Tuesday, April 26, 2022


For my last breakfast in Melbourne, I walked once again down Sydney Road to another one of the functionally infinite number of hipster cafes in Brunswick. It was an exceptionally good breakfast: rye crumpet with slow cooked pork neck, fried egg, caponata and little chunks of fried black pudding.

As I sat outside eating it, an elderly dog, grey around the muzzle, came up to me and gave me magnificently textbook Puppy Dog Eyes, pouring every gram of her being into willing the pork neck off my plate and into her mouth.

“I’m sorry,” her owner said.

“No worries,” I said, since I like dogs and she wasn’t being aggressive.

“She’s just drawn by the smell, since she lives in a no-meat household.”

“Aw, you poor old thing,” I told the dog, meaning “You are an unfortunate animal because you cannot have what you desperately want,”… but of course it came across as, “You are an unfortunate animal because you are living with some sort of insane vegan.”

Oddly enough the owner abruptly stopped speaking to me after that, although the dog came scampering over every time the owner’s back was turned to give me those big liquid brown eyes filled with desperate longing.


Monday, April 25, 2022

Moments (Part 2)

A cafe with the ultimate Melbourne door handles. 


A picture of Elvis actually made better by being tossed out. But then he is good at leaving buildings.


I’m thankful that I am not a lesbin who will incur the wrath of Jessus.


It's not all awesome old records and vintage clothing in Melbourne's op shops. There's always at least one piece of cursed kitsch trying to devour your soul. It's so tiresome.

Sunday, April 24, 2022


Today I drove up to Beechworth, about 50km south of Victoria’s border with New South Wales, to visit the parents of a good friend and enjoy an environment in which there were trees, birds, rolling hills, copious amounts of shiraz, and a horrifying number of dead wombats – I counted five lying bloated with their stumpy little legs in the air on the side of the Hume Highway. Apparently hitting one is like driving your car into a suitcase-sized boulder at 110kph, and so is recommended by neither motorists nor wombats.

Tony and Tonya joined me in going mushroom picking, with a local who knew the difference between the tasty treat mushrooms and the slow lingering death mushrooms. The ice skaters weren’t much use in the actual harvesting of mushrooms, but they enjoyed having their own little performance stages.


The countryside of Beechworth actually has quite a bit of free food, with the mushrooms, wild infestations of blackberries, apples and chestnuts that have escaped captivity, and of course as much wombat as you want to risk eating.


Saturday, April 23, 2022


Melbourne has an intrinsic, almost subliminal gardening culture. It’s rare to see a house with a front garden that isn’t well-maintained and thought-out. Even in those cases where the owners clearly don’t care, the resulting jungle of overgrown plants gives an impression of romantic neglect. 

In Perth, of course, neglecting your garden for more than a day results in a sun-scorched expanse of dead weeds and sand, which helps explain why so many people just give up and pave the entire area. If a hardy succulent or a straggly, faded geranium manages to cling to life despite the lack of water or shade, it simply underlines the devastation around it. And hey, it’s extra space to park your cars, which you need, because the public transport is just awful.

But back to Melbourne, where plants are everywhere, even in the inner urban spaces, filling street planters and the windows of almost every business, whether they be dive bars, barbers or tax accountants.

Friday, April 22, 2022


I had to go into the city centre relatively early to catch up with a friend over breakfast, which then gave me plenty of time to just wander about the city doing a mixture of window shopping and actual shopping. I tried to buy a new pair of sunglasses, but Melburnians are not traditionally sunglass wearers, so there was little variety in the stores and I couldn’t find any pair I liked. I also looked in some clothing stores for a new suit, but ten days of cafe breakfasts and gelato have made the idea of buying a sleek and slim-cut modern suit a little… optimistic.

About the only place I was able to find something to buy was at Muji, a store selling the concept of Japanese minimalism. Also the products of Japanese minimalism, but primarily the concept. Your life may be messy and chaotic, but you can buy a simple bamboo tray, plain linen sheets, or a wooden propelling pencil and momentarily grasp the beautiful feeling of having all of that dross in your life gone. Marie Kondo is probably behind it, philosophically if not actually. She’d probably be very disappointed that I bought some pens and a notebook that I don’t actually need and thus added to my dross. Oh well.

