Thursday, March 31, 2016


My plan this week was to sleep in every morning and start each day at a decadent hour. However, I didn’t reckon on three things:

1. There’s a house being extensively rebuilt two doors away from my apartment.

2. Most councils allow power tools to be operated on suburban building sites after 7.30am.

3. My apartment building is a product of the 1960s, and has the sound insulation of a stretched Chux.

So every morning, on the stroke of half past seven, I’m woken to the sound of nail guns and circular saws.

To be fair, it could be a lot worse. On a similar building site in the suburbs of Perth, the nail guns and circular saws would be accompanied by men shouting “Oi Jezza, chuck me the eight-bars and the flange goblet, ya f*ckin’ c*nt!” over the blare of commercial breakfast radio. But Richmond doesn’t tolerate that sort of behaviour in its tradesmen unless they’re doing it ironically, which would probably cost more. So the tradies… sorry, ‘architectural artisans’… work in monastic silence, no doubt focusing on optimising the chakra of the homeowner’s new media room.

Although, now that I think about it, they’d probably give me a condescending sneer if I referred to them as architectural artisans. That’s so 2014. “We’re builders”, they’d say, pronouncing the word with a subtle inflection that indicates that they’re like makers, only on a larger scale. I imagine their depot as a renovated shopfront filled with Eames chairs and Apple iPad Pros, with the word “Builders” over the door in a crisp white minimalist font on a black background.

On the subject of business names, one of the micro trends in Melbourne at the moment is for shops named after imaginary children’s books, usually “(name hipsters give their children) and (name of the hipster child's spirit animal and/or imaginary friend)”. There’s a shop here selling pastel cushions and concrete pencil holders called, for no obvious reason, 'Lily and the Weasel'. Further up the street there’s a café called 'Iris and the Secret Squirrel'. Last week I had a very nice breakfast at 'Porgie and Mr Jones', which sounds like a child’s retelling of Gershwin’s famous musical, and is thus probably an oblique example of Hipster Racism, or Hipster Anti-Semitism, or possibly both.

No doubt I’ll walk around a corner soon and see a bakery called 'Flora and the Bandicoot', or a hardware store called 'Avery and Captain Bunnypants'.

Back in Perth, of course, it’d be 'Shakira-Jayde and the Staffy', or 'Jaxon and his Parole Officer'. We just can’t have nice things.

Speaking of shop signage and Hipster Racism, there’s an industrial bar/restaurant down the street called 'Ladyboy', which doesn’t appear to have anything to do with actual ladyboys or their subculture. So it’s probably an example of Hipster Transphobia. Who knew that was even a thing?

I have seen the future, and it is hipsters doing every thing that’s been newly revealed to be offensive and phobic, only ironically, so it’s okay.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016


Melbourne is always a good place to sample the latest food fads, whether it be cold drip coffee, freekah or precariously balancing components of a meal on top of each other so that eating it becomes the culinary equivalent of Jenga. From what I’ve seen, one of the most incongruously on-trend foodstuffs at the moment is red meat. Long considered the domain of unenlightened bogans, red meat has been excitingly rebranded as the logical accessory to all of those lumberjack flannel shirts and luxuriant beards. Richmond fairly pulses with the blood of artisanally slaughtered mammals, who are no doubt hand reared on organic kale and charcoal-filtered water before being adoringly killed and worshipfully dismembered and sold in sleek stores with blunt names like Meat or Carnivore.

At this rate, I’d put money on heritage gluten being the next big thing. Bad news for the celiacs, but good news for the rest of us.

In other foodie news, I just saw a poster in a shop window for quinoa vodka. Because this is Richmond, and of course I did.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016


In the second week of my Melbourne visit I've moved slightly closer to the city centre, into an Airbnb place in Richmond, the epicentre of Melburnian cool.

