Tag Archives: Melbourne

Hell Ship

10 Jul

“Hell Ship”, written by Michael Veitch, is the true story of the “Ticonderoga” an American clipper ship that set sail from Liverpool in August 1852 bound for the city of Melbourne, in the fledgling colony of Victoria, Australia. When the ship arrived three months later it was a veritable plague ship – typhus had broken out onboard.

This is the story of that voyage, but is is also a story about people. Those that survived the voyage from hell, and those that did not. It is also a sort of love story: of Dr. James William Henry Veitch, assistant ship’s surgeon, and Annie Morrison, a woman from Scotland, who helped nurse the sick and dying. They became the great-great-grandparents of Michael Veitch.

The book is well researched and well written. The Ticonderoga’s ill-fated passage is carefully documented, from the arrival of its passengers at the embarkation centre in Liverpool, until it’s arrival in Australia, and beyond.

Powerful and moving, the book gives the reader a close look at what conditions were like for poor immigrants in the middle of the 19th century.

Highly recommended for anyone interesting in Australian history, maritime history, 19th century history, or true stories of the human condition.

Jesus Christ Superstar

6 Aug

I went to see the production of Jesus Christ Superstar that was put on by Jeannie Pratt’s “The Production Company” at the State Theatre in the Melbourne Arts Centre.

I made the mistake of reading a review of it in the Age newspaper before I went where the critic only gave it two and a half stars.  I should know by now that reviews are merely opinions and that the critic in question was not looking for the things I look for in a production of JCS.

The first complaint he had was that the voices of the leads playing Jesus and Judas weren’t strong enough for the roles.  My guess is that he was seated too far away to see that the entire cast was singing unmiked!  I don’t think my ears could have stood it if Rob Mills (Jesus) and Zoy Frangos (Judas) had been throat miked!  The only mic to appear on the stage is the prop one used by Judas in the title song.

The critic (I honestly can’t remember his name, sorry) also complained that the scene in the Temple where Jesus chases out the money lenders and vendors made no sense with the wild costuming.  It made a lot of sense, if you actually read the notes in the free programme provided where director Gale Edwards spoke about Jesus: “Everything he stands for, believed in and taught would be a confrontation to our capitalist system”.  I doubt it’s a coincidence that the costumes in the scene included hookers, Las Vegas style showgirls, gambling, and even Hollywood (as represented by Wonder Woman).  Less obvious was the personification of America, Uncle Sam, lurking on the scaffolding set watching the proceedings.

Paul Hughes was an excellent Caiaphas.  That part is a particular favourite of mine.  His voice is lucious and as ‘This Jesus Must Die’ and ‘Blood Money’ are two of my favourite songs, his glorious vocals made them a highlight.  The odd beard they put on him was a little off putting.  He looked alarmingly like Ming the Merciless.

I found this production very interesting.  The chemistry between Jesus and Judas was very different to other productions I have seen.  There seemed to be an element of homoeroticism involved.  Especially since the kiss of betrayal isn’t a quick peck on the cheek, but a tender kiss on the lips.  It actually added a deeper layer of pain and misery to the role of Judas.

A word about Zoy Frangos’ Judas.  Superb.  His is the first portrayal I have seen where, just before he suicides and is crying out that he’s been used, that I have realised that he is crying to God, not to Jesus!  It’s almost a duplication of Gesthemene, except that it ends in suicide rather than execution.

This production had the clearest portrayal of Jesus and Judas as the two sides of the same coin that I have ever seen.  Rob Mills and Zoy Frangos’ voices blended well together in their duets.  And you needed to be seated close to the stage to see that WTF look that passes between them when Simon Zealotes is handing out weapons.

A special mention of Trevor Ashley’s Herod.  His is the first Herod I have seen that has gone from ridicule to fear.  Towards the end of his song, Herod looks into Jesus’ face and sees something that makes him recoil in fear.  It makes the switch in the song from mockery to shrieking “Get him out of my palace’ make a lot more sense.

‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ is only on until 13th August.  If you haven’t got a ticket, do yourself a favour and grab one, if there are any left.  It was a full house on Saturday.

I give the production 4 and a half stars on my JCS appreciation scale.

The Newsman: 60 Years of Televisions

27 Nov

The memoirs of veteran Australian newsreader Mal Walden were always going to be an interesting read.  I just wasn’t expecting it to be so interesting that I sat up late on Saturday night until I’d finished it, because I couldn’t bear to put it down.

A deeply absorbing look at the early years of news in Melbourne, Australia, and at the life of Mal Walden.

Big stories that I remember from my childhood, like the Balibo Five, and Cyclone Tracy, hit me just as hard as the more recent ones I’ve lived through, like Black Saturday.

I freely admit that I stopped watching television news when Mal retired.  He had a joyful presence on air that made you feel that, even though the world was going to hell in a hand basket, it would eventually all turn out okay.

“The Newsman” is a must read for every student of current affairs, and anyone interested in the history of television.

Highly recommended.

Let Them Eat McDonalds

12 Jan

I don’t usually buy into any political bullshit, but there is something going on here in Victoria that I am deeply unhappy about.

A new children’s hospital is being built here in Melbourne at Monash, and the do-gooders are up in arms about plans to include a McDonalds in it.  Our Premier, Daniel Andrews, basically told them to piss off.  Have I mentioned I am starting to really like this man?

