Bruce Stainsby's Blog: Muttering from the mo

Bushfire relief drive: Take 2.

March 31st, 2021

After the devastating bushfires in south eastern Australia last summer, we decided to visit some of the worst effected areas.

Not to gawk but to spend some money and give back something to these communities that had been so badly hit.

That was not to be.

Once the seriousness of the COVID-19 pandemic became obvious and we went into lockdown, no travel, even so close to home, was possible.

Now, twelve months on, we decided to deliver on our promise and make our bushfire relief drive.

March 16, 2021. Melbourne to Lakes Entrance. 

Our first day away consisted of a rather longish drive to Lakes Entrance. This was broken with a coffee and lunch stop in Yarragon. This is a cute little ‘Coffee break town’ that’s just off the Princes Highway and set up for passing tourists, truckies and also the Gippsland Railway.

On the first night of our break, at the suggestion of the motel owner, we ate at the Kalimna Hotel. 

We needed to get a taxi there as it was a long walk, up a steep road, heading out of town.

This was a basic pub with a stunning view over the lakes.

Having become used to getting craft beer in many pubs these days, it was rather disappointing to discover that Great Northern Bitter was the most exciting brew they had on offer.

Believe me, this is certainly not a beer to write home about.

 

Stony Creek Trestle Bridge (1916)

March 17, 2021. Lakes Entrance. 

As we had two nights in Lakes Entrance, and the weather was fine, we decided to make this a day of walking.

Our adventure took us from the Log Crossing Picnic Area in Colquhuon State Forest to the Limestone Box Forest Track, then Armstrongs Track to the Gippsland Lakes Discovery Trail and Tramway Walk.

The aftermath of the bushfires was evident, but the regrowth had done a wonderful job of restoring the bush tracks.

The original Mississippi Creek Tramway was developed in the 1900s and used until the 1930s. It transported granite from a quarry in the area to the developing Lakes Entrance township, fishing port and tourist area.

In 1870 the town was originally called Cunninghame but became Lakes Entrance in 1915.

After the walk we then drove along the Uncles and Old Colquhoun Roads to the Stony Creek Trestle Bridge.

Built in 1916, when the rail line from Melbourne to Bairnsdale was extended to Orbost, it is the largest bridge of its type in Victoria and listed as an historic site.

Built from ironbark and grey box timber, it is 247 metres long and 20 metres high and was in service for over 60 years. Badly damaged by bushfires in 1980 it was finally closed in 1987.

That night we had dinner at Sodafish, a floating seafood restaurant right in the middle of the harbour’s fishing fleet.

Again, this restaurant was booked at the suggestion of the owner’s of the Sandbar Motel.

 

Suburu on Wheelers Hill (699m) McKillops Road

March 18, 2021. Lakes Entrance to Marlo via McKillops Road (C611).

Today we decided to drive one of the; ‘Most hazardous and dangerous roads in Australia’ as it has been described by the website ‘dangerousroads.org’

The McKillops Road drive is 80km along a gravel road, in the Snowy River National Park. Yes there are many narrow sections, with blind corners but it certainly isn’t the hairiest drive I have ever encountered.

We would have thought twice about taking the road if it had been wet, as there are many tight corners with steep drop-offs to the side.

The AWD capabilities of the Subaru were very useful and at no time did I feel as though we were in any danger.

In fact our drive from Beacon, in New York State, back to Harlem, in New York City in November 2017 was the the worst drive I have ever done – and that was on a sealed road in the rain.

A man made feature of the McKillop’s Road drive, is McKillop’s Bridge. This is situated about half way along the C611, near the confluence of the Snowy and Deddick Rivers.

The bridge is made of welded-steel trusses with reinforced-concrete piers and was built over the Snowy River between 1931 and 1936.

It is 255 metres in length and originally constructed as a stock bridge.

From there we drove to Marlo where we were booked into the Marlo Hotel.

There isn’t much in Marlo and the hotel seems to be the go-to destination, as that night the restaurant was full.

 

Kookaburra at the Mallacoota Coastal Reserve Caravan Park

March 19, 2021. Marlo to Mallacoota via Cape Conran.

The clouds have increased and the skies are much darker. This is all part of a large weather front that is developing over NSW.

