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We weren’t meeting J until after lunch, so we took the time to go into the city to Dymocks … an extensive bookstore in one of the many shopping arcades, rather like an expanded Waterstones. We window shopped a few titles (I took photos on my mobile, so as to look them up in the UK … books are quite expensive in Aus, quite apart from their weight being an issue when packing), and then went exploring, before deciding on a late breakfast/early lunch at ‘32’ in the Manchester Unity Building Arcade … an Art Deco/neo Gothic building created to house the headquarters of the International Order of Oddfellows (Victoria) in 1932.

click on image for link/info

We didn’t have time to take the official tour of the building, once the tallest in Melbourne, but it would be very interesting to do so.

Instead, we took the train from Flinders Street (another iconic building) to Croydon, via places with familiar names such as Richmond, Camberwell, Chatham, Mitcham and Ringwood …

Again, click on image for more detail

Many of the local place names must have arrived with the settlers, though they are geographically all over the place, Montrose being near Croydon, on the way to Windsor, for example.

J was there to meet us, as we had texted her the train times, so we set out immediately for the Dandenongs, part of the Great Dividing Range of mountains. Breathtaking views … and today the clouds were especially spectacular, too. J’s friend Beth, who lives on the mountain, had offered to show us around, and to give us afternoon tea … so we picked her up and she directed us to the Rhododendron Gardens. The planting, especially of Mountain Ash, is impressive both in scale and height. We took the Lyrebird path, and although we did not catch sight of a Lyrebird, we did see Black Cockatoos and various other parrots. There is a Japanese feel to some of the ponds and architecture, too.

Then back to Beth’s amazing Vicarage … on a steep slope, backing on to the national park. Everyone was excited to see Black Cockatoos again, feasting on cones in the trees.

Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoo

It was inevitable with three clergymen in attendance that they would talk ‘shop’, but it was lovely to feel so welcome with friends of friends, when so far from home. Beth is British, too … so we had more in common than simply our husbands’ jobs!

Beth and Andrew live in a fire risk area, so every summer they have to be prepared to leave the mountain in a hurry. It last burned 7 years ago, though they have only been there for three … but they are always alert to the risk. In 1963, the fire burned up the mountain in only 6 minutes, and they are an hour’s drive from safety.

J took us home and fed us before we once again caught the train back to the city, this time from Ringwood. There is an all night light festival in the city tonight, and the train was fairly full. We sat opposite four young girls, obviously out for the night on the town, but who engaged us in conversation, seemingly quite excited to be talking to visitors from so far away (‘Do you live near New York?’ – sorry, wrong country), and fascinated to discover their familiar place names were not original to the locality (not that they’d heard of Plymouth!).

So another full, satisfying and varied day.

Brighton Beach


Friday was a cool day, so … we went to the beach! Cool by Melbourne standards suits us very well, so we had Brighton Beach to ourselves. The short row of bathing huts (= beach huts) are famous, colourful … and expensive. Clearly quite an exclusive area, there are no ‘shacks’ or even restaurants along the Esplanade, so late morning we turned round and walked back to the railway station, to buy some lunch to take home with us, which we ate on the balcony of our apartment.

We packed a picnic, and set out again, arriving at the MCG around 2:30pm … although the ladies international T20 game was already in progress, I took time to explore before settling in to watch the match between Australia and new Zealand – it was rather one sided, Australia winning easily. In a stadium seating 100,000, there was a crowd of around 200, and it felt rather like watching a village cricket match.

The stadium is stunning … the facilities extensive (though most were closed until much later) … and clean. It all looked very efficient – there were plenty of stewards to talk to about anything.

After the afternoon match, the stadium began, slowly, to fill … most arriving just before the evening game began. For entertainment in the meanwhile, there were several groups of school children playing a short version of the game, alongside various cricketers warming up, practising a multitude of skills … there was equipment spread across the entire field at one point. We watched as the boundary rope was removed (it’s shorter for the ladies’ game), nets were erected, white lines were painted … all fascinating stuff. And watched as the media conducted interviews, took group photographs (no idea of whom) and generally got in the way. We had little idea of what was going on most of the time, but it was indeed very entertaining!

