Due to predicted high temperatures up to 35* Celsius Bill, Barry and Nick set off from the Marngrook oval in Diamond Creek at the earlier time of 7.30am to meet up with Steve and Bruce at the Eltham tennis court rendezvous. It was good to see Ken there also to see the boys on their way and also took charge of taking the start photos.
The riding was warm, as the min temp had not dipped below 22*C, but with a following breeze was reasonably uneventful with the usual stops and coffee around 10.00am at the Fairfield Campus coffee shop. From thereon it was a gentle ride down the Yarra through Collingwood and Burnley across the Morell Bridge to Alexandra Parade to bbq on the banks of the river.
….the 1982 Mercedes fired into action and loaded with BBQ goodies it headed into Mighty Melbourne along the banks of the muddy Yarra River in Alexandra Avenue South Melbourne, it was a very hot day 34c and windy.
Lady Florence, Lynda and Sir Daryl pulled up in the shade of some mighty oaks to be greeted by the ever vigilant southern sea gulls. It had been an eventual trip with no air conditioning and a car pile up on the freeway plus bridge repairs on Swan st.
With the river as our vista plus river ferries traveling to and fro we fired up the council electric BBQs ready for the hungry and thirsty 5 riders, that had ridden from Diamond Creek and Eltham in support of fund raising to help with research to reduce prostate cancer, they had at this stage raised $300, this is an annual event held in late November.
All the bike riders arrived safely at 11-30 to the aroma of cooked sausages onions and tomatoes, cold drinks were most welcome and food hungrily took a close second place.
With lots of hugs and handshakes followed by many photos we all enjoyed a very happy time together, but we had to get home, the riders headed to Jolimont station for their return train trip and the support group headed back home along the highways guided by Linda with her vast knowledge of the city pointing out many historical sites as we headed back via Ivanhoe Rosanna and Greensborough.
Where do I belong? For me this is a fraught question, as it is for many migrants.
When the migrant ship Australis slowly manoeuvred out of Cape Town’s docks in December 1974 and set off for the open sea I stood on the deck and watched as the majestic Table Mountain, under the shadow of which I had been born, receded into the distance. I felt an enormous sense of relief and I vowed never to return. Then the mountain disappeared over the horizon and I felt as if I had escaped from a prison. I couldn’t stand the place, with its racist, authoritarian government and its ultra-conservative, pious Afrikaners, who had as much compassion for people of colour as a predator has for its prey.
I have now lived in Australia for more than sixty percent of my entire life, so this is clearly where I belong, right? The places of my youth have changed beyond recognition, so surely I now no longer belong there. And yet, I am not always sure where I really belong. The place where one has lived as a child and as a young person is indelibly engraved into one’s psyche, regardless of the passage of time. Its tendrils retain a firm hold over the years. And so it is with me.
What is it that binds us forever to the places of our youth? It is the landscapes, the shape of the trees, the native flowers and birds and animals, the smells. It is the accents and the unique local sense of humour of the people. Even after forty years away my heart still soars when I hear Cape Coloured people speak their distinctive Kaapse Afrikaans, or when I hear the clicking sounds of a black person speaking Xhosa or Zulu.
A few years ago I borrowed my brother’s car and drove along the road between Gordon’s Bay and Hangklip, near my home town of Somerset West. The road winds its way between the ocean on one side and steep mountains on the other. As a young man I went there nearly every weekend, having barbecues with friends or girlfriends, snorkelling and sunbaking.
I spotted some wild proteas on the slope of the mountain, near the road. When I stopped and walked up the slope I suddenly smelled the aroma of the fynbos, the local vegetation, and was overpowered by the familiarity of the smells. I can’t even remember having ever registered these smells when I was young. I was so excited that I kept sniffing at the plants. Then I realised if anyone spotted me they would probably think I had escaped from a mental institution.
During the forty plus years that I have lived in Australia I have naturally grown to love the smell and the shape of the gum trees and I adore the sounds of the warbling magpies and currawongs. They have also become a part of my psyche.
