harbour Landscapes Maritime Matiu/Somes Island Wellington

December 31, 2012 … an ending is merely a prelude to a new beginning

Can you hear the sound of the year winding down?

Like a jet engine at an airport, the year is coming to a standstill.  For me it has been an interesting year. Technically, I retired in October last year. However, I accepted a contract to teach one more course from March to June, so I don’t feel as if I have had a full year as a retired person.  Then Mary and I did our five state tour of the US (with side trip to Canada).

From a blogging perspective, this is my 365th post (there would have been one more, but for the date lost somewhere in the Pacific Ocean over the date line).  According to the statistics WordPress sent me, the blog has had 33,000 “views” since 1 January.  A thousand images were loaded. I have no idea how many unique visitors there were, but they came from 70 countries.  Thanks for sharing the ride with me, and special thanks to those of you kind enough to interact by way of comments or emails.

Yesterday was a very windy day in Wellington, and Mary and I were almost lifted off our feet walking around Pt Jerningham. There’s nothing of Mary, so that’s no surprise, but I am quite solid so it was disconcerting having to maintain my grip on the footpath. We came back up and over Maida Vale Rd, and down into the headwind on Oriental Bay.  Under the terms of my contract with Mary I don’t carry a camera when walking for exercise, so I can’t provide evidence of the conditions, but they were very vigorous indeed.

Later in the day, I was at Seaview looking across the harbour and noticed the enormous “Voyager of the Seas” berthed by the cruise terminus. She is a big one … at  137,276 Gross Tonnes, one of the largest in the world with 3,100 passengers, 1,100 crew.  I liked the view between Matiu/Somes Island on the left (and the arch I had not previously noticed), and the much smaller Mokopuna Island on the right. You get a sense of the wind form the state of the water.Voyager  of the Seas berthed in Wellington

From there I went up the Western hills and from high up on Normandale Rd caught this panorama of the lower valley. The CBD is in the centre, and you can see the Hutt River winding its way to the see on the right. You really do need to enlarge this to see the detailHutt Valley panorama

That’s it for 2012. Thanks for your company, have a wonderful New Year, and I hope you will join me in 2013.

Aviation Lower Hutt Melbourne Wellington

December 30, 2012 … high in the cold clear air

Yesterday was about getting home.

No time for much else, not even photography. It began early with a 5:30 am wake-up call. A quick breakfast, and then Catherine drove us to the airport. Traffic over the Bolte Bridge was light since it was both a weekend and a holiday season, and even the parking in Melbourne Airport’s notoriously congested carpark was easy.

Check in went smoothly, and then we had time to sit and relax over a coffee with Catherine before it was time to disappear through those imposing gates.  Once through, we found ourselves in one of those endless mazes or posts and webbing. Despite the overhead screens behind the customs officers which suggested we use the smart gates, there were no smart gates to be seen. Come on Melbourne, why so slow. Getting through the bureaucracy of leaving Melbourne was the slowest and most frustrating part of our journey in either direction. Smart gates and their automatic passport readers are wonderful.

In the departure lounge, we sat and watched the infinite variety of our fellow passengers, and the movement of aircraft on the apron outside the window.  At one stage there were no fewer than three A380s out there (Singapore Airlines, Qantas and Emirates). I well remember my gape-jawed amazement when I saw my first one, and now they are commonplace. I enjoyed the contrast between the Emirates great white whale, and the tiny Embraer ERJ-190 belonging to Virgin Blue. (For the uninitiated, it is part of the quirky Australian sense of humour that the most common nickname for a red-head is “Blue”).Emirates A380 dwarfs the little regional jet

We were finally called to board about 15 minutes behind schedule, but the flight was otherwise uncomplicated. Before very long, we were airborne and travelling Eastward at 37,000 feet and 930 km/h. The temperature outside was -58C. (I love the flight detail display).

Compliments to NZ immigration, customs and biosecurity for a fast simple and courteous passage through border security. Youngest son Anthony picked us up at the airport and as we drove away I saw our aircraft just over the security fence preparing for the return trip. Looking at it from the mundane street environment, who would guess it was performing such extraordinary feats just an hour earlier.An hour ago it was at 7 miles high and 900km/h

At home, we had to compile a shopping list and replenish our clean but empty refrigerator with at least the essentials so shopping in a grey windy afternoon.