Eventually, there were around 42,000 spectators … and at least half of them were Sri Lankan … so the crowd was very active once the game began. It’s all geared to create an atmosphere: gas jets ignite and there are fireworks for every 6 and every wicket; between overs there is music and there are dancers; the hoardings show pictures and statistics for every player; wides, no balls etc are announced with sound effects; even the safety warnings are announced by well known players (male and female) on screen; and the PA is active in initiating chants through the use of well known music anthems or rhythms (some familiar from PAFC!). There was even a ‘colour crew’ going round offering face painting in national colours … though once the game began they were more of a hinderance than anything, blocking the view with their banner!

And it was an exciting game … Sri Lanka eventually winning with a boundary off the last ball … by which time it was very late indeed. We followed the crowds towards the city, to pick up a tram home, eventually coming in well after midnight … altogether a very satisfying day.


Yesterday we caught the tram just after 8am, and it was crowded with school children, crammed. Today, we went to catch the tram just after 9am and it was almost as bad, so we crossed back over the road to take the train – it was much quicker and almost empty! Not as scenic, but a different route into the city was interesting all the same.

We picked up the city circle tram and were aiming for the Old Treasury Museum, but overshot the stop, and instead got off at Parliament. We noticed that there were free tours, so we took the opportunity. It’s a wonderfully ornate building, based on our own houses of parliament, though the upper chamber is elected, and both chambers are rather smaller. It’s quite hard to remember that this is a state parliament, rather than the federal … but then, Victoria State has the same land area as the whole of the UK, albeit with 1/10 of the population.

We learned some interesting facts … 22 nationalities among the elected MPs but no aboriginal (indigenous) members, two dominant parties in the lower house (the Assembly) but minority parties form the majority in the upper house (the Council) … all intriguing stuff.

And the security was tight … airport scanners etc … even though the place was packed with visitors and school children … so it took some time to get our party through security, even though there were only around 20 of us.

We then wandered back down the road to the Treasury Museum, built in the mid-1850s to store gold from the gold-rush … but only completed as the rush began to slow, so it was never used to it’s full potential and soon became an office block extension to Parliament. Nevertheless, it was our type of history – a suite of rooms in which the caretaker and his family lived up until 1920 … laid out as they had it, kitchen, parlour, scullery, bedroom – a display about the Soldier Resettlement Scheme post WW1 – another on the bushrangers, including the well known story of Ned Kelly and his gang. And the story of the architect of the building who went on to build many of the historic buildings across Australia and elsewhere – only 19 years old when he was appointed. All really interesting.

We found lunch in the Collins Street Arcade … one of the iconic, expensive shopping districts (there are several) … in the food hall … quite a sight itself. We settled on Burritos, really tasty, before walking on to St Paul’s Cathedral to meet up with J. We were rather early so visited the tourist centre across the road, and the souvenir shop (interesting to compare prices of identical articles from place to place … ), before spotting J on the steps opposite. We said Hello, then Tim wandered off to do the MCG tour, while J and I went off to spend time talking over tea and cakes … firstly at the open air patisserie in the square, and afterwards at David Jones (think expensive John Lewis). We talked more ‘clergy wife’ than ‘girlie’ but it was a lovely time, and made arrangements to meet again at the weekend, before walking together to the station, so once again I took the train ….

I like this system – the destinations are linked directly to the platform, so there’s never any confusion – trains to South Yarra are always on platform 6 – but I hopped on a train doing the ‘City Loop’ before heading south, so had a view all round the city and of the major stations, before heading in the right direction – it probably only added 5 minutes to the journey.

Tim wasn’t feeling too good, so we settled in for the evening, and I had opportunity to crochet, and to watch a series of episodes of … Criminal Minds!

One of the things we have in common with J&L is theology … so we were delighted when L suggested we join him for a preaching conference during our stay. We met at a city centre church … an older building, very traditional, but with a lively ministry especially amongst students (there are at least 7 universities in Melbourne!). It’s a convenient, central venue, so we were able to take the tram and arrive in good time.

There were three talks, interspersed with times of prayer and refreshments – and over by lunchtime, too – the benefits of a 9am start 😮

The first session was entitled The High Price of Preaching (1 Kings 19:1-18) by Mike Raiter of the Centre for Biblical Teaching … an inspiring look at discouragement in ministry. He then went on to look at God, Preaching, and ‘the Anointing’, a rather less satisfactory offering on power in preaching – basically be faithful to God, the text and the congregation. Then we had a time of prayer in groups … how wonderful to be prayed for by folk living 10,000 miles away, as we prayed for them and they for us. After refreshments (fantastic cookies!), Murray Capill of RTC Australia spoke on Great Expectations: What does God expect of preaching and what should we expect? which was excellent (click on the image above for resources).

