Archive for the ‘Comment’ Category

Politics and travel.

Wednesday, May 18th, 2022

Over the years we have been lucky enough to have visited many countries.

We are about to start travelling again and given the crisis in Ukraine, it’s interesting to reflect on how politics can effect travel. 

Of course these interruptions are minuscule, compared to the suffering and loss of life that has been inflicted on the people of Ukraine.

The war in Ukraine, or as Vladimir Putin describes it a: ‘special military operation’ has altered the face of Europe. Not since the Second World War has there been such an upheaval of the status quo.

With the current instability in Eastern Europe and the tendency of government policies to demonise people who don’t agree with them, we now find our travel options more limited than ever before.

We have always judged a country by its culture and people, not the politics.

Our travels have taken us to places that, under current circumstances, wouldn’t be possible now.

In 2007 we spent two weeks in Russia.

A country that now regards Australia as hostile. This is a result of the sanctions that have been rightly placed on Putin and his cronies.

Also with war comes the inevitable flood of refugees fleeing the conflict. They usually go to neighbouring countries and that swells the population and puts pressure on the infrastructure.

A good example is the number of Ukrainians escaping to Poland. 

Three weeks into the conflict and the population of the Polish capital, Warsaw, had risen by 15%. 

After five weeks over 4 million had left the Ukraine – that’s approximately a quarter of the population.

By the time of publishing this blog, that number had risen to over 6 million. 

There is even a reverse effect with Russians either unable to leave the country, or not wanting to, due to fears of persecution within Europe. 

Those that have managed to escape have taken the train to Finland. That was until the normally neutral Finish government stopped the service and closed its borders with Russia.

Both Finland and Sweden are now looking to join NATO, which might rule those countries out as a destination for Russian tourists.

In 2012 we made a long awaited trip to Egypt.

This was a year after the Egyptian Revolution of 2011 and the fall of the long time president Hosni Mubarak (1981-2011)

After the revolution and the removal of Mubarak, a new president, Mohamed Morsi, was elected by a popular vote. He was then ousted by General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, who subsequently became the next head of state in the 2014 presidential election.

The country is still not settled and isn’t recommended for tourism due to fears of terrorist attacks. 

Also in 2012, we spent a month in Turkey.

We travelled by car, boats, planes and busses and had a fabulous time.

Talking to many locals, who are always interested to chat to Australians, we discovered that there was some disquiet about their current Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. 

Since then Erdoğan has taken over as President and Turkey has undergone a radical process of Islamification.

It’s no longer the moderate, secular country that was created by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk in 1923.

In 2014 we travelled from east to west across China, starting in Hong Kong.

These days, with the tensions high between Canberra and Beijing, Australians have been warned about the possibility of arbitrary detention for ‘endangering national security’

This same excuse is now being used by a number of governments trying to stop any descent.

After crossing China we travelled trough Central Asia, visiting a number of ‘The Stans’. Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.

Many of these former Soviet states are still loyal to the Kremlin, so currently they would not be pre-disposed to Australian tourists.

Politics isn’t the only thing to put a break on travelling.

Again in 2014, we had a two week break in Tonga, visiting Nuku’alofa and Fafa Island.

The January 15, 2022 volcanic eruption and the subsequent volcanic plume and tsunami has devastated parts of this tranquil Pacific archipelago.

The clean up and rebuilding, since the disaster, would be putting a huge strain on the infrastructure.

Tourism is a vital part of many economies and not travelling there would also be a disaster.

It therefore all comes down to choosing where to go, so you don’t get in the way – or get arrested.

It’s all about placement.

Saturday, April 23rd, 2022

As we fast approach the May 22nd Federal election, the streets are full of political adverting. 

Most of it is boring propaganda, however this one caught my attention. 

The two word message is both simple and strong, but it’s the placement that got me.

It’s brilliant.

Apparently these posters are all over Melbourne and people have even taken to putting them on their own private rubbish bins. 

And they are paying $20 for the privilege.

A developer’s dream.

Tuesday, April 19th, 2022

The Burnham Beeches Mansion sits within the ‘Alfred Nicholas Memorial Gardens’ in Sherbrooke.