My home in Richmond is a tiny one bedroom apartment. It has everything the normal person needs – queen sized bed, washing machine, dishwasher – but it’s all squeezed into a space about 10% too small for it. It’s a good thing I recently lost a few kilos, because otherwise it might be a bit tight getting to said washing machine. Or, indeed, the toilet.

But despite the fact that the whole apartment is smaller than my carport at home, it’s well-sited, being on a back street near the intersection of two of Richmond’s major roads. It is, therefore, very easy for me to wander out my door and five minutes later be drinking an awesome coffee, buying a vintage shirt, or getting my beard trimmed by a heavily tattooed hipster. Possibly all three at the same time.

Monday, March 28, 2016


Yesterday morning I went to the Camberwell markets, where suburban families cleaning out their garages and shifty professional scavengers stand side by side to sell junk that’s too worthless for second hand stores, too heavy for eBay or too overpriced for Gumtree.

My purchases were:

Anodised aluminium cocktail skewers, for those times when toothpicks just don’t cut it.

A model of the Empire State Building that’s also a pencil sharpener!

Vintage 1970s figurines of early James Bond characters, including Bond, Dr No, Auric Goldfinger, and some other guy. It’s probably a good thing that they didn’t have a little plastic Honey Rider as played by Ursula Andress, because I’d have made unseemly sounds and frightened the vendor .

Sunday, March 27, 2016


One of my many aims in Melbourne was to catch some acts at the International Comedy Festival. Last night I saw two… which I’d seen before at the Perth Fringe Festival. But I had my reasons to see them again.

The first was the Impromptunes, an ever-changing gang of bright-eyed, bubbling youngsters who improvise a new musical each night based on a title shouted out by the audience members, which means that every show is unique. Last night’s musical, requested by the strident middle-aged bottle blonde in the front row, was ‘God Goes to Centrelink’. No doubt she was one of the many sanctimonious atheists who thought that this would be a hoot, without stopping to consider that this might be in dubious taste on one of the holiest days in the Christian calendar, or even that maybe there could be people of faith either in the audience or on the stage.

Fortunately the Impromptunes players seem to be trained to avoid controversy – I suspect it’s terribly easy to drift into politically incorrect spaces during improv – and so they chose to make “God” one the Greek Gods. Even so, it was interesting to note how some of the players dragged the narrative off in Christian-mocking directions, while others dragged it back into less bigoted waters. Overall, it stayed in a similar territory to Monty Python’s Life of Brian, so I didn’t feel the overwhelming need to put on my fundamentalist hat and burn them all as witches.

The second show was Juan Vesuvius, who did the same show in Melbourne as he did in Perth, but that’s okay because I adored it the first time around. This is the show that has him entering on skis in a pastel green snowsuit, then wandering around the stage in wide-eyed joy repeating the words, “Melbourne. Wow. Is beautiful” in different orders as he caresses the dusty fabric backdrop, strokes the cheap stackable chairs, and draws our attention to the elderly, discoloured smoke alarms and an exhaust fan.

Ostensibly Juan’s show is about the history of calypso music; the various cultures that combined to create it, the subgenres it’s spawned, and the nuanced art of the mashup. But more often than not it’s just a show about laughing at a man being haunted by a banana.

I love Juan. Everything single thing he does is hilarious, whether it be miming the interactions between a disdainful backing singer and a horny percussion player, going on a psychedelic chutney trip, or reciting pretentious beat poetry in an attempt to understand the power of jazz lyrics. He is without a doubt the world’s greatest Venezuelan comedy DJ.

Saturday, March 26, 2016


In disastrous news for the waistlines and blood pressures of breakfasters across Melbourne, the Goathouse Café in Elsternwick has developed and started selling coffee maple bacon.

Let me repeat that. Coffee. Maple. Bacon. You couldn’t make it more irresistible if you draped it across the naked body of Ursula Andress circa 1964.

Coffee maple bacon is powerful stuff, forcing the strongest and most taciturn of men to make the same sounds as 14 year old schoolgirls who have just discovered Zayn Malik in the checkout queue in Tesco’s. Unlike many embellished foods, it tastes just as good as one would imagine an amalgamation of coffee, maple syrup and bacon to taste… that is, extremely.