Afterwards, L suggested we try Korean for lunch … Op-Pa apparently means ‘elder brother’, but we were unable to discover the context for the name of the restaurant. The menu was basic, explaining the flavour but not all the ingredients, so my KFC (Korean Fried Chicken) was indeed in a garlic soy sauce and came with pickled radish and Korean coleslaw (!) as listed, but there were also unexpected potato wedges and I have no idea what the chewy bits were! It was sweet but delicious. Tim had a beef curry – not too hot, and the curry sauce was very tasty, while L had something less recognisable, bulgogi, served with a quite normal side salad. And all very reasonable. I’ve noticed too, that most restaurants serve ‘table water’ so drinks need not be an added cost.

(In fact, water is available in all sorts of places – such as water fountains in public places, including those with the facility to refill bottles and to fill a dog bowl!)

We went our separate ways, Leroy to catch a train, and ourselves homeward, walking first through the botanic gardens to a cup of tea at the lake, before catching the tram home – it was quite warm by now, around 30C, so we reckoned on cooling down in the aircon at the apartment, and packing a picnic, before setting out again for our second concert at the Music Bowl.

There were fewer people this evening, though the arena still felt full, the gates weren’t closed and people drifted in throughout the evening. Apparently there were 12,000 on Saturday, many of them settling around the outside of the arena once the gates were closed, so somewhat less than 10,000 tonight. It was warmer, too … though once darkness falls, so does the temperature. Not such a familiar programme tonight, but enjoyable all the same. I had time to notice that all the instruments were individually mic’d, which explains the quality of sound – they must use an awesome mixing desk.  

Yet again, we took the tram home … we are making good use of the system, and with a cap of $8.40 a day, it’s good value all round.

Not a single photo today!!


I took so many photographs … these are just a selection! Click on any picture for a larger image and slideshow, or hover over an image to read the caption.

Bird Display

R from church arranged to come and collect us … but didn’t take the traffic at that time of day into account … so while we waited out by the station, we enjoyed the time we spent people watching …

R & L took us out to Healesville Sanctuary, a bush zoo, populated with injured and rescued animals … all sorts! So we saw: koala, wallaby, kangaroo, wombat, platypus, dingo, emu, cassowary … and birds, all sorts of birds, parrots (though the parrot house was closed), waterfowl, raptors. There was a reptile house, creatures of the night, an animal hospital, and aviaries of various kinds. The planting was primarily natural – the zoo path being cut out of virgin bush – and the planting in the aviaries was impressive, too. A real taste of Australia. And the weather was perfect, cloudy all day, not too cool, but not too warm to enjoy the walking.

R provided everything, and graciously paid for our entry too. She carried sandwiches and drinks and fruit … and she and L were determined we were to see everything and everywhere! Although they don’t live far, L hadn’t been for over 10 years – the typical local attitude of not going where the tourists go, but she remembered really enjoying it; indeed, nearly everyone said it was the place to go.

I took so many photographs, not all of them of any value, but enough to record our day in some detail, including the incidental sights along the way – the yellow robin was delightful. I tried to concentrate on viewing, not photographing the flying display, however – unlike a typical display in the UK which would feature mainly raptors, this had birds of the parrot family, too … and was focussed on how birds adapt to the environment.

We had a lovely day, and I took the opportunity to buy a few more gifts from the souvenir shop, before R insisted on driving us back – we had offered to catch a train from the nearby station. Unfortunately, the traffic was just as bad, so in the end, we persuaded her to drop us off in Toorak Road for us to walk the rest of the way. We took a detour via the Burger restaurant, for an improptu Valentine’s Day meal. A perfectly suitable end to a lovely day.

From: The Hen Garden

It’s been a while …

… since I last posted; there’s been a lot going on. But while I’ve not had time to blog about the hens, they’ve not been neglected! Now that the building work is finished, we are able to let the hens out to free range … it took a while for the Three Amigos to find […]

Who’s the King of the Castle?

We had a bit of a move round to give us access the one last raised bed I still need to empty. The girls are now in a much more open space on some fresh grass – but I’m still reseeding much of that side of the garden after moving the other beds, so we will continue […]


That was easy! As the new girls began to show signs of laying – their comb getting brighter, and crouching – we began to take the back off the Eglu Go, so they had to go and share the nest box in the Cube when they wanted to lay … there were a few spats, […]

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