In the evening, with nothing better to do, I decided to make use of the fact that I’m living a 20 minute walk from one of the best jazz bars in the country. It’s kind of a waste that I haven’t been there every night, but then again one can only be so hep before one morphs into Johnny Depp or something. So off I trotted to the Jazz Lab to see The Pearly Shells, who provide further evidence of a certain Melburnian paradigm I’ve noticed: older musicians here just keep on playing. The members were aged between 40 and 80, as far as I could see, and clearly still had the talent, and inclination, to keep getting out there and performing. Although every second song or so they’d invite up a guest drummer, or pianist, or rhythm guitarist young enough to be their grandchild to sit in for a song or two. Whether they were proteges or actual grandchildren was hard to tell, but either way, it was wonderful to see this music as an intergenerational affair spreading from Boomers to Zers.

There was also a burlesque hoop twirler, because hey, why not? And she added a vaudevillian flair that suited the music and the atmosphere.

They played a mixture of the own compositions and standards, including a remarkable rendition of Leonard Cohen’s ‘Hallelujah’ as a swing dance number. If I hadn’t heard it with my own ears, I wouldn’t have thought it was possible. But it certainly got the crowd up and dancing. Given the average age of the performers, it’s perhaps not surprising that many of the audience were in a similar demographic. We got to witness the majesty of elderly white people cutting loose and jitterbugging around the dance floor... at least until their hips gave out.

Thursday, April 21, 2022

Moments (Part 1)

You know you’re in Melbourne when the bogans in hi-viz at the next table in a dive bar are talking knowledgeably about emotional intelligence. In Perth, that’s just a sign of being a paedophile or something.


Of all of the Arabic fashion shops along Sydney Road, none are called Gaudy Fatima’s House of Glitter and Sequins. This must be an oversight. The only reasonable conclusion to draw is that there is a surprising number of very conflicted Muslim drag queens in Brunswick who need local couture.


Several Brunswick buildings have self-congratulatory signs stating that the building is situated on Wurundjeri land and expressing gratitude for it. Not to the extent of giving the land back, or even cutting the few remaining Wurundjeri people a good deal on the rent, but… you know. It’s virtue signaling at its most literal.


Interestingly in more than one place I noticed that these signs are barely a foot off the ground. Presumably so that Alastair and Charlotte’s $7000 basenji puppy can read it and feel good about himself. Or herself. Or xerself; the puppy hasn’t yet communicated a gender identity to them via their companion animal therapist.


Wednesday, April 20, 2022


Still not satiated in my hunger for fine art, today I went into the city centre to sample the Ian Potter Centre, Melbourne’s second state art gallery, with a slight orientation further towards modern art than the NGV.

Overall, I liked it. Some of the curatorial decisions were a bit basic - a photo of Queen Elizabeth II placed next to a photo of an irritated aboriginal woman (ARE YOU COMPARING AND CONTRASTING!? ARE YOU!? OBSERVE THE JUXTAPOSITION, RACISTS!) - but there were some sweet and/or powerful works.


Tony did not appreciate being posed with the Angel of Death. But then neither did the gallery guard, who tersely chastised me for touching the art. I could have pointed out that Tony touched the art, not me, but that’s just another step down the road to being an irksome old man who is followed by eyerolls wherever he goes, so I resisted.

Following our arduous journey through the intricacies of modern art, it was time to sink comfortably into the simplicity of booze. We settled in a bistro on the banks of the Yarra, surrounded by greenery (and the thunder of diesel freight locomotives at the train yard next door) and I ordered a Pavlova Sour (pavlova-flavoured vodka with passionfruit liqueur and strawberry dust). Tonya approved.


After all that Melbourne’s been through with the pandemic, the name of the glassware seemed appropriate.


Tuesday, April 19, 2022


I had another opportunity to get out of the city and go up to Healesville, one of those winsomely pretty little towns that dot the landscape within daytripping range of Melbourne and draw in cashed-up tourists like roadkill draws in blowflies.