But that poses the question, in between bouts of calorie, nitrate, sucrose, caffeine and fat-fuelled gluttony: have we reached Peak Fancy Bacon? It’s a sobering possibility. I suppose one could work whiskey in there somewhere, but then one would run the risk of overwhelming the senses and destroying the physical universe as we know it!

And making me drunk as well as fat and jittery.

Friday, March 25, 2016


Despite the gloomy hipster waiter, I returned to Axil Coffee Roasters yesterday morning for red velvet pancakes with black sesame icecream and white chocolate sauce. They were so very, very good. And they were served by a different waiter, who didn’t give the impression that he was curling up into a little ball and crying on the inside.

Thursday, March 24, 2016


I commenced my second day in Melbourne with zucchini fritters at Axil Coffee Roasters in Hawthorn, served by a gloomy hipster who, at least in my imagination, resented having to work to afford small batch ciders and beard oil.

In the evening, I went to an acoustic session at the Clifton Hill Hotel, where gentlemen musicians with an average age of 87 performed blues, roots, folk and alt-country tunes with the great ease and skill that comes from practicing every day since the Boer War. I’m pretty sure that I was the only person there younger than 50, except for the bar staff, who were all younger than the internet.

Hipster and Grey were similarly enthralled.

Although that may have had something to do with the booze.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016


One of my aims on this holiday is to go out to breakfast every morning and indulge myself in the sorts of food that most people only have once a week at Sunday brunch, if they're lucky. I began yesterday with Finders Keepers, a natty little cafe in Hawthorn East, where I had a thoroughly delightful eggs benedict.

One thing I've already noticed is that Melbourne now considers the traditional slice of Virginia ham or similar in eggs benedict to be passe. Most reputable cafes now serve the dish with ham hock, or pork belly, or pulled pork. Woe betide any cafe that bucks the trend. They will surely end up in the same place as businesses that cling to focaccia instead of turkish bread or sun-dried tomatoes instead of semi-dried.

The coffee was wonderful. At least that never changes.

Melbourne is much as I remember it from my last visit a decade ago. It’s green and leafy, with a lot of beautiful domestic architecture. While a lot of lovely Victorian and Edwardian houses are being bulldozed to make way for low-rise apartment buildings, at least the low-rise apartment buildings have a certain amount of modern aesthetic charm. In Perth, they just knock down the old houses and replace them with shoddy, impractical, butt-ugly units with all the architectural appeal of a microwave burrito.

I've also noticed in my strolling that Melburnians appear to be very law-abiding when it comes to pedestrianism. They cross the streets at the intersection and wait for the green man to beckon, even when the streets are empty and the way is clear. This may be because, like the weather, Melbourne traffic is bizarre and can turn on you in a heartbeat. I’ve scuttled across empty roads only to discover a tram bearing down on me, or a car indicating right suddenly swerving left to take a hook turn. On some streets the lanes change direction depending on the time of day. A narrow lane that you thought was somebody’s driveway turns out to be a major road. I suspect that Melburnians mindlessly obey the pedestrian laws because it’s easier than trying to decipher the traffic.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016


I have just commenced a month-long holiday in Melbourne. When I’ve mentioned the fact that I’m taking a full four weeks in this city, people have uniformly reacted with surprise. It seems that when most people take four weeks off, they are more ambitious in their travels.

But I’m just interested in a change of scene. I want a bit of novelty without a complete cultural shift. In addition I have friends in Melbourne who I’ve not seen in years, plus the Comedy Festival is on, and also this city has many vintage stores that are relevant to my interests.

Melbourne is also relatively inexpensive. Mind you, everywhere is relatively inexpensive compared to Perth.

As usual, I have companionship on this trip. This time it’s someone who clearly isn’t a native and has even less of a clue of Melbourne social conventions. But fortunately, we are assisted by local.