It was originally built for the sales magnate Alfred Nicholas, the founder of the Nicolas Aspro company, in the late 1920s and 1930s.

It now sits idle and in disrepair, much like the gardens.

It was built in the Art Deco Streamline Modern style and designed by architect Harry Norris.

Norris was also the architect of the Coles Bourke Street store (1930), which he designed for G J Coles. This was after he was sent to Europe and North America, by Coles, to study the latest trends in chain-store design and construction.

Harry Norris was a neighbour of Alfred Nicholas and the two became friends.

The brief to Norris from Nicholas was to build a house with: “Fresh air, sunshine and an outlook of command, yet under control”

The design is said to be reminiscent of an ocean liner. There is a deco zig-zag design on the wrought-iron balcony balustrades and Australian motives of koalas and possums, in moulded relief, on the reinforced concrete walls.

After the death of Nicolas in 1937, his widow Isabel and their two children lived there until the outbreak of war in 1939. It was then loaned out and became a children’s hospital.

Between 1948 and 1950 it was redecorated and then in the 1950s and 1960s two additional wings were added.

From 1955 it housed the Nicolas Institute research centre until the gardens were donated to the Shire of Sherbrooke in 1965 and named the Nicholas Memorial Gardens. 

The house was eventually sold in 1981 and became a small hotel for about ten years.

Since then there have been a number of attempts to redevelop the property but unfortunately nothing has come of them. 

Burnham Beeches is a wonderful example of the Art-Deco style and must be preserved. All it needs is the right developer, who has cash, taste and sense of history.

It’s a keeper.

Monday, November 29th, 2021



After the ‘World’s longest lockdown’ Melbourne is starting to break free and get back to some form of normality.

One of the worst aspects of our enforced isolation was being subjected to take-away coffee, in take-away cups.

As soon it became obvious that coffee could no longer be consumed, in cups, sitting in a cafe, we went out and purchased non disposable cups.

These are branded Think Cups and designed and made in Sydney. We found them at the local gift shop, which was lucky as we have had to replace them twice.

They are made from glass and tend to break if dropped. Now this a real risk when you get a barista who is stressed out and over worked, which was often the case at the morning coffee rush, during lockdown.

As take-away became the norm we decided to get some extra cups, to put in the car and carry with us when, on those very rare occasions, we got out of town.

These are KeepCups and designed and made in Melbourne. And if you buy the plastic ones – they bounce if dropped.

As it turned out they are unique, in that they are regarded as the world’s first barista-standard, reusable coffee cup. 

The KeepCup company was founded in 2007 by sister and brother Abigail and Jamie Forsyth. Apart from Australia they now sell their cups in New Zealand, the USA, Canada, Europe and China.

Their world first follows the success of coffee shops in New York, Barcelona and London, that were all started by Melburnians.

Now Melbourne can truely be regarded as the ‘Coffee Capital of the world’

Hierarchy.

Sunday, October 31st, 2021

I have been trained in typography and that can sometimes lead to a lot of frustrations.

Badly kerned type (the space between letters) is one of my pet gripes, as is over leading (the space between lines of type) and an incessant use of capital letters in headlines.

Just look at any American newspaper and you’ll get my drift regarding the last complaint.

There are many more that annoy me but these are a hinderance to legibility and therefore communication, and that pisses me off.

All this training has its downfalls.

I am so used to reading a page, according to the rule of hierarchy. And when it’s not applied properly I misread things.

Hierarchy is the order in which elements are placed on a page. It’s another technique typographers and designers use to aid comprehension.

When pages of type are designed by people who have English as a second language it becomes even more frustrating for me.

By not fully understanding the language, the designers place the elements in the wrong order and that disrupts my comprehension.

I spent five minutes looking for a particular item on a menu, until I discovered it was there right under my nose.

This isn’t their fault, it’s mine.

The problem is that it doesn’t follow my rules and I was blind to it being done another way.

It’s time to throw the rule book out and start to see things for what they are, not what I expect them to be.

The future is here.

Friday, August 27th, 2021

While escaping to Spain during lockdown number six, ie: watching the Vuelta a España, we were peppered nightly by the limited range of commercials on SBS Viceland.