Tony and Tonya went too, but they didn’t actually get out for a photo op, as the heavens opened soon after we arrived, and it rained, heavily, for the next few hours.

We wandered between cute little cafes and cute little shops. I bought some more records at one of the op shops, but once that was done, there wasn’t much else to do except get wetter.

In the evening, as the rain receded and the need for cocktails set in, I made my way to a local bar that the internet recommended – the Daddy Bar on Blyth Street. You’d think that when a local bar is called the Daddy Bar, the question of whether it’s a gay bar or not is self-evident. But… it’s just a neighborhood bar. The fact that it’s a straight bar called the Daddy Bar is just Melbourne being Melbourne. I mean, they were playing early 80s punk most of the time we were there, which is about as far from Mariah and Barbra as it’s possible to get.


 At least Tony and Tonya finally got some affirmation.

Monday, April 18, 2022


The public holidays of Easter have a certain hierarchy. To use a wildly inappropriate metaphor; Good Friday is Michael Jackson (the superstar), Easter Sunday is Janet Jackson (slightly less of a superstar but still bigger than most) and Easter Monday is Jermaine Jackson (who in the what now?).

As such, today’s question for Melbourne is; how can every cafe, on Lygon Street no less, be closed on Easter Monday? I’m pretty sure they were all open on Good Friday and Easter Sunday, and yet I had to walk for half an hour, in the rain, before I found a Muslim cafe that cares not for this Jesus fellow and his death/resurrection and was thus content to serve me coffee and eggs benedict (with pulled beef rather than ham, naturally).

Maybe they're just big Jermaine Jackson fans here.

Sunday, April 17, 2022


It was a fairly quiet day. I went to a Resurrection Sunday service at a friend’s church, then we had lunch and watched some MST3K. On the way home I stopped at H&M and picked up a couple of things because they were having a sale, then I tried to go out in the evening but everywhere I wanted to go was closed, so I stayed at home eating roast chicken, trying to prevent the cat from stealing my roast chicken, yelling at the cat for sticking its face in my roast chicken, and watching Star Trek.

But at least someone was celebrating the Resurrection on a larger scale than me.


Saturday, April 16, 2022


 Today I took the tram down to the city and paid a visit to the National Gallery of Victoria.

I noticed that, like the Florentines, the Melburnians have basically abandoned their city centre to Asian tourists. There are all the same shops you’ll find at a suburban shopping centre, along with the sort of luxury brands favoured by various Kardashians, with bubble tea shops filling in the gaps. It's a bit sad, in a way, to see an integral urban space reduced to a commodity. I suppose the Florentines felt the same way when I hauled my fat arse up their Duomo and gazed out over their city.

It’s rather telling that at the NGV, while the explanatory texts next to the artworks are only in English, the terse little labels reminding visitors not to touch or climb on the art are in English and Mandarin. There’s an invisible tale behind that decision, I’m sure; not that the pronoun-specifying, Greens-voting, coal-hating staff would ever admit it. But even the most woke individual has xer limits.

As usual, I amused myself with a little helpful renaming.


St Karen and Her Book of HOA Transgressions, Artist Unknown, 1420


Some Bastard With a Trumpet Annoying Bill Murray, Artist Unknown, 1640


One of The Three Wise Men, Finding Adoration a Little Hard to Muster After The Christ Child Kicks Him in The Face, Giovanni Toscani, 1430.

I love the narrative in these expressions. The baby did that deliberately. Mary knows what he’s done and isn’t going to do a thing about it. The Wise Man is pissed but he knows it’ll look bad if he gets mad at a baby, so he has to suck it up. But he doesn’t have to like it.

Friday, April 15, 2022


With much of the urban spaces closed for Good Friday, it seemed like a good time to get out to the country for once. A friend took me up into the Dandenongs, to walk appreciatively through the giant tree fern forests and enjoy a rare warm sunny day in the Melbournian autumn.

I took Tony and Tonya, although it was a little far from the ice for them. Their appreciation of nature was… mixed.


Some people like mushrooms. Others want to smash them with a crowbar.