I agree with him 100%.  McDonalds in a children’s hospital isn’t about childhood obesity, or bad food choices, or lazy meals.  It is about giving sick children and their siblings a much needed treat.

I was a sickly child, not major hospital admission type sickly, but weak in the lungs, meaning every bloody winter was an endless round of colds and flu ending in lung infections, and on several occasions, pneumonia.  I also had allergies like no bugger’s business.

My parents knew how damn miserable I was most of the winter.  The rounds of doctor’s visits (even though my doctor was a sweetheart I adored) and pathology visits took their toll.  So my parents gave me little treats from time to time, when they could see I was getting badly down.

I remember having to sit for over an hour with my arms sticking straight out whilst a woman scratched various allergens into my skin to find out what I was allergic too.  To a little fidget like myself, this was almost intolerable.  Worse, with my arms straight out I couldn’t hold a book to read!  But I sat tight, because my mother promised me a special treat.  My very own tennis racket so I could hit balls against the side of the house.  I had wanted one for oh so long.  It was like being offered the Holy Grail.

My dad would buy me my favourite chocolate as a treat.  The long gone Cadbury’s Aztec.  A rich creamy chocolate centre surrounded by even richer chocolate.  I didn’t get chocolate often, so this was a treat to be savoured.  One occasion when I had pneumonia dad bought me the biggest block he could find!  It lasted about a month as I slowly ate it one delicious square at a time.

The usual treat from mum after a grueling doctor’s or path appointment was a trip to the local toy store near the doctor’s surgery.  They had a huge selection of books.  My treat was a new book.  The Hardy Boys books and the Trixie Belden books got me through many a miserable winter.

If McDonalds had been around when I was a child (we didn’t get a KFC until I was about 10 and I was in my early 20s before McDonalds shifted in), and I had liked it, it would probably have been my treat.

The point I am making is that sick and stressed children need treats.  To view McDonalds as nasty and horrible, and to ban them from hospitals takes away quite possibly the only thing making that hospital stay bearable for an ill child and their stressed, frightened sibling.

There is a special place in the Christian Hell for people who want to inflict that misery on children.

Hooked on Hooked

30 Mar

Since changing my dietary habits I have discovered that my body no longer appreciates deep fried food, especially deep fried starch, aka chips/fries.  This has meant that my favourite takeaway of fish and chips was off the menu.

Until yesterday.

A fish cafe by the name of “Hooked” has opened in Glenferrie Road, Hawthorn, selling “healthy” fish and other things.  I decided to have lunch there yesterday.  For less that $15 I got a fillet of grilled blue grenadier, asian greens and rice, and a bottle of organic fruit juice.  I have had meals in expensive restaurants that didn’t taste as good as that meal.  The fish was perfectly cooked, as were the greens.  The rice was lightly spiced and an excellent counterpoint to the fish.

Blue Grenadier is the house fish, and is from a sustainable source.  They also have specials which are dependent on what is available at the Melbourne Fish Market.

You can have your fish fish grilled, as I did, or fried in a light tempura batter.  Chips are available instead of the greens and rice.  For an extra $2.00 you can have salad instead of the other options.  I noticed several people had gone for the salad, and the servings were downright generous.  Over half the plate being covered with delicious looking salads.  The Asian Coleslaw looked particularly tempting.  I may try that next time.

The drinks cabinet is interesting.  There is a small array of the usual soft drinks, but “Hooked” mostly stocks juices and smoothies made by the New Zealand company Charlie’s.  The also carry a large range of the Phoenix brand of organic juices and soft drinks.  Phoenix is the organic arm of Charlie’s.

The layout is comfortable and roomy, with small tables along the walls, and large communal tables down the middle of the cafe.  Everything is clean, white and bright.  Condiments are arranged generously along the tables.  Sea salt, pepper in a grinder, tomato sauce, chilli sauce, and malt vinegar.  Homemade tartar sauce is available in small pots for a nominal amount.

Great food, friendly staff, and excellent ambiance make “Hooked” at great place to drop in for lunch any day of the week.


Winter of my Discontent

13 Jun

I hate winter.  I loathe being cold.  I loathe being wet.  And living in Melbourne that is basically what most of my winter consists of: being cold and wet.  Oh, and miserable.  Can’t forget the miserable.

I can imagine few circumstances where I could actually enjoy winter.  These involve a log fire, a plush sheep skin rug, wine or a good whiskey, chocolate and a gorgeous man.  The details I will leave to your imagination.

However, I don’t have that.  What I have is rain.  Lots and lots of rain.  It’s been raining since Tuesday.  It is now Friday.  It is supposed to continue raining until Thursday next week.

Not happy.

Bunnings have sold out of gopher wood. 

I’d seriously consider moving to higher ground, except for one thing.  It’s cold up there.  There’s snow on them there hills.  Snow is probably worse than rain.  It’s cold, wet and miserable all at the same time.  Not to mention people throwing handfuls of the stuff at each other, firmly convinced that they’re having fun.  I’ve had fun.  It doesn’t involve being cold and wet with attendant frostbite.

Have you worked out yet that I REALLY hate winter?

I have my eyes firmly glued on the calendar.  Friday 21st June.  Midwinter Solstice.  The longest night of the year.  After which the days slowly begin to lengthen and the slow crawl back to summer begins.  Right now I’d crawl across broken glass to get to summer.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ll huddle in a corner, close my eyes and imagine I’m curled up in front of a log fire….

*hangs up ‘Do Not Disturb” sign*


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