Federation Square

Federation Square in Melbourne is a great meeting place, and works so much better than City Square ever did. From early morning to late night, it seems there is always something going on. It is meeting place, starting place, festival place…often simultaneously. Last weekend we decided to go into Fed Square to meet friends who were bicycling in from Adelaide. They’d flown to Adelaide from Newcastle. They’d done Melbourne-Newcastle a couple of years ago and wanted to link the two by ending in Fed Square where they’d begun previously. They arrived, slightly later than anticipated due to Saturday traffic on the road from Sorrento. (Yes, they’d crossed on the ferry from Queenscliff to Sorrento, because perhaps riding up from Geelong wasn’t long enough???) They did then ride from Fed Square to Newport, catching the bike punt from Westgate Park. (they’d tried to catch the punt on their previous journey…but the punt wasn’t running) Anyhoo, here they are in Fed Square, adding up the kilometres of their journey. Over 1200 of them, even though each bike computer registered slightly differently (different wheel dimensions?)

We were there early but there was no need to sit twiddling thumbs. There was a multicultural festival running and food stalls lining the edge of the square near the river. Fantastic smells from everywhere…from Macedonia to Brazil, from Spanish to Ethiopian and everything else in between. Pity we’d already lunched. But it was fascinating. And after we’d walked the food aisle twice we sat and listened to music from Central America. Great beat, great costumes. There was also this great ?mandala? on the pavement…enormous and decorated completely in lentils and pulses and slices of carrot! Very striking.

Next day was my birthday and we went to the restaurant where my son works…Breizoz, a French creperie. There were 16 of us and we were in the chapel out the back. It’s a great space and the food was fantastic. Lovely to have so many there too. I like birthdays.

My niece picked these flowers and set them in a water glass before presenting them to me. They were exactly the colour of the table cloth and very pretty. We photographed them then they sat next to my wine glass. Tricky, because I kept almost picking the flower glass to sip water…hmm. Particularly tricky when my brother checked the flowers and pronounced them hazardous! We returned them to the garden and sent the glass to the dishwasher.

Writingwise…not a fast week. Too many competing activities, appointments etc. But two poems were shortlisted in a local poetry competition, another was picked up by ‘A Poem A Week‘ and will appear in the next few weeks. There’s been a nibble on a manuscript but I’m not reeling in the line just yet. And my computer is giving off a strange smell but a check failed to pinpoint the source…so we just have to wait for it to fail. Sigh.

Premier performance

The choir (Newport Community Choir…new members welcome) I joined about six weeks ago had it’s first public performance this morning. Some of the group had performed to a group of their peers in November, but for many of us, this was a first public appearance.

We were on stage at the local hall as traders plied their wares on the hall proper. We were introduced and performed seven songs in Latin, French, Macedonian and Southern Gospel english! A wide repertoire. Some were straight songs, other in parts or rounds.

Having a conductor to focus on is a great thing, it helps to ‘not see’ the audience and their responses. Different to presenting in a school where its just me solo up the front, performing to a group of children and adult/s.

Now to head into town to meet two cyclists at the near end of their journey from Adelaide to Melbourne on two wheels. They offered for us to join them from city to Newport, but although I received a bike at Christmas, I’m not sure I’m ready for any trip longer than the local shops.

One new challenge at a time.

Crime in the Nineteenth Century

No these flowers have committed no crime, in any century.

I went to a Genealogical Society of Vic seminar on Saturday where all four speakers were talking on the topic Crime in the 19C from their various expert perspectives. One was a retired judge who has done a lot of research from a legal perspective and entertained us with case studies from the period as well as the changing face of the law. A second talked from the perspective of police and policing in the period. He would have quite liked to tell us about his parallel passion – that of the aboriginal trackers who were employed by police. It was outside his brief but he did manage to slip in the odd comment or two. A third speaker spoke about the Public Records Office Victoria (PROV) and how to access documents relating to crime. The fourth described her presentation as fleshing out the skeleton provided by the other speakers. She talked about prisons, from a design and philosophy perspective and also took us in close for a look at daily life in a prison in the 1800’s.

The seminar was mainly targeted at those tracing specific people from early colonial Melbourne and included detailed insights into the vagaries of record-keeping. But it also gave a sense of life then, when women and children occupied the same jails as men, when weekly police gazettes included detailed descriptions of absconders alongside even more detailed descriptions of purloined trousers.

The period I’m particularly interested in is mid-1850s when Melbourne was a town undergoing adolescence…growing rapidly and struggling to cope with changes required, but also laying down the foundations of the Melbourne to come.

I came home with pages of notes in addition to the handouts. While I may not have fully grasped the Uhl index of criminal briefs, I do understand what a rich source of information the briefs are, reflecting much more than the crimes being tried.

There was something right too about the seminar being held in a basement, where the sights and sounds of today Melbourne could be filtered out to allow the echoes of that earlier town.

Earth tremors

Melbourne experienced an earth tremor last night. It wasn’t a biggy and only lasted a few seconds but it was enough to shake the house, enough to notice. The epicentre was approx 100 k south west of Melbourne, but within seconds of the tremor, reports were coming in from all parts of Melbourne…the wonders of the internet.

Within minutes, friends from all over the country were emailing to see if we were alright. The emails continued and several people revealed experiences of earth tremor/quakes from other times in their life. I learnt who had lived overseas in earthquake-prone countries and it generated discussion about various experiences.

I lived in PNG as a child, high in the hills on Bougainville Island. Earth tremors, or gurias, were common there. We lived in a narrow valley and the first signs of an approaching guria was aural. A rumble would build warning that the guria was approaching. We’d stop mid sentence, reach for unsecure treasures and wait. If we were in the kitchen, we’d reach out arms to hold closed the high cupboard doors. The floor would begin to shake. We’d wait as the shaking built then subsided taking the rumble with it. We’d replace the treasures and resume conversation. Hardly a mention was made of the guria, they’d become commonplace and unnoteworthy.

Occasionally the gurias would build into grown up earthquakes but not often. The houses we lived in had been constructed to withstand earthquakes and cyclones and in the time we were there, that’s what they did. I remember both with excitement rather than fear. The naivety of childhood, where consequences are the province of others.