Nature. Bah! Take your ferny glens and your babbling brooks and shove them up Nancy Kerrigan’s... aspirations.


Tony takes the road less traveled by iceskaters.

But in a development that’s sadly normal in Australia, where every single animal wants to kill you, Tony and Tonya encountered some of the native flora and/or fauna, with predictable results. 


But thanks to Tonya finally using her crowbar for good, they escaped to skate another day.


Come evening, back in the concrete jungle, we traipsed off to the Jazz Lab in Brunswick to see a musical about the Elephant Man. I don’t remember the 1980 biographic film having quite this many dick jokes, but I was a callow youth at the time so maybe they went over my head. Questions might also be asked as to whether John Merrick really had a makeover from a French fashionista and then vogued in front of the aristocracy at an opera house, or had his worldview challenged by a transvestite Russian prostitute. But suspension of disbelief is one of the great gifts of the theatre.

The sound mix was terrible, and there were possibly just a few too many dick jokes, but the performers had beautiful voices and blistering energy, and in the end they received not one but two standing ovations. Melburnians are easily wiled by an avalanche of dick jokes.

Perth audiences, by contrast, are famously miserly with their public displays of appreciation. Maybe it’s because we don’t trust these artistic types and their high-concept tomfoolery? Melbourne audiences will respond rapturously to almost any performance, but never moreso than now, as they slowly emerge from COVID restrictions and are consequently starved of both live performance and human interaction.

Thursday, April 14, 2022


I’m enjoying Brunswick. It’s cool enough for an op shopping, gin swilling, truffle infused hipster like me without being too cool. You know, like, exhaustingly cool.

For example:

Brunswick cool – hey look, I found a vintage Petula Clark record from 1976 released on K-Tel in the Brotherhood of St Lawrence Op Shop. Awesome!

Fitzroy cool – Ugh, that’s so basic. Don’t you know Petula Clark stole her sound from a Japanese singer named Pei Turamoto who released one album of experimental Nippo-pop in 1959 that only sold 24 copies? I own the only copy in the southern hemisphere.

I don’t want to be Fitzroy cool. I don’t care if my vintage jacket is by Swiss Model rather than the obscure young designer who killed herself after Mary Quant stole all of her ideas. I like being able to buy my gin from Dan Murphy’s rather than having to know the small batch distiller personally. I prefer being able to buy a Petula Clark record from 1976 for $2 at an op shop rather than having to get my hands on the album of her Japanese contemporary by winning it in a high-stakes poker game in an underground opium den in Macau.


Fortunately there's plenty of my kind of cool to go around. Here are today's purchases, for a total of around $12:


And then there's the rejects:



'There's a party on with Rolf Harris' is now more of a warning than an enticement. And, from the well-worn trope of horrifying Christian album art...


To be fair, if I had hair like that I'd be a happy Christian too.


Wednesday, April 13, 2022


I spent my first full day in Melbourne just wandering about, window-shopping and coffee-swilling, acquainting myself with my environment. While in Melbourne I’m staying in the neighbourhood of Brunswick, an area in which I haven’t spent a lot of time. But I like it. It’s a little further from the city than my usual haunt of Richmond, but it still has interesting shops and cafes, a couple of tramlines running through it, and at least two jazz clubs, so I’m happy.

The last time I was in Melbourne I noted that the trend among shop names was for cutesy phrases that sounded like the title of hipster children’s books (eg Myrtle and the Magic Ocelot). Four years later, after two years of pandemic-induced social brutality, there’s no patience for whimsy any more. The trend now is for good old-fashioned Gen X irony. There’s a shop called Mud which sells extraordinarily expensive dinnerware, presumably because said dinnerware is primarily made, in a very basic sense, of wet clay. But that’s a little like having a pet store called Carbon, Oxygen and Hydrogen. Meanwhile the Concrete Jungle Trading Company doesn’t sell products made by inner urban street people, but rather overpriced sneakers made by rural peasants in China. The Main Street Cafeteria sells $27 organic yoghurt, not sausage rolls or mac and cheese. I haven’t yet found a shop called Stop Wasting Your Money On Stupid Shit, which probably sells minimalist designer doorknobs, but it’s only a matter of time.