And now to prepare for the new year.

Architecture Aviation Lower Hutt Melbourne Wellington

December 29, 2012 … a chilly welcome in a warm city

Home again.

Much as I loved our time with Catherine and Mark, Dorothy was right when she told Toto “there’s no place like home”.  Melbourne is a lovely city to visit, but home for me, is here, in Lower Hutt.

However, my last cluster of Melbourne Shots is from yesterday. Catherine and Mary had things to do in town so I went along for the ride. I walked up Collins St and up MacArthur St to St Patrick’s Cathedral which I had noticed from the tram the day before. It is a stunning piece of architecture in the gothic style, in a beautiful setting behind the Victorian State Parliament.

Walking through Parliament gardens towards my goal, I was distracted by a modern fountain which might best be described as a rectangular array of high volume fire sprinklers. If you could ignore the braced pipework of the support structure, it had a certain appeal.Fountain in Parliament Gardens, Melbourne

Behind me, I caught my first glimpses of the cathedral’s spires  through the lush growth in the well maintained gardens. St Patrick's Cathedral shows its spires through the gardens

Sadly all my subsequent views were limited to those obtainable from outside the fiercely spiked wrought iron railing.


It seems that this vast building is some sort of monument to be preserved, rather than a house of prayer. Unless there is a service actually happening, it seems they lock the place up. This went beyond unwelcoming to actively hostile. I am unimpressed, St Patrick’s. Shame on you.

I think this is the main entrance to the cathedral, but I couldn't get in to find out.

Statues and water features in beautiful gardens behind locked gates in spiked fences is not my idea of Church.  I accept that the buildings might be subject to abuse, but it ought not to be beyond the resources of the main diocese in the state to provide some unobtrusive security. I found more church on the streets of the city, and in the home of my daughter and son-in-law.

Apart from that it is a beautiful building. Oh, and well done Qantas on a quick flight and early arrival.

Architecture Food Maritime Melbourne Sunset

December 28, 2012 … a cross-section of the city

While the ladies went shopping, I bought a Metcard* and went out and about on the trams.

Box Hill is an outer suburb, 58 stops from the start of the run at Port Melbourne. I was astonished at just how long the journey took by tram, but it gave me a look at many previously unseen parts of the city. I like this “go anywhere anytime” kind of transport pass and tend to get them in any city I visit, for precisely that reason.

An interesting aspect of Melbourne, is the manner in which certain suburbs become a hub for people of a particular cultural heritage. Lonsdale Street is the centre of the city’s Greek culture. Lygon Street  probably sells more pasta than any place outside of Italy. Victoria Street, likewise, is a focal point for the Vietnamese people. Some shop fronts were a mystery to me unless I could actually see the product on sale in the window. This grab shot is from the tram (which you can see reflected in the window opposite, to the left).A little part of Vietnam in Melbourne

I got off the tram during the return trip to have lunch in the suburb of Balwyn. An unmemorable pasta meal was livened up when the owner asked how much I wanted for my camera. His joke seemed to lose its flavour when I told him.

Back in the city, the “boxing day” sales were still in full swing, so I avoided the city’s shopping hot spots and instead walked down Swanston Street to have another quick look at the Macbook pro I am contemplating. On the way, I passed “Christmas Square”, the site of the civic Christmas tree and a small squadron of giant toy soldiers. The relevance of toy soldiers to Christmas eludes me, but they were photogenic. Toy soldiers for Christmas

Later in the evening, we went out to dinner in Williamstown at the home of Catherine’s friends. We enjoyed a memorable meal  in excellent company in a gracious home with charming hosts. On the way home, crossing the Westgate Bridge with the sun almost at the end of its appearance for the day, the towers of Melbourne were glittering like a latter-day Emerald City.  I could hear Judith Durham’s soaring soprano voice singing the song in my head. Difficult to capture this, especially since high guard barriers have been erected across the bridge,  but I managed part of my vision through the windscreen on the downslope into town. Out to the right, the enormous Eureka Tower glitters,gleaming towers

We reached St Kilda as the sun was really setting so I dashed to the end of the street and got this shot as a large container ship crossed the horizon on its way to port.... home is the sailor, home from sea

Homebound tomorrow, so the next edition may be late in the day.