When I was working at the Glen Waverley Library five years after I had arrived in Australia, I came across a book called Wild Australia: a view of birds and men, with paintings and drawings by the Australian artist John Olsen. His illustrations struck a strong chord within me and I realised for the first time the extent to which Australia had become “my place”.
At the time I was a complete ignoramus as far as art was concerned and I had never heard of Olsen. I wrote to him that same day and explained how I had struggled to come to terms with Australia’s animal and plant life and landscapes, which differed so much from that which I had grown up with. I told him his art work had captured the essence of Australia’s places and it had made me realise that I really felt at home in my new country.
Ironically, when I am traveling in South Africa these days and I see a eucalypt or a callistemon with its red bottlebrush flowers, I immediately long for “home”. Such is the ambivalence of my belonging.
A couple of years ago I caught up with Johan, a university friend, in South Africa. It was the first time I had seen him since I had left my homeland all those decades ago. We had lost touch with each other when I departed, but now we were overjoyed to meet again.
“It’s so good to see you again after all these years, Tiens. I had heard somewhere that you had gone to Australia and I’ve often wondered how you were going there and what you were doing.” Then he added, “So when are you coming home?”
And for a little while there I felt I was ‘home’.
The writer Gillian Slovo, daughter of a South African political refugee, described this ambivalence perfectly in an article in The Bookseller of 31 January 1997:
North London is where I’ve lived most of my life. But there are things about South Africa that feel more like home to me … I have to deal with the fact that, like most exiles, I am at home in two places, and a stranger in both.
My children do not suffer from the same ambivalence as their father. When my son Neil was six years old I took him and a couple of his little mates to the local swimming pool one day. They were all sitting in the back of the car. I overheard one friend asking Neil, “Why does your dad speak so funny?”
“How do you mean?’ asked Neil.
“He doesn’t speak the same as us Aussies.”
“Oh,” Neil replied. “That’s because me dad’s an Afro. And me mum’s a Pom, but me – I’m an Aussie!”
It was 8-30 am Tuesday 31st October 2017 when we headed off by train to Flinders St Melbourne. the weather was fine and sunny, we arrived at the station and crossed the road to Federation Square and picked up our tickets for the Ferry ride down the Yarra River to explore Williamstown. We negotiated our fare with a lovely Chinese lady (Ching). After a hug and paying our fare we were informed the river was to high from overnight rain, a king tide and yesterdays strong winds the river water was too high to get under some up river bridges so we would have to walk downstream some good half hour to the Exhibition St ferry.
It was a lovely walk along the banks of the river we were soon spread out like Browns cows we were concerned we would miss the boat. However Mike hurried along and negotiated with the captain to delay his departure. There were a lot of passengers on board waiting to experience a Melbourne Historic River Cruise, the captain said if you fall overboard hold your arm aloft with a $5 dollar note in it and I will stop and pick you up. With a $100 note in your hand I will pick you even quicker but no money in your hand I will pick you up on my return trip if you are still afloat. The captain gave us a running commentary of the history of the buildings both residential and wharves commercial development and current usage today during the one hour plus journey. One water front 3 level home sold recently for excess of $9 million, and across the river the early high rise government apartments rent out for $80 per week.
We went under the Bolte Bridge, the West Gate bridge were 27 men lost their lives during construction. The river was awash with large ships many laden with large containers many from china there were lots of jetties, many boats and yachts, old war ships.
We pulled into the jetty and alighted beside a mine sweeper, it was a short walk to the active township which still had some lovely early architectural buildings, what craftsmen they were back around the 17 and 18th century around the corner down Nelson St. We ambled along amazed at what there was to absorb and into the Seaworks Museum. We were even more astonished with the history of Williamstown and the early history of the sailing ships and learned that each state in Australia had its own navy prior to Federation.
Time to sample the temptation of the Piers fish and chips $10. Andrew had secretly eaten a cut lunch he had brought along but that never stopped him from enjoying the huge feast put in front of him. We said good-bye to Pauline (Oh yes, after the traditional Hug) she had looked after us so nicely. Across the road by only 2 minutes it was suggested coffee was in order but before we could leave we had watch Andrew devour a large portion of Apple Strudel and Cream – he was heard to whisper to himself I hope we don’t have to walk too far!