Today we were driving the rather short distance from Marlo to Mallacoota, with a diversion to Cape Conran.

We had a good breakfast and excellent coffee in Marlo at the Snowy River Tackle and Cafe complex. There you can get live worms for your bait and Avo on Toast for your breakfast.

Just out of Marlo we could see, what is described on the map as, the mouth of the Snowy River.

This now appears to be blocked by a sand bar, as no exit was visible.

Steph, Ev’s partner, has spent many holidays camping at Cape Conran with her family, so we decided to visit it ourselves. 

The bushfires have certainly left their mark here and blackened trees can be seen almost reaching down to the water’s edge.

We then drove on to Mallacoota and, by total coincidence, checked into Bruce’s Waterside Units.

We were staying in the Captain’s Cabin, which was in fact an old school house.

The rain was threatening and we decided to go for an afternoon walk to discover the area before it got any worse.

Mallacoota is a haven for campers and fishermen, with much of the town taken up with caravan parks. Many of the campsites had boats parked next to the tents, vans and motorhomes.

It was in the Mallacoota Coastal Reserve Caravan Park that we discovers some wonderful Australian wildlife, in the form of two Kookaburras and a Koala.

They were every cooperative and I managed to get some good snaps.

That night we ate at the Mallacoota Hotel, which was just around the corner from the Captain’s Cabin.

The food was typically pub fair with a huge variety and well presented. I managed to find Balter XPA on tap. This was also available at Lakes Entrance and Marlo and a great improvement on the Great Northern Bitter that I had to endure on the first night. 

 

Bushfire aftermath at Genoa Creek Falls

March 20, 2021. Mallacoota.

The rain has come.

The severe weather warnings for NSW have now moved south over the border into Victoria. 

With the intermittent showers we decided that the best thing was to go for a drive around the Mallacoota area.

We discovered the Genoa River at Gipsy point on the Mallacoota Inlet.

This is an area for kayaks, fishermen and bird watchers.

No sooner had we arrived than a flock of swallows swooped down to where we were standing.

I believe that the swallow is one of the hardest birds to photograph. No sooner do they land than they take off again.

Here it was different, they seemed to want to be photographed. Maybe they had missed the tourists over the last twelve months or they were just tired and needed a break.

Anyway, they did settle long enough for me to change to a telephoto lens and get some shots.

It was then off to Genoa Creek Falls, an area that seems to have been particularly hard hit by the fires.

The falls are just off the Princes Highway, on a small, easy to miss track. After you park the car, there is a short walk and a flight of timber stairs leading down to the falls.

As a result of the bushfires, the stairs have been rebuilt and are now brand new. The bush around the falls is dotted with blackened tree trunks, fallen logs and singed bark hanging from the branches. 

I imagine during the winter, or after heavy rain the falls might be rather spectacular, but the day we visited there was barely a trickle running over the large red boulders.

After our drive we returned to the Captain’s Cabin and then it started to pour down.

That night we returned to the Mallacoota Hotel for dinner, as we hadn’t managed to find anywhere better and the beer, wine and food was ok.

March 21, 2021. Mallacoota to Mirboo North.

There was more heavy rain overnight and now it has spread to Melbourne. It looks like a wet drive to Mirboo North. 

The main reason we were visiting Mirboo North was to break the long return trip to Melbourne. It was a bonus that within this very small community is situated the Grand Ridge Brewery.

Being established in 1989, Grand Ridge is one of the oldest craft breweries in Australia.

As the website ‘craftypint.com’ puts it:

“The elder statesman of the Victorian microbrewery scene, Grand Ridge began offering full-flavoured ales to a nation of lager drinkers more than 20 years ago.”

This was an old article in Craftypint and in fact the brewery has been in operation since 1989. They therefore have been challenging beer drinker’s taste buds for over 30 years.

I had booked at the restaurant, not knowing how busy it might be on a Sunday night.

I shouldn’t have bothered.

There were only about six tables in a space that could hold far more. We went to the bar for a pre-dinner drink and that was even less crowded, with only on other person drinking there.

We had been told that the restaurant had recently been taken over by new owners. It had previously been run by the management of Grand Ridge. I think that the loss of trade during the pandemic and the lack of available staff since, had forced them to rationalise their business model.