Like many older Melbourne suburbs, the back streets of Brunswick are filled with rows of almost unbearably charming 100 year old cottages, except for the occasional spot where one burned down in 1974 and an Italian immigrant thought to himself, “Now here’s an opportunity to work my concrete and onyx magic!” Fortunately the remaining cottages are generally bought and restored by privileged white people who understand and value their cultural semiotics. Modern immigrants tend to look at them once and then figure that there’s more space, for less money, in the outer suburbs, where they can build their giant sterile boxes with acres of cold grey tiled floors and space for family dinners for 800.

However, sometimes land value increases so much that not even charm can save the old cottages, and a brand new building goes up. New buildings in Melbourne are not without their little bits of style and flair, but unfortunately they tend to follow the less (effort)-is-more (profit) principle set by Sydney. I’m staying in a townhouse that’s a veritable symphony of corner-cutting and architectural hostility. The rooms are as small as the developers thought they could get away with. There are little signs, like the bathroom wall tiles stopping an inch short of the windowsill, or an inch-wide ledge interrupting an otherwise featureless wall, or a backyard that’s literally two feet deep, that betray the lack of care and attention to detail in the building. That, and the fact that the cheap doorknob on the front door keeps falling off. Perhaps I should go to Stop Wasting Your Money On Stupid Shit and get a new one.

Tuesday, April 12, 2022


Travel isn’t as easy at it once was – remember when the thing preventing you from doing it was as basic (in the Millenial sense) as a lack of money? One of the legacies of the pandemic has been government requirements for everyday activities becoming arduous, complicated and apt to change very quickly without notice. In the days leading up to my intended flight to Melbourne, I actually became quite anxious about the whole scenario.

And so, after consuming dire news stories about lengthy queues at our overloaded airports, and worried about delays caused by endless health scans and vaccination checks, I got up at dawn and arrived at Perth airport three hours before my 10.30am flight.

It was not a heaving scene of chaos. It was completely deserted, apart from the occasional FIFO worker in hi-vis wandering in for his flight back to a mine site. There was one single Virgin attendant, who was so bored that she leapt at the chance to check my bags for me.

Upstairs at the security check there was not only no queue, there were no other passengers. Far from wanting to check my temperature or my vaccination status, they barely wanted to check my bags. All of the enhanced anti-terrorism rigmarole of removing belts and shoes and bottles of liquid seems to have been abandoned. As such, twenty minutes after I arrived at the airport I was sitting in a cafe at the boarding gate eating breakfast.

Several hours later I landed at Melbourne airport, and discovered where all of those stories about queues and chaos had come from. The airport was like a train station in Calcutta, with people crammed into every corner, sitting in the corridors, queuing for security checkpoints and toilets and vending machines. It seems as if, after attaining the dubious honour of being the Most Locked Down City in the World, Melburnians are all desperate to be somewhere else.

Well, not Perth, obviously; no one is that desperate, and we wouldn’t let them in even if they were. But there’s a whole other world out there.


Monday, April 11, 2022


It's been nearly three years since I updated my blog, which I use primarily as a travel journal these days. I wonder why that is? My inherent laziness? Changes in technology and social media use? A global pandemic that's killed over 6 million people and encouraged the corporations and governments worldwide further into totalitarian overreach?

Oh yeah, that's the one.

But now that the pandemic is receding - or rather, now that the draconian restrictions are being loosened in an only vaguely related development - travel once again becomes a possibility. I booked a trip to Melbourne back in 2019 which I've been forced to postpone twice, but it finally seems to be going ahead. I'll be flying out in a little over 24 hours, assuming I don't get COVID or wear the wrong mask to the airport or misspell "bastards" on my travel permission documents.

As usual, I have little Lego friends to accompany me and be my selfie proxies. The Lego Corporation would probably refer to them as Skating and Bludgeoning Enthusiasts, but I call them Tony and Tonya. They're both fabulous, of course, but I think Tonya may have some anger management issues.