We walked half a kilometer past some lovely old and derelict home to get to the rail station and guess who was last there?
Williamstown is the last or first station depending on where you wish to go and the station reflects its age. A 20 minute wait and we were on our way to Spencer St Station back into the noise, chaos of modern Melbourne, and people everywhere like ants going every which way.
We jumped on board the Hurstbridge train, just managed enough seats for us all, we headed towards home via the underground loop, we laughed and discussed our experiences of the day,
We all agreed the day had ended too soon (5pm) and one by one we disappeared from each other’s company as we got to our various home stations.
Another great adventure in Marvelous Melbourne …. “Ken’s quote”
Williamstown in a day.
Thanks Daryl for another pleasant OM:NI day out exploring Marvelous Melbourne. Who was to know that the high level of the Yarra due to heavy rain, high tide and a little wind would mean that the Ferry couldn’t sail under the bridges? The long walk from Fed Square to Jeff’s Shed was a big step for some. Apologies to Andrew in particular. We should have taken the advice of the booking Lass and caught the tram down to Spencer Street. We made it however and enjoyed the trip and the commentary from the Skipper.
The Maritime Museum at Williamstown –staffed by volunteers,was excellent. Especially the 90 years old film of a sailing ship rounding Cape Horn in a wild storm. That such a film was made so long ago and preserved for us to see what sailors of that era had to endure was an eye-popping opener! The Guide was very good and quite hospitable.
What can I say about ‘barra and chips’ by Gem Pier? A typical OM:NI meeting over a meal.
Coffee in the main Street of Willy, watching with envy as Andrew devoured an apple strudel – with cream – followed by a stroll back to the train Station for the trip back home. A great day.
Finished our travel and had an amazing time in Greece, followed the incredible journey of the ancient Greeks and their monuments….Tom & Heather.
Meteora a rock formation in central Greece. The 6 Eastern Orthodox monasteries are built on immense natural rock pillars that dominate this area.
My daughter Laura recently realised that, having reached the age of 70, my time on earth is beginning to peter out. “Would you please write me a letter that I can read once you’re gone, Dad?” she asked me recently.
“What sort of letter?”
“Just one I can read on days that I miss you.”
My dearest Laura
On the day that you popped out of your mum at the Royal Women’s Hospital here in Melbourne I was so happy to see you that I wept unashamedly. You were one of the ugliest babies that I had ever seen – yellow with jaundice and with a puffy face. Poor little thing, I thought sadly, no-one will ever want to take you out on a date. How wrong I was!
We bathed you in a small plastic bath on the kitchen table. The little bath was too big for you, so I would put my hand under your head and hold your head up to keep you afloat. I would look at you intently in the bath and try my best to imagine you as a schoolgirl and as a young woman, but I just could not. And look at you now!
When you were a little kid you were painfully shy, always clinging on to my leg whenever there was someone around that you didn’t know well. That certainly also changed. You are now one of the most extroverted people I know. But when you were small you were never shy with me. One morning they played Robert Palmer’s song “Simply irresistible” over the radio. “That’s you, Laura. You’re simply irresistible!” I picked you up and danced around the lounge room with you, singing along, while you shrieked with laughter.
We went to England when you were about two years old to visit Granny and Granddad. In those days we did not have much money and we were living on one income, so the overseas airfares for the four of us were a major expense. I suggested to your mum that she stayed on in England with you and your brother for a while longer after I had returned to Melbourne to go back to work. You remained in England for a further two months.
I was getting worried that you might have forgotten me completely by the time you got back to Melbourne. I was quite relieved when I met you at the airport and you put your arms around my neck when I carried you to our van. But as I was putting the bags in the boot, I heard you whispering to your mum, “Is that our Dad?”
Early in the piece I discovered that you had a really mischievous streak. Remember how you tricked me when we went to Warwick Castle in England. You were about six years old and we were walking on the castle wall. You peered through a gap in the wall and said, “Look down there, Dad.”
“No, I’ve got a terrible fear of heights. I can’t look down from here.”