*Metcard was the ticketing system in use throughout Melbourne until today, after which it is replaced by the troubled “Myki” stored value card. 

flowers Maritime Melbourne Weather

December 27, 2012 … midsummer mayhem

I am seriously contemplating going over to the dark side.

And I have spousal approval! Her motive is reduced baggage weight. Mine is to break free of the insane number of complex hardware and software inter-relationships that produce an almost infinite variety of randomly occurring hang-ups and freezes. And I would get rid of that ludicrous three and a half minute boot time.

But first I have to see if there is an economically reasonable way to transfer my Adobe software licenses from the evil empire to the Mac side of the fence.

So I went into the Apple store in Melbourne yesterday to put my hands on one. I was disappointed in both the offhanded approach  of the staff there, and the ineptitude of a showroom that had no photographic software on a demo machine that is designed to excel at graphics applications. Perhaps they could tell I was tyre-kicking, and will probably buy in New Zealand.

It was an insane day to go into the city. The Apple showroom is near Flinders St station which has for years been the building which most people recognise instantly as symbolic of Melbourne. It has been photographed from every possible angle, so I decided to add one. Flinders St Station, Melbourne ... the Eureka tower in the background

The Apple showroom was almost empty, but the rest of the town was jammed to the gunwales with people looking for the bargains in the boxing day sales. This was compounded by the presence of the immense cruise liner Celebrity Solstice (122,000 Tonnes) which contributed 2,800 tourists to the mix.Boxing day sales in Bourke St, Melbourne

Bourke St mall in front of Myers was jammed solid, since the Christmas windows were still attracting crowds, and on the other side of the road various buskers were also doing very well.  I went down to Southbank and had lunch by the Yarra on a perfect blue-sky day. The Yarra, Southbank, the Eureka Tower. Note the gift-wrapped pedestrian bridge

From there, I used my day pass to catch a train round to Southern Cross station (formerly Spencer St), which was moderately busy. I have mixed feelings about its architecture.  The long-distance part of the station pictured here seemed very quiet, but the suburban side of the station was hectic. Long distance trains at Southern Cross Station

From there, I walked the length of Bourke Street pausing to catch some trees reflected in a stainless steel doorway.IMG_9725

On through the crowds again, to meet Mary and Catherine to go to see Les Miserables at the movies. I enjoyed it enormously. Some of its stars are better actors than singers, but well worth seeing anyway.

And a splash of colour on which to end today’s post is provided by the gardeners of the City of Melbourne with this fine display of Cockscomb (or Celosia).Bright colours in Melbourne

I might revisit the showroom today.

Maritime Melbourne

December 26, 2012 … the festive season

I was having so much fun today, I almost forgot to post.

Yesterday, of course, was Christmas day. I have no intention of intruding on the privacy of my family members, but suffice it to say that we had a very relaxed and happy day. There was a sufficiency of good food and drink, and good company, and the season was celebrated in grand style.

Considering that there were no children present, I was impressed by the pile of wrapping paper at the end of the traditional unwrapping of gifts.

Mark had to be at work for the morning, and Mary went for an early morning walk along St Kilda Beach. She brought back some kind of weed found blowing along. I don’t suppose they are genuine tumbleweed, but I found them interesting and put them on a glass topped coffee table and put the camera on the floor beneath and fired the camera remotely."tumbleweed"

After lunch and while dinner was being prepared, I got sent outside to amuse myself while others did all the work. Good deal. Though not as strong as the previous day, there was a stiff breeze and the sun reflecting on the bay produced that shimmering hammer-glazed look.  I liked the contrast with the silhouettes on the nearby wharf. I was particularly pleased that they appear to be making a photograph.Photography on the pier

Carrying on with that theme, there were several large ships anchored in the bay, waiting their turn I port. I can think of better places to spend Christmas, but there they were.At anchor in the bay

On my way back, I came into St Kilda and was surprised by the “street art” in such an affluent area. On the other hand there are some distinctly bohemian characters around , so that may explain it."street art", St Kilda

St Kilda itself seemed to be in full commercial swing and liquor stores and bars were doing a roaring trade, as were the famous bakeries.brisk trade on Christmas Day

Well that’s the images for yesterday. More tomorrow.