This commercial for the Hyundai Tucson stood out.

With amazing special effects, it’s beautifully written, directed and filmed. It also has something that’s sadly missing in most ads these days – an idea.

I hope this is the future of ads.

History.

Sunday, August 15th, 2021

Yet another lockdown (number 5) and we were back in Sorrento again, having arrived there the day before it was announced.

The one thing we are continually discovering about this seaside town, is its history.

In 1801 the first British settlers, led by Lieutenant John Murray arrived on what is now the Mornington Peninsula and claimed the area for King George III of Great Britain.

Before that the land was inhabited by the Boon Wurrung people for tens of thousands of years. They were what has been called ‘Saltwater’ people, who’s land occupied some 3,000 square kilometres around not only the Mornington Peninsula but Western Port Bay as well.

The British returned in 1803 and set up the Collins Settlement at Sullivans Bay. This was the first British settlement on mainland Australia outside of the Sydney area.

They hadn’t really done their homework regarding the peninsula, as there was no readily available fresh water, and it was abandoned after a few months.

The infamous convict, William Buckley, escaped from the settlement and lived with the aboriginals for over 30 years.

In 1869 the Collins Settlement was zoned for housing development and then became Sorrento. It saw many firsts, such as a magistrate’s court, public hospital, postal service and government printing service.

Sorrento also witnessed the state’s first wedding, christening and funeral and in the subsequent years, grand homes, hotels and public buildings were built in the area. Many of these were constructed from the local limestone and today have historical importance.

There was even a horse and steam powered tram, that was built in 1890 and ran from the front beach to the back beach.

And Sorrento Park, established in 1870, boasts an Allepo Pine that was grown from a seed of the Lone Pine of Gallipoli.

So in many respects this sign is correct, as nothing did happen on this site in 1782. All the recorded history happened after that.

However the Boon Wurrung people might disagree.

Hot Dog.

Sunday, July 25th, 2021

I spotted this little Long Haired Dachshund, or Sausage Dog, on one of my recent beach walks.

I kicked myself afterwards for not grabbing a snap of him in his wonderful winter coat.

Then, after the walk, when I was having a coffee, there he was.

It was meant to be – just like the coat.

Selling a speed limit.

Friday, June 18th, 2021

Driving around we see dozens of speed signs every day. 

But how much do we take notice of them?

This particular one, on Kerferd Avenue in Sorrento, is just down from the local primary school. 

I noticed it, as it gave me an emotional reason to slow down.

It was more than a traffic sign, it was a pull on the heart strings as well. 

The marketing of a road.

Wednesday, May 26th, 2021

 

 

The day we returned from our Back to Yack adventure we took, what’s now known as, The Great River Road. 

The website describes the road as:

‘Set between two of Australia’s most beloved landscape icons, the Murray River and the Snowy Mountains, the Great River Road showcases 155 kilometres of beautiful high-country in Victoria’s North East – perfect for exploring at any pace.’

We started at Corryong, in the east, and then drove westward to the edge of the Hume Weir. The scenery was spectacular and there were many points of interest along the way. These included lookouts, odd bits of sculpture and historic markers.

The road was originally not one designated drive but a number of different routes.

The logo that has been recently developed is used for both The Great River Road and the Upper Murray region.

Although there isn’t much information about the development of the Upper Murray marketing program, it seems to be a joint venture between the local councils, community groups and even Upper Murray Health and Community Services.

It’s clever marketing that can take something, that many people already know about, and turn it into a new adventure and experience.

However, the idea isn’t original.

The Great River Road was first created in the United States in 1938 and was used to market the Mississippi River.

The US website describes it as:

‘The Great River Road is a collection of state and local roads that follow the course of the Mississippi River through ten states of the United States.’

The US road also has a logo, which is a little outdated. I much prefer the Australian one, as it actually has an idea.

Nonetheless, I do think that a trip up, or down, the Mississippi River road would be great – especially considering they have a craft beer trail already mapped out for me. 

It’s an epic craft beer experience that takes you to 43 breweries in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi and Louisiana.

It does seem an odd combination of drinking and driving.