Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Look what was staring at me.

Monday, February 26th, 2024

On our trip north last year, we were having dinner in our apartment near Torquey, Queensland and I got rather a shock. 

I went to serve myself some salad and this little feller was staring at me from the bowl. 

I doubt a really good food stylist could create this, even if they tried.

It was just a freak of nature.

A marketing tool that’s been forgotten here.

Wednesday, December 6