The food was excellent as was the service and the beer that I started with. This was a West City Neipa 7.5%. The ‘Neipa’ stands for New England IPA and it is now made in the Grand Ridge Brewery.

Like so many good brew pubs, Grand Ridge provides their drinkers with a wide range beer styles. There were three sets of taps, each serving six brews.

We were staying at the aptly named 1st T Motel, which was right next to the Mirboo North Golf Club.

According to Google Maps it was meant to be a 20 minute walk from our motel to the brewery, but we took a short cut through the golf course, and did it in ten.

March 22, 2021. Mirboo North to Melbourne.

The motel provided us with breakfast, of sorts. This consisted of four slices of plain white bread with sachets of Vegemite, jam, honey and peanut butter. There was also a choice of Cornflakes, Rice Bubbles or Special K. Which meant that our entire breakfast was totally lacking in any nutritional value.

After a breakfast like that we needed a strong coffee, before the relatively short drive back to Melbourne.

We found that at Lamezleighs Cafe and Bar, which was on the main street of Mirboo North. The coffee was good but they did charge us for a mug when we had only ordered, and been served, a cup.

In a way I guess we were still putting money back into the community, but not the way we had intended.

The weather was still threatening but the rain did hold off.

It was a strange adventure, initiated by the devastating bushfires of 2020, postponed by the world wide COVID-19 pandemic and then interrupted by the ‘One-in-100-years’ floods in NSW.

It does seem that we are lurching from one disaster to another. 

Dogs are my favourite people.

February 28th, 2021

I am a dog lover and a serial dog ‘patter’.

I believe that every dog is unique, even if it’s a pure bred. They have wonderful personalities and when they look at you, I swear, they can see into your soul. 

So, as part of my computer drawing exploration, I decided to explore dog’s faces. 

Here are a few. 

 

 

Part of the family.

January 31st, 2021

As part of her Ghost Chasing (genealogy research), Thea came across Milicent Patrick (1915-1998).

Milicent, a second cousin, twice removed, was a Hollywood actress, makeup artist, costume designer, animator and special effects artist.

She worked from the 1930s to the 1950s.

In 1939 Milicent began working at the newly created Walt Disney Studios, where she became one of their first female animators. Here she was involved in the ground breaking animated movie, Fantasia and worked on four sequences, including the rather scary end scene, ‘Night on Bald Mountain’. Before leaving Disney she also worked on the animated film, Dumbo.

However Milicent’s most famous creation was done while she was at Universal Studios, here she designed the ‘Gill-man’ from the 1954 horror movie, Creature from the Black Lagoon.

As a promotion for the film, Milicent was sent on a press tour of the US called ‘The Beauty Who Created the Beast’. Bud Westmore, the head of the Universal Studios makeup department, was rather pissed off that Milicent was stealing his thunder and not giving him enough credit for developing ‘The Creature,’ which he didn’t do.

She was promptly fired on her return to Hollywood and for years her legacy was hidden.

The Milicent Patrick story has now been made into a book, The Lady from the Black Lagoon, by Mallory O’Meara, a self confessed feminist and horror film buff.

During her life she went by many names. Family history knows her as Mildred Elizabeth Fulvia di Rossi, but the world now knows her as Milicent Patrick – the creator of the Creature.

Souvenirs of a different kind.

December 21st, 2020

In our travels we have visited many brewpubs. 

As the rise in popularity of craft beer increases, they are now scattered all over the world.

Wherever possible I souvenir their beer mats. 

Not every establishment has them but where they do, I try and grab at least two fresh ones for my collection. 

In a year without travel, I have found them to be an enjoyable reflection of our past adventures. 

Here are a few from my collection.

 

And now for something completely different.

November 28th, 2020

It’s been ten years since I started blogging and what a tenth year this has been.

With too much time on my hands I decided to do something different and learn some new skills.

Computer drawing was one area I hadn’t had much experience or confidence in doing.

Drawing Australian animals became the theme. 

I should have used Illustrator, but I’m much more proficient at InDesign, so I bent the rules and used that instead.