“Just look down there, Dad. I want to show you something.”
Hesitantly I shuffled closer to the wall and peered down.
“Now just imagine you’ve fallen down and you are lying there at the bottom with all your bones broken,” you told me, laughing gleefully.
One of the highlights of my life was when the two of us went on that road trip to Queensland when you were thirteen. Your mum was visiting Granny and Granddad in England and we stayed behind. On an impulse we had decided to go to the Great Barrier Reef. It took us two and a half days to drive to Airlie Beach. You listened to a talking book and to your music CDs and read your books.
On the first day I stopped briefly to have a sandwich at a picnic spot next to the road. “Hurry up, Dad, we’re wasting time,” you nagged me. For a kid you were the best long distance traveller ever, never once asking how far we still had to go.
When we approached Airlie Beach in the late afternoon there was a hold-up in the traffic. In the distance we could see a bus and many cars, as well as the flashing lights of various emergency vehicles. As we approached I warned you, “I think there has been a terrible accident with a bus and there will probably be dead bodies. Close your eyes tightly and don’t look. I’ll tell you when we’ve passed the accident.” You peered eagerly through your window. Thankfully it turned out that the traffic jam was due to the torchbearer carrying the torch for the Olympic Games.
We went by boat to Hook Island and pitched our tent in the backpackers’ camping spot. It was sheer bliss.
Afterwards, we were just about to leave Airlie Beach to return home when you had your first period. I panicked. “Damn it, where is your mum when I really need her?” I groaned. In desperation I went into a pharmacy and asked the lady behind the counter for advice. You were totally unfazed by it all.
We had barely left Airlie Beach when you asked, “Hey, Dad, could we go to Sydney on the way back to Melbourne?” And that is what we did. Our whole road trip took a mere ten days. You never complained once. No wonder you have always been my very favourite travelling companion.
We sent you to a boarding school in Cape Town for six months when you were barely fifteen. I missed you so much that it felt as if my heart had been ripped out. Every week I called you. Your main topic of conversation was about money. “Dad, I’ve run out of cash. Can you send me some more please?”
The next year you went back to Cape Town, this time for the entire year. I’m not sure how I was able to survive it.
On your return to Melbourne you barely scraped through your VCE with very poor marks, despite having studied hard. Laura isn’t academically inclined, I thought to myself, but that’s not the end of the world. I’m sure she’ll find her place in life. But when you began studying nursing you aced everything and eventually went on to get your university degree. You certainly have found your place.
You haven’t lost any of that mischievous streak of yours. We would sit at the dinner table and you would describe in horrendous detail how you had seen a liposuction or a Caesarian operation at your work. I would start gagging on my food and beg you to stop. “Don’t be so precious, Tim,” your mum would admonish me. “You can see Laura is really interested in what she has experienced at the hospital.” But I knew full well that you were doing it on purpose to make me nauseous.
I am so very proud of you Laura, for what you have achieved and for the kind of person that you have turned out to be – one who respects and cares about your patients and about other people generally. You have brought me so much joy over the years. I will miss your cheeky smile enormously when I’m gone.
You will be reading this letter when I’m no longer here. You know me well enough to know that I would not want you to wallow in misery because I have departed from this life. You have your own life to get on with and other people who love you and who care for you greatly. You owe it to them to be positive and happy and to look to the future, instead of backwards over your shoulder at what has been.
Thank you for everything, dearest Laura. I was so blessed to have you in my life.
Laura (January 2017)
Tom and Heather’s travels continue :-
The Valley of the Fallen (Valle de los Caídos) near Madrid – a monument to those who died in the Spanish Civil War.
The monument precinct covers over 3,360 acres (13.6 km2) of Mediterranean woodlands and granite boulders on the Sierra de Guadarrama hills, more than 3,000 feet (910 m) above sea level and includes a basilica, a Benedictine abbey, a guest house, the Valley, and the Juanelos — four cylindrical monoliths dating from the 16th century. The most prominent feature of the monument is the towering 150-metre-high (500 ft) cross erected over a granite outcrop 150 meters over the basilica esplanade and visible from over 20 miles (32 km) away.