Architecture Melbourne Uncategorized

December 25, 2012 … peace and joy to all mankind

Since I am surplus to requirements in the kitchen, I can compose a brief blog for Christmas.

First things first. Warmest Christmas greetings to my friends and readers everywhere. I hope you have a happy and blessed day, and that this season helps bring the year to a triumphant climax. If you celebrate other festivals, I wish you all the best for those too, Especial thanks to those of you who took the trouble to offer words of encouragement through the comment section of the blog. Your support made it worthwhile.

So, yesterday I went in search of a replacement for the lens hood that nobly sacrificed itself to save the lens when I dropped the camera earlier in the week. For a piece of plastic with an intrinsic worth measured in cents rather than dollars, Canon want $97 in New Zealand. An aftermarket version identical in all respects except the brand costs about $20. I couldn’t get one before I left.

Melbourne seems to have more camera shops per square kilometre than any other place on earth. Mostly however, they want to sell you new cameras and the lip tends to curl if you want something as common as a spare part, let alone a cheap knockoff. However, I found a dealer in Collingwood who seems to be the local master agent for the brand I wanted. Armed with my cell phone’s map app, I boarded a tram going heaven knows where to Chapel St, then a North Richmond tram to Victoria St, from where it was a modest walk to the shop.

I had forgotten how many different countries exist within Melbourne’s borders, and that Victoria Street seems to be a transplantation directly from the streets of Saigon. So many restaurants selling Pho (noodle soup in countless varieties), and fruit and fish.  Wonderful.One of the many Vietnamese fish shops ... these are sold as Coral Trout

I got to the shop in an obscure backstreet of Collinwood, and it was firmly locked and barred. To be fair, it was Christmas Eve, and it probably made sense to give the staff the extra day off. And I was too stupid to phone ahead to check that they were open.

Back to Victoria Parade and the 109 tram back to the city. I checked with some of the bigger dealers , and found another aftermarket version at A$40 (NZ$48), but I still resented that  price given my estimate of its real worth, so came away empty-handed. I waited for the next tram to St Kilda Beach on Bourke Street and noticed the crowds lining the footpath outside the Myer department store.Crowds lining the paths to see the window displays at Myers

Myer’s is famous for its wonderful animated Christmas windows and thousands line up with or without children to see the best free show in town. Melbourne has some wonderful architecture and as I waited for the tram I noticed the old Chief Post Office building partially obscured by the Christmas decorations. Christmas clashes with noble architecture

And so today is Christmas, so why no Christmas image? To be honest I forgot to take one, but the best I could do yesterday was this shot down Elizabeth to the Christmas Greeting on Flinders St Station.

Season's greetings from MelbourneI join in that wish to you all.

And now back to Christmas with Mary and my lovely elder daughter Catherine and son-in-law Mark. Hope you have a good time too.

Birds Maritime Melbourne

December 24, 2012 … courage at sea

Williamstown is different.

Quaint, cute, expensive. It is a maritime suburb to the East of the city, home to the moderately affluent (at least at the waterfront), and the Royal Australian Navy’s dockyard. We went  out for a bit of a drive and enjoyed a look around.

According to the car’s sensors, the outside temperature was 41 degrees C, so naturally the first stop was a place to sample a cold beer in best Trans-Tasman tradition. The family wandered around the shopping centre and I went to the waterfront  where even the shags in the marina were sitting, beaks open, hyperventilating in the heat.hyperventilating shags

An old grey warship caught my attention so I visited HMAS Castlemaine.  Modern seagoing fighting ships are large, clean, often air-conditioned, and highly automated. The comparison with this valiant old lady is stark.