(This is a disclaimer) I used a combination of Google photos and illustrations as a basis for my own illustrations. This means that they are not entirely original, but an amalgamation of styles.

 

Now the craft is in the label.

October 31st, 2020

I love craft beer.

So much so that when we travelled across the US, from west to east and visa versa, we always looked for a brewpub first for the evening meal.

These places not only had great beers but also excellent wines and food. Their food and drinks were well priced, and they weren’t a slave to the US practice of tipping.

Most of the owners paid their staff a good basic wage and therefore they weren’t reliant on a tip to survive.

Most craft breweries have a very different approach to creating and marketing their products. Especially compared to the big breweries, who are just after volume and usually develop beers that are basic and designed not to challenge the drinker in any way – they don’t want to offend.

Over the last few years I have seen a profound change in the design of beer labels.

The craft breweries’ strategy of creating a unique product now extends to their labels as well.

The first craft beer that I discovered, with a very different marketing approach and attitude, was BrewDog. This Scottish brewery has become international with manufacturing in the USA, Europe and now Australia.

However their labels were nothing to brag about. Their point of difference was their attitude and they did go out of their way to offend in as many ways as possible.

It certainly didn’t damage their sales.

As the craft beer market, both in Australia and around the world has becomes more crowded, brewers needed to find another edge.

Now the label has become a tool to express their point of difference.

Below are a few that I have discovered.

BrewDog (the original) from Scotland. Brio from Berlin, Kaiju from Melbourne, KCBC (Kings Country Brewing Collective) from New York, Mikkeller from Copenhagen and the very minimalist designs of Singlecut, again from NYC.

 

 

We have just spent three weeks in France
during our lockdown in Melbourne.

September 21st, 2020

For three weeks of our second COVID-19 lockdown we managed to escape, not only from Melbourne, but from Australia, and tour France. 

Thanks to SBS and the Tour de France. 

Starting in Nice on Saturday August 26 and finishing on the Champs-Élysées on Sunday September 20 we traversed some amazing countryside. We experienced coastal vistas, river valleys and alpine passes.

A great part of the enjoyment is seeing France from the air. The helicopter, or possibly drone, shots capture the majesty of the French countryside and rural villages. 

One disappointment of the broadcast was that the commentators didn’t do the usual descriptions of the castles and chateaus we passed along the way. That could have been because the route the tour took might not have been in architectural heritage country. 

This aspect did improve as the tour continued but it certainly wasn’t delivered with the enthusiasm that we have experienced in past tours.

We have always watched the SBS telecast of the tour, that’s when we’ve been home in winter, but this year it was especially welcome. 

Like many in the ‘Couch Peloton’ we don’t have a huge interest in the actual bike race, but the travel was a great distraction. 

And it was surprising just how quickly the three weeks passed. 

Thanks again SBS.

 

Good news for dogs in Deutschland.

August 23rd, 2020

German Agricultural Minister Julia Klöckner

The German Agricultural Minister, Julia Klöckner, has just announced a set of new rules that apply to dog ownership in the country.

These new laws, if approved, will greatly improve the quality of life for the average German pooch.

They include that dogs must be walked at least twice a day, for a total of no less than one hour. Dogs will no longer be able to be left alone all day or tied up for long periods of time.

There are also other rules that apply to living conditions and breeding programs.

In Germany there are over 9 million dogs, with one in five homes owning a canine companion.

Last year, when we were living in Berlin, we were very impressed by how well dogs were treated and how much freedom they have.

There were always dogs walking with their ‘humans’ in the parks and on the streets. Also dogs are allowed just about anywhere: restaurants, bars, public transport and shops, except grocery stores.

However these new rules must be put in the context of how and where the average German lives.

This is a country of apartments, not quarter acre blocks, therefore dogs don’t have a large house or a back yard to run around in, so daily exercise is essential.

There is some criticism of these new rules, but one thing is certain, if they pass, it will be anything but a ‘dog’s life’ for the average German hund.

I can only assume by these actions that Minister Klöckner is a dog lover.

Hagia Sophia – what’s good and bad about Turkey.

July 12th, 2020

After 85 years the conversion of Hagia Sofia, from a museum back to a mosque, marks a turning point for modern Turkey. 

