they are bound to notice though is the lower temperatures. Coming from Madrid in the height of summer, to the current temperatures here in Sydney is sure to be a bit of shock. Which gives me some scope for mischief….

I will tell them that if they have come to Australia hoping to see kangaroos they will be disappointed. As it is so cold here now, the jumping marsupials have all moved on to warmer places. Maybe Spain?! Yeah, that should do the trick. It’s a good start at least. I just hope the adults in the room don’t interject too soon.

Return to Wentworth Falls

Dani’s abuelos have just returned to Madrid where it is sure to be sunny and very hot. They never had much luck here with the weather. We have had what seems like weeks of non-stop rain. Well it may have stopped a few times over recent weeks but for the duration of their stay, Dani’s abuelos had barely seen the sun and when they took the train up to the mountains (last week) it rained so hard that they could not see anything.  But on their final day in Australia while it was pouring with rain (again) in Sydney, the forecast for the Blue Mountains was mostly sunny”. So Dani and I took them back to the mountains so that they could see some of the highlights. One of them was Wentworth Falls.

It is always good to look back at how something looked in the past. Even just a year back can make a huge difference. That kind of comparison is never more stark than when looking at water levels in Australia. And where better to do such a comparison than the Blue Mountains. Even better; waterfalls in the Blue Mountains. Keeping this blog going has given me the chance to do that and share it with you all, so here goes…

Return to Wentworth Falls

Wentworth Falls was the first place we ever visited in the Blue Mountains and for some reason we had not been back to those falls. Until now.

This was how the main part of the falls looked at the end of February 2020 on our first ever visit to the Blue Mountains. (You can read that post here.)

As you can see barely enough water to make it look dramatic. This was after a hot summer where bush fires ravaged parts of the countryside. It was also just before plenty of rain caused floods. One extreme to another.

This is what it looked like now: That classic bridal veil formation making up the falls’ main decent into the valley. But there are also a couple of smaller falls just upstream…

Wentworth Falls in July 2022

In the upper part of the Wentworth Falls we saw this little cascade back in Feb 2020.

This is what it looked like this week with a slightly older (and sillier) Dani now on top looking down.

Upper falls

There is also a double cascaded mid section, which I did not even think was worth recording back on our first visit.

What I refer to as the Mid falls
Dani at the “mid falls”

Finally, the view across the Jameson valley in this part of the Blue Mountains is just fantastic.  Depending on the hour of the day and the month or the year, this stunning scene is sure to look spectacularly different due to the angle of the sun and the shadows it casts. You could gaze out at this beautiful vista literally hundreds of times over a whole year and it would be like looking at it for the first time.

Jamison valley viewed from above the falls

We were just glad that Dani’s abuelos finally got the chance to experience some of the beauty of the Blue Mountains.

Jamison valley from another angle

Melbourne – Australia’s Most Liveable City (so they say)

In a couple of weeks time we have Dani’s two Spanish cousins coming to visit him (along with their parents of course) and we have an excursion to Melbourne planned. The Victorian state’s main city has recently been listed as “Australia’s most liveable city (2022)” ahead of Adelaide and Sydney. But Melbourne only came 10th overall, in the world list that it topped for eight straight years between 2011 and 2017.

Great eh? Well, not really. What follows can probably be filed under “grumpy old dad”, but please read on…

World’s Most Liveable Cities (list)

About a week ago the annual list was published by the Economist Intelligence Unit (something to do with the Economist magazine I think, they have a website eiu.com – not really bothered to find out). Vienna, in Austria, topped the list and the highest any Aussie city came was 10th. Joint 10th in fact, as Melbourne tied with Osaka (Japan). Adelaide was 13th after finishing 3rd in 2021. No idea where Sydney finished and not really interested.

Then along came covid (I really did not want to mention that word, but hey…). And due to the pathetic, ahem, I mean harsh nature of lockdowns across the whole country, Australian cities dropped down the list. As did (similarly) cities in the people’s republic of New Zealand. Apparently the lifting/relaxing of covid restrictions was slower in Adelaide than Melbourne so the South Australian city dropped further down the list.

What the f*%k?!! Melbourne (and Victoria in general) was basically under martial law for a full fecking year! Who are they trying to kid?

Which brings me nicely on to this: The criteria for determining the ‘most liveable city’. It is called the global liveability index and apparently is a list of some 30+ things. But the exact detail? I do not know. I have been trying to find the complete list but it escapes me. It is not even obvious on the eiu.com website. But one thing that is surely not on the list is “ease of finding a pub in the city centre”. Because if it was, Melbourne would have fallen flat on its arse I can tell you.

Do you know what the list is?  Please feel free to post a reply if you can find it. I really could not find it…

If you ask me all this crap is about as relevant as Eurovision. Or to give it its old, full title; ‘The Eurovision Song Contest’. But that said I do have a question. How the hell did Melbourne still manage to figure so highly?

Anyway the point is; I really do not want to go to Melbourne again. The other week was enough for me for some time at least, if not for good (click here to read about that trip).

Plus the fact that the Victorian government were so dictatorial during the covid crap must be a good enough reason not to take your tourism there. Right?

Do it for the kids…

We are using Melbourne as a base for the main reason of the trip is to take the kids to see the famous little penguins at Philip Island. I think they call it “the penguin parade” or something like that. I went to see the little creatures when I was first in Melbourne way back in time in the 1990s (oddly enough, when it did actually seem like a very liveable city to me).