HMAS CastlemaineShe is a restored WWII Bathurst class corvette, one of 46 built in Australia for various navies. She is now restored as a museum ship. Given that she saw a great deal of service in the far North of Australia and around New Guinea, yesterday was a good day on which to gain some faint hint of what it must have been like to serve on such a ship in tropical waters. Perhaps not so bad on the upper decks or on the bridge where it would be possible to benefit from the breeze of the ship’s passage.Castlemaine's bridge

I cannot imagine how uncomfortable it must have been down in the engine room with its two big triple-expansion steam engines, and large bits of hot oily steel or brass pounding up and down for days on end.  Piston rods and valve gear in Castlemaine's engine room.

The only thing worse, might be the boiler room with its large oil-fired Admiralty style  Yarrow boilers. These were wrapped in asbestos and every time the ship engaged in gun action, clouds of asbestos dust would fill the working spaces. Mesothelioma was not yet connected to asbestos, apparently. And being under several layers of gratings and ladders must have taken a great deal of courage. The stokers' station at the burners of the boilers in Castlemaine

Across the bay in the Williamstown dock, a vast new vessel is being fitted out for service with the Australian Navy. She is apparently known informally as “Nuship”, but it is a poorly kept secret that when she is commissioned it will be as HMAS Canberra, a Landing Helicopter Dock ship (LHD).

She will have accommodations which the crew of the Castlemaine could never have dreamed of.

Landscapes Maritime Melbourne Music

December 23, 2012 … to the beat of a different drum

A beautiful summer day on Port Philip Bay.

Along the parks and beaches of St Kilda, everything was happening. In enclosed area,s, concert stages were surrounded by many hundreds of young people dancing to the crashing sound of what passes for music these days.  Cyclists, walkers and runners thronged the many pathways and a few swimmers braved the waters.

Out on the bay, kite surfers were skimming back and forth across area inside the breakwater.  Dozens of the colourful kites made a spectacular sight. Three in a row caught in this first image.Kite surfing on the bay

But what noise is this to my right?

In a tree-shaded park adjacent to the beach was a group of what I can only describe as bongo drummers. The flying hands were a real eye catcher, and I tried to expose so as to get a sharp image, but allow the hands to blur.Drumming group in the park

There was no melody, but lots of rhythm. Shades of the movie “The Visitor” in which people gather in a park to express themselves on drums. There seemed to be no definite coordinating force, but some prominent players.Serious players

They were having a great time. I draw no conclusion from the many empty green bottles in the grass. It was a happy group and the rhythm was compelling. Some members even joined in by dancing in a style that reminded me of “Zorba the Greek”.Invitation to the dance

On this fine longest day of the year, and the day on which the world did not end, the citizens of Melbourne had much to celebrate.

Australia Aviation Landscapes Light Melbourne

December 22, 2012 … over the ditch, mercury rising

Mayan prophecy notwithstanding we are still here.

I spent some part of the trip wondering about the mechanics of the end of the world and what would be the status of anyone who was airborne at the time. I watched two movies and chose not to eat the proffered airline meal. I had just finished the second movie and pushed the window blind up as we made landfall, as we always seem to, at Glomar Beach, Gippsland. Crossing the Gippsland coast near Glomar BeachHaving a window seat, we were able to watch the state of Victoria passing by beneath us. We passed over Traralgon and Moe and swung out to approach Tullamarine from the North.

I can report that, despite a delayed departure from Wellington, we arrived just four minutes late and had a trouble-free trip through immigration quarantine and customs, and we were greeted by our lovely elder daughter who we don’t see nearly often enough.

An easy drive into town, and a visit to the supermarket to synchronise food needs, and we settled in to spend the evening with Catherine. I was redundant during the meal preparation, so I walked over the road to the beach at St Kilda past the slightly grotesque front gate of Luna Park.Luna Park, Melbourne

I went through the bridge from the grassy park and caught some of the last light of the evening.Port Philip Bay

No matter what the time of year, there seems to be a large number of ships out in the vast expanse of Port Philip Bay waiting for berths or cargo or whatever. The light was all but extinguished, so I grabbed the last shot of the day looking South to the light at the end of St Kilda Pier breakwater. IMG_9181

And here we are basking in the warmth of Melbourne, forecast to become very hot tomorrow.