The basilica of Hagia Sophia, built by the Byzantine Emperor Justinian 1, was inaugurated in 537 and apart from a few changes, especially to the dome, is largely intact.

The emperor had building material brought from all over the empire, including Hellenistic columns from the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus.

It held the title for being the world’s largest cathedral for nearly 1,000 years and was a marvel of architecture and engineering.

Following the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople (now Istanbul) in 1453, four minarets were added to the exterior.

As part of the secularising of Turkey by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk in 1935, the basilica was tuned into a museum. 

This UNESCO World Heritage site is the most popular tourist destination in Istanbul. In 2014 over 3.5 million people visited the museum. Since then numbers had dropped off, due to terrorist concerns, but have steadily risen again with 3 million visitors in 2019.

It has been a wonderful example of how Turkey spans both the east and west, faiths and cultures.

This retrograde step is yet another move by Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his conservative, popularist government to turn back the clock on history. It’s a rejection of the secularism that has made Turkey such a diverse and interesting country.

Isolation.

June 16th, 2020

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues and in an effort to ‘level the curve’ we have gone into social isolation.

From a personal point of view there are good and bad aspects in being forced to become a hermit.

The case for:

If you are a recluse like me, isolation is rather welcome – now I have an excuse not to socialise. 

Our years of travel, especially in countries with a foreign language, have taught Thea and me to become dependent on each other’s company. We may have been in bustling cities like Barcelona, or Bucharest but in essence we were on our own.

Teaching myself new skills has been a lot of fun. 

I love T-shirts and except for the rare occasion, wear one every day. 

I also like to create my own bespoke designs, with graphics that are verbal, visual and hopefully amusing. 

In the very early days of the lockdown I started to develop a range of tees featuring the facets of our new norm. No hand shaking, no touching and lots of hand washing. 

Developing the graphics for these was challenging and rewarding and taught me a lot. See my previous post ‘It’s gone viral’

Trying to help some of my Bravo Tango Bravo (BTB) clients, to weather this pandemic storm, has also been a bit of fun and stretched the mind.

Also through BTB I re-engineered the T-shirts and they were presented to a poster company. The ideas were offered free of charge with the suggestion that they run them as a community service.

I have even approached some new businesses to see if I could help. A hand sanitiser concept for Bad Shepherd, a local craft brewer and a repurposing of reusable coffee cups for Think Cups in Sydney.

 

They all fell on very deaf ears.

My brother-in-law Mark, not a man to sit around and do nothing, decided to distil some 100-proof alcohol while in isolation. From this he is making Limoncello and a Botanical Gin.

Naturally he needed some labels.

I modified my own Limoncello label for him and designed a new one for the Gin.

In researching the history of Gin I discovered an interesting story.

During the Eighty Year War (1568–1648) in Holland, English soldiers drank it to calm their nerves, this gave rise to the name, Dutch courage.

This surprising fact naturally found its way onto the label. After all, everyone loves a ‘I didn’t know that’ moment.

Our holiday house at Sorrento has always been an enjoyable retreat. Over recent months, since our last overseas trip, we have been spending two to three days a week there. 

Now it’s almost become our home. 

The roles have been switched between Sandringham and Sorrento.

We are truly isolated there. 

The house is open, spacious and on a large block of land. There are only a couple of neighbours and they are a fair distance away. 

But best of all there are many more places to walk and the tracks are varied and very often almost empty. 

We have got to know the back streets of Sorrento and Blairgowrie very well and seen parts of the amazing coastline we didn’t know existed.

Before we made the move to Sorrento we were also finding interesting new walks in Sandringham. This was in an attempt to keep away from the crowds that were now overrunning our favourite beach paths.

These walks were made more interesting by trying to spot rainbows and teddy bears.

As part of a British idea to keep kids occupied, while in lockdown, they were encouraged to create rainbows and put them up in their windows or draw then on the footpath outside their houses. They then had fun finding them in their neighbourhood when they were allowed out for a walk with their parents.

Another similar idea, this one from New Zealand, was to put teddy bears up in places so they could be again spotted by the local kids.

I did spend some time drawing a teddy and a rainbow so friends could print them off and put them on show.