I call them Hipster and Grey, which sounds like the title of the latest American buddy cop drama...

Hipster and Grey: they’re cops who don’t play by the rules. One’s a stubbled, coffee-obsessed, vintage wearing douchebag. The other is really into anal probing. Find out which one is which this Fall on CBS!

"You’re way outta line, Grey! You can’t solve this crime by anal probing the mayor! City Hall won’t stand for it!"

"Aw hell, Grey, I don’t like your methods but dammit, they get results!"

"Ha ha, let’s go out for fair trade single source organic lattes. My treat."

The last time I flew, it was in the mobile deprivation chamber that is a Jetstar flight. This time, older, wiser and still nursing those Jetstar-related psychic wounds, I opted to pay an extra hundred dollars or so and fly Qantas I could check my bag, choose my own seat, eat a meal and watch a movie, all without paying any extra cash or feeling the overpowering urge to beat myself to death with my own tray table.

Monday, March 21, 2016


Our second movie for Andressfest’16 was the 1977 Italian comedy drama ‘Doppio Delitto’, or ‘Double Murder’. Continuing Ursula’s modus operandi of only working with the best while simultaneously being the worst, here she was joined by Marcello Mastroianni and Peter Ustinov. She played the Princess Dell’Orso, a beautiful, aristocratic actress who stops at nothing to get what she wants. Up to and including taking all of her clothes off.

As you can imagine, this was a real stretch for Ursula Andress.

Unfortunately, 'Doppio Delitto' doesn’t seem to exist in an English dub or subtitles. And none of the assembled AndressFesters spoke Italian. Still, 'Doppio Delitto' is one of the very few Ursula movies we haven’t seen, so we decided to get plunge in and make up our own dialogue.

Some elderly rich dude is murdered. The local police detective investigates the residents of the palazzo where the crime occurred. He interviews Peter Ustinov. He interviews Ursula Andress. He interviews Agnostina Belli. He interviews Peter Ustinov again. He interviews Ursula Andress again. And on and on it goes. Marcello suspects that Peter Ustinov and Ursula Andress are hiding something, especially after a second man is murdered. However eventually it transpires that an artist living in the palazzo killed both men.

Or at least that’s what I think was going on. It turned out that 'Doppio Delitto' was a very dialogue-intensive film, which is a problem when your audience doesn’t understand the dialogue. Or, indeed, when one of your actresses is famous for her body rather than her nuanced delivery of the spoken word. In its defense, however, it did feature an entirely gratuitous nude scene for Ursula, so it wasn’t a completely baffling experience.

The other minor but intriguing thing I took from this movie was the name of the actress playing the heroine, Agnostina Belli. Her name literally means ‘Unbelief in God War’. One wonders what conversation her parents had before naming her:

Mother: I think we should call her Daisy, after the flower.


Mother: Um…


Mother: I’m all for tradition, but let’s maybe dial it back a tad.


For our first AndressFest’16 experience, we took a rare trip back to a time before Ursula’s breakout role as Honey Rider in 1962’s ‘Dr No’. As a novice actress, struggling both with the craft and with every man within reach (and frankly having more difficulty with the former than the latter), Ursula was probably delighted to get a gig as heroine of the week on Boris Karloff’s Thriller.

Our story begins with a bunch of belligerent Italians in silly hats cornering Ursula’s character Luana while she’s doing the laundry, beating her up and throwing her in the river. Fortunately she is rescued by a passing Spanish art student, Antonio, who is immediately smitten by her shapely figure and impenetrable accent.

Unlike Honey Rider, Luana wasn’t redubbed in post. Thus we were treated to the full weight of Ursula’s blurred teutonic consonants. But as Ursula’s career from that point on demonstrates, no one was hiring her for her crisp, Maggie Smith-style diction.

