The roller-coaster at Luna Park, St. Kilda, Melbourne, Vic. Australia

On my recent trip to Melbourne I passed Luna Park (an old amusement park opened in 1912) in St. Kilda on the way to Acland Street and I thought it might be good to get a photo of the entrance.

The entrance to Lunar Park in St. Kilda

As I walked through the car park along the side of Luna Park I noticed the wooden roller coaster and how unsafe it looked (to my untrained eyes at least). Quite a few of the upright timbers of the supporting structure looked as though they were beginning to split. The ends of the many of the cross members were rotting and the bolts fastening them to the uprights appeared to be fairly rusty. I took a few pictures and I can assure you that most of the timber work where I stood looked like what  you see in the three photos below.

The timberwork of the Lunar Park roller coaster

I didn’t have to hunt around to get these shots, they were in plain view as there were so many choices of ratty looking timberwork to choose from.

When I was a kid I thought that those old style roller coasters were dangerous and I didn’t like going on them because I feared that they’d fall apart when I was on them. After looking at the roller coaster at Luna Park, I wouldn’t get on one even if a gun was held at my head.

Giant reclining Buddha at Wat Pho, Bangkok, Thailand. Oct 2007

The giant gold covered reclining Buddha at Wat Pho is an incredible 46 meters (about 150 feet) long and 15 meters (nearly 50 feet) high.  Wat Pho is not only a temple that houses a truly amazing statue, it is also a tour de force on a grand scale of Thai decorative arts and gilding and I’d highly recommend that if you’re in Bangkok that you visit it.

As with most of the well known temples in Bangkok, beware of seemingly helpful people either outside or near by who tell you that the temple is closed for whatever reason.  They are con artists and will try to get you into a tuk-tuk (a three wheeled motorcycle taxi) to take you to another temple they recommend but in fact you will eventually be taken to various merchants (like tailors or gem sellers) who they get a kick back from.

Be warned that if you go with the tuk-tuk driver offered, things can get quite nasty very quickly if you don’t buy something at the place they take you.

H.M.A.S. Otway. Holbrook N.S.W. Australia

Considering that Holbrook N.S.W. is over 200 km inland, it is surprising to see signs along the highway connecting the town with the submarine H.M.A.S. Otway. 

The Holbrook Hotel

 It is even stranger to see a full-size submarine surfacing through the grass in a small town.

HMAS Otway

When I first saw the submarine from the car, my immediate thought was how the local Chamber of Commerce had just grasped at a straw of an idea to get passing traffic to stop in their town.  It is a truly surreal sight, and it’s not until you actually take a closer look and read the attached signs that one is made aware of what the connection is between submarines and the town of Holbrook.
 
The town of Holbrook first started off with the name of Ten Mile Creek but by the mid-1800s there were so many Germans living in the area that it’s name was changed to Germanton.  By the time the First World War rolled around, it was considered an unpatriotic name and was renamed Holbrook after a British submariner named Norman Douglas Holbrook.
 
 Lt Holbrook was awarded the first Victoria Cross given to a submariner by navigating his obsolete B11 submarine (built in 1905) 

Model of the B11

 through the five lines of mines in the Dardanelles to torpedo the Turkish battleship Mesudiye.

Further attempts by the French and British at a similar feat ended in failure and submarines being sank.  When a British and French fleet decided to take on the guns guarding the Dardanelles three more ships were sunk with a loss of life not seen in the British navy since Trafalgar. That naval disaster consequently led to the idea of taking the guns guarding the Dardanelles by land, which in turn became the great military disaster that we all know as Gallipoli.

So there you have it, Holbrook was named after a British WWI submariner and as a consequence, has a 1960s Australian sumbmarine in a park by the highway.

Kugelhopf at the Monarch. Acland St, St. Kilda, Vic, Australia

In this day and age of bland franchises and shrinking diversity it is a pleasant surprise to visit St. Kilda’s, Acland Street just to see some old fashioned bakeries. Much to the credit of the people who own the cake shops that caught my eye, their stores look like something from a bygone age. No cutesy plastic signage and “designed” interiors, just old style European cakes in the windows with scant regard to current merchandising trends. Real honest to goodness cakes that are the antithesis of what one sees in so many cake shops here in Australia and many other countries outside of Europe that I’ve visited.

Amongst these old fashioned shops is the Monarch Cake Shop which isn’t as big and flashy as the rest but has an old world charm that pulled me in to try their chocolate kugelhopf.

Kugelhopf at the Monarch

The kugelhopf served at the Monarch is more like the kind one might find in Austria rather than Alsace and has a chocolate filling. The texture and flavour of the kugelhopf provoked a cascade of thoughts as I was eating, about when chocolate was new to Europe and what sort of things the they would have made with it. It’s not often that a cake with coffee stirs so much thought in me. It was worth every cent I paid just for the daydreams it caused.

Brushtail Possum (Trichosurus vulpecula) at Liz and Karl’s. Melbourne, Vic, Australia

On a recent trip to Melbourne we (my wife Engogirl and I) visited our friends Liz and Karl for dinner in their back yard.

From the left, Karl, Liz and Engogirl

Karl made three delicious dishes for the main meal, Boeuf Bourguignonne, Goat Rendang curry and avocado salad which was followed up with orange cake and mango for dessert.  I know the purists out there are rolling their eyes but it all went together very well.

As we were tucking into our dessert a Brushtail Possum (Trichosurus vulpecula) dropped in to see if it could mooch some food. 

Brushtail Possum (Trichosurus vulpecula)

Australians reading this blog will know that Brushtail Possums are very common but I’m sure any foreigner visiting here would be charmed to see one so close. Many people feed the possums and they can be quite bold and for that reason one should be very careful around them as they can do a lot of damage with their sharp teeth and claws if they decide they are under some kind of threat.

Mike Stasse is concerned about peak oil. Cooran, QLD, Australia

Mike Stasse is one of my oldest friends (here in Australia) and he is the owner of the “Running on empty Oz“, peak oil discussion group. “Peak oil” refers to the imminent decline of oil production.

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Mike and his wife Glenda have moved to beautiful Cooran in Queensland and are getting ready for what they see as the inevitable chaos that will result from the shortage of oil by becoming self-sufficient. Two years ago, my wife and I visited Mike and Glenda on their land as Mike was still building the outside of their self-designed and built home.

the unfinished exterior. Photo by Mike Stasse

 We stayed with them for about three days. During our time together we were shown their permaculture garden,

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solar electricity system (they sell electricity to the power company when they have excess) and various other ecologically sustainable systems that have installed, such as:

  • A simple off the shelf greywater system that uses no power
  • A kitchen greasetrap that works with compost and worms, no odours, no maintenance to speak of 
  • A zero flush toilet that saves thousands of litres water a year

It is a lovely house in a beautiful setting. The picture below was taken from the back window at sunrise, looking out towards Mt. Cooran.

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It takes courage and commitment to do what Mike and Glenda are doing. The sort of courage and commitment that I sometimes wish I had, but I will be instituting some of their ideas into our next house we buy later on this year.
 

Pesticide free tomatoes

To avoid using pesticides on our home grown tomatoes, Engogirl and I tie paper bags around them with twist ties when they are very small to stop the bugs getting at them. The paper bags are surprisingly robust and stand up to the rain without any problems. Sometimes we have to change the bags because the clumps of tomatoes get so big that they burst open the bags.

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The bags shown in the photo above have already survived several downfalls of rain.

We found out about this through Engogirl’s uncle who has a green thumb and a healthy distrust of all pest control chemicals.

Home grown tomatoes taste so much better than commercially grown tomatoes. I can’t bring myself to buy tomatoes any more now that I grow my own. It really makes me angry when I see the nasty tomatoes that are on offer in the supermarkets. Apparently the supermarkets are the ones that are demanding that farmers grow varieties that have thicker skins allowing them to travel well and look good on arrival rather than taste good. 

Mark and Sonia

Last night my wife (Engogirl) and I had Mark and Sonia over for dinner.

from left is Sonia Engogirl and Mark

They have just come back from a rock climbing trip to France and Greece. I’ve known Mark for about 16 years and we used to go ski touring and climbing a lot together. It was great to catch up with them as we haven’t seen them for about six months since we went to their engagement party.

I particularly enjoy cooking for Mark as he is a Chef by trade and always appreciates the effort I go to when I entertain. Since it is so lovely at this time of the year during the night, we ate al fresco in our backyard.

For the main meal we had a Jamie Oliver inspired recipe of lamb kofta kebabs (minced lamb with pistachios on skewers) barbequed over charcoal with salad all rolled up in burritos.  For wine we started with a lovely chilled sparkling Shiraz by Bleasdale followed by a very easy to drink shiraz called “Jester” by Mitolo.  For dessert we had peche al forno (baked peaches with little Italian biscuits called amaretti mixed with egg white as filling) with my original recipe home made tangy pear and mint sorbet.

Last night’s get-together is an example of one of my favourite ways to spend time.  Good friends, wine and food.