I know. I know. The kids are going to love the penguins so it is worth it for that alone. But I still don’t fancy tramping around the city centre again. It’s just not as great as some seem to make out. Not only that, but the weather is not too great here in Sydney and it will almost certainly be colder and wetter in Melbourne. Not a great prospect. Do we have to???

So, in the spirit John Cooper Clarke’s “I don’t want ever want to go to Burnley
I’ll tell you each in turn,
I don’t want to go to Melbourne 

Maybe I could fake covid so I have to stay home and self isolate. All jokes aside, I may not need to fake it the way things are going around here at the moment. But that’s another story (perhaps) for another time…

ELVIS – Movie Review

I have never hidden the fact that I am a bit of an Elvis fan. Not one for collecting all of the records and memorabilia etc… but I thought he was a great entertainer. So when this film came out I knew I had to go and see it.

Movie Plot (as if you don’t know)

The movie is written, produced and directed by Baz Luhrmann. It’s a more or less complete biopic of the life of Elvis told through the eyes of the man who became his sole manager, (Colonel) Tom Parker. This man somehow managed Elvis through his whole career. The story of how Elvis rose to conquer the music world is relayed through Parker (played by Tom Hanks) who is on his deathbed in 1997.

Elvis is played by Austin Butler. Not easy (blue suede) shoes to fill for sure but Butler does a fine job overall. From what I have read he also sings (at least some songs) in the movie. If that is indeed true then very well played Mr. Butler.

The story (or plot) is well known. Young Elvis is into his music even before high school and has his own unique style based on various musical influences including Rhythm & Blues, country and gospel. When Tom Parker hears him sing he takes over his career which goes sky high. Then Elvis gets high – on all the various prescription drugs, uppers, downers the lot. He is given drugs to keep him awake or get him to sleep depending on which town he is travelling to for a performance although the film only gets into that late in his career (the Vegas years).

Elvis shocks America – which was incredibly quite prim and proper back in the 1950s – with his gyrating performances. Then he shocks the world. Threatened with prison (so they say) Parker thinks it is a great idea if he is conscripted into the US Army where he serves his time in (West) Germany. Just imagine if he came along a few years later. He could have ended up serving in Vietnam! Now that would have made for some interesting films – fact or fiction.

In Germany Elvis meets his soon to be wife and when he returns to the USA Parker has him making so many movies that he becomes the highest earning movie star (so the story says). But he misses performing in front of a live audience and soon makes a Christmas Special TV show. Following his ‘comeback’ show other outside influencers implant the idea that Elvis should tour Europe and Japan. Parker’s grip on the King of Rock n Roll is slipping until Elvis starts playing big shows in Las Vegas. Through a combination of sweet-talking and pure bullshit Tom Parker persuades Elvis to keep playing in Las Vegas. Elvis’ dream of a world tour is gone but the world just comes to Vegas to see him. The rest, as they say, is history.

There is so much to cover in a movie of a man who lived several lifetimes each year that he was famous. But the movie somehow manages to pack it all in. Largely by featuring several segments of scrapbook montages which handle it very well. Almost documentary style at times. There are times when original footage of his fans is mixed in with the actors during concerts – and it all works well.

In the end his demise is dealt with quite quickly – maybe too quickly. However right at the end there is real footage of Elvis performing on stage (in Vegas) only 3 weeks before he died. An overweight Elvis sat playing the piano while singing Unchained Melody, a real classic. At this point in time he could barely stand on his own feet yet he could still sing a great song perfectly. So much so that he still held the audience in the palm of his hand. Spellbound. The ultimate entertainer right to the end.

Critique

The first thing that strikes you is Hanks doing some ridiculous accent for Tom Parker. I have never heard Parker speak and i doubt many die-hard Elvis fans have either. And even if they had it doesn’t matter. It is both annoying and pathetic.

Now that is off my chest I have to say that as an Elvis fan (of sorts) I liked it. But I will try to be even handed here. I am sure many we saw at the Parkes Elvis Festival in Parkes a couple of months ago – for post click here – will rush to see it. No doubt it will be shown in Parkes cinema at the next festival.

As far as the movie goes it does not paint Parker in a good light at all. He is mostly devious (what showbiz promoters/managers aren’t) and even sinister at times. Not unlike the character of Louis Cyphre played by Robert De Niro in Angel Heart. Probably intentionally so.

Austin Butler was very good. It is a difficult to play such famous people especially entertainers with the stature of Elvis. I won’t get carried away and say he was excellent – judge that for yourselves – but it wouldn’t surprise me if he won an Oscar for this one. Let’s put it this way: If Rami Malik can win an Oscar for playing Freddie Mercury then Butler is a nailed on winner and worth a bet (not that I am encouraging gambling here – that’s just a tip). While the rest of the cast did very well no supporting roles stood out.

The overall production was very good and although the film was 2 hours and 40 minutes long the time flew by. Always a sign of a well made movie I say. Elvis fans will surely flock to see it and there will be plenty for them to debate for sure. As unreal as Elvis’ life was, there seemed to be some poetic licence at times. (I personally don’t know for sure though, maybe older cinema goers would.)

For anyone who even remotely likes Elvis or indeed anyone who simply knows his story, the ending is certain to be emotional. I had never seen that particular footage before.

I believe it will be enjoyed by those who like Elvis’ music and those who are not really bothered. I give this movie 4 stars (out of the usual 5).