Antonio takes Luana back to his place, where she reveals her terror of her grandmother, the La Strega of the title. When the old woman turns up, chewing the scenery like it was Turkish Delight, Antonio hides Luana in a trunk. Unable to find her recalcitrant granddaughter, La Strega then curses him, in a florid but oddly specific way.

“Listen to my word, and remember them well. When the moon is down and the night is dark, the blood in your veins will boil and burn. Your hands will do the work of the Devil. Those you love will be taken away. The curse will lie on you day and night. A mad man kept in a darkened cell for the rest of your life. Only a grave for the ones you love.”

This seems something of an overreaction to Antonio’s minor Luana-pilfering misdemeanor. But then she is Italian.

Antonio laughs it off. He doesn’t believe in witches. He believes in art, love and getting into Luana’s panties. In pursuit of all these goals, he paints Luana’s portrait and agrees to help her escape La Strega’s clutches.

Antonio’s teacher warns him that La Strega will be attending the witches’ Sabbath at the full moon (presumably he read that on her Facebook page), and the three of them go there to confront her. It turns out that witches Sabbaths don’t have much of a liturgy: it appears to be several hours of La Strega cackling by a bonfire while dancers in unitards do jazz ballet in the near vicinity. I didn’t even know that unitards had been invented in 1652, but that just goes to show how evil La Strega is – she can access the future but all she comes back with are unitards and modern dance troupes.

While Antonio is transfixed by the ceremony, La Strega somehow murders his beloved teacher. The clunky, inelegant curse is becoming clunky, inelegant reality!

After his portrait of Luana spookily transforms into an image of La Strega, Antonio leaves Luana in the care of the local Catholic priest, figuring that as she’s a 25 year old woman she’ll probably be safe, and goes to La Strega’s hovel to confront her. He begs for her to lift her curse and relinquish her claim on Luana, but she refuses. In desperation he strangles her – it seems that for all her satanic power she’s still vulnerable to getting throttled by an emotional Spaniard - then buries the body and returns to the church.

However, Luana isn’t there, and the confused priest tells him that he has just spoken to La Strega in the street. Horrified, Antonio races back to the hovel and digs up the body… and the last thing we see is that the body in the grave is Luana.

Darn that witch.

La Strega’s greatest power, besides being a bigger ham than bacon-fried pork chops, is her ability to transcend logic. How did she trade places with Ursula? Had Antonio been bewitched the whole time? How did she kill Antonio’s teacher? Were the jazz ballet troupe paid equity rates? The list goes on.

Like all of Ursula’s performances which didn’t involve her showing her boobies (thanks a bunch, TV morality in 1961!), La Strega was a little tepid and distinctly lacking in thrills. But overall Thriller was quite an enjoyable little show. You can watch every episode on YouTube, although it only lasted two seasons from 1960 – 61. I think it’s worth noting that it was cancelled only thirteen episodes after Ursula’s story, proving once again that the only true curse around here is the eternal Curse of Ursula.


Last Friday was AndressFest’16, my eleventh annual festival celebrating both of the important attributes of Ursula Andress.

Yes, it’s the time of year when we celebrate both her movies and her life.

As usual, the snacks for AndressFesst’16 were a visual celebration of everything that made her the woman we all know and love.

Of course some men knew her and loved her more than others. Or at least more often. If you limited yourself to only watching the films of actors and directors who had at some point banged Ursula, you’d still be able to watch pretty much every major motion picture of the last fifty years. And quite a few of the minor ones.

Still, Andress’Fest isn’t about men. It’s about a very singular woman. As is traditional, we celebrated AndressFest’16 with another new cocktail invented in her honour.

The Naughty Ursula

1 part ginger-infused American Honey or similar
1 part lemongrass-infused vodka
A tiny dash of maple syrup

Shake the first two ingredients vigorously in an ice-filled cocktail shaker, then strain into a martini glass and add the syrup. Garnish with a piece of glace ginger.

It was a complicated process creating this cocktail, but a complicated woman like Ursula deserves no less.