While in Sorrento I have been forced to become a handyman, or sorts, making repairs rather than having it done for me.

In Sandringham I even helped a new owner install a key safe. She thought that I was very good, while I was just happy that I didn’t stuff it up.

The downside to this is my toolbox is rather meagre, so every new task I undertake seems to require a new piece of equipment.

Fortunately hardware stores are still open.

Usually when were at Sorrento we would visit the video shop, in the cinema, and get a DVD for the nights entertainment.

Yes, there is still a video shop in Sorrento.

Due to the pandemic the video shop closed so we were forced into buying a new ‘smart’ TV, in order to avoid watching ‘Free-to-air’. Now we can, almost seamlessly, continue watching the same series we were watching in Sandringham.

I say “almost seamlessly” as the TV we have in Sandringham operates on Apple TV while the new one in Sorrento is an Android.

One is a Mac and the other a PC – how ironic.

Reading is another boost to my entertainment format.

I have been through about six novels since lockdown, not all of them great, but they do help to fill in the day and night.

Owning a Kindle means that as soon as one book is finished, I can easily download another one – without ever leaving the house.

It’s the perfect quarantine library.

I get more BBQ time at Sorrento.

The grill is on the back deck and out of the weather. So most nights, when it’s not raining and the menu requires it, I BBQ.

We even invented Scarborough Fair Chicken. Naturally it’s stuffed with parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme, all of which are now grown in our ever expanding herb garden.

I no longer carry cash. 

With so many businesses rejecting hard currency, I’ve gone digital. I’m now using an app to pay most bills – large and small. 

I’ve had $25 in my wallet for at least nine weeks. 

As international travel is off the agenda for the foreseeable future, I have started to revisit some of our past adventures.

In recent years, as we have done so much travelling, my blogs have become an electronic diary rather that an expression of my thoughts, attitudes and ideas. 

Now is the perfect time to reflect on what we have seen and done. So I have been going through many of my blogs and updated them with dates to make them more succinct.

The case against:

For a time there, when we were walking, people didn’t like you touching their dogs. This was rather a bore, especially when you are a ‘serial dog patter’ like me. 

Living 30 metres from a supermarket makes you complacent about planning your shopping. 

If we needed anything we could just walk over the road and get it. 

Now when we are in Sandringham we are trying to restrict time spent out of the apartment, so we have been forced to plan our menus. This isn’t easy, when most of our shopping has been on impulse. 

At Sorrento we are limiting our shopping to once a week, rather than four or five times per day as we have done in Sandringham. This has forced us to plan a menu rather than just come up with something on the day.

What a strange time it is.

In December I got the VicEmergency app because of the bushfire danger. Then, come April, I’m downloading COVIDSafe, for obvious reasons. 

As I have mentioned I welcomed social distancing, as it was a confirmation of my nomadic tendency. 

Then everyone discovered Zoom.  

Now People are meeting more than ever, even if it is in the cyber universe.

Many have found comfort in daytime TV and discovered programs that they would have never seen before.

Sadly, the only daytime TV we watched was the live streaming of a funeral. 

The advertising and marketing industries have been particularly hard hit by the economic downturn associated with COVID-19 and Bravo Tango Bravo is no exception.

I do miss the work I get from BTB, it has always been stimulating and an opportunity to develop new skills and keep up with contemporary marketing trends. Over the years I have worked on a variety of interesting clients and have learnt a lot about trucks, tradies, machinery and engineering.

Social distancing has forced the closure of sporting venues, bars, restaurants, schools, factories and a myriad other places, including airlines and even counties.

I must admit that I am missing the Friday night drinks we used to have at Hobsons in Sandringham and the odd meal out at a local restaurant.

However the biggest negative to this whole disaster is not being able to travel.

Again this year we had planned to spend several months in Europe and the US, starting in May. This new adventure was built around the wedding, in Italy, of a mate’s son and his partner, plus celebrating our granddaughter’s first birthday in Granada. This has now been cancelled and we have no idea when we will be able to reschedule our trip.

But to be very honest, this is a first world problem and we must consider ourselves very fortunate to be able to live the way we do.

There are millions around the world who aren’t as lucky and will be effected in ways we couldn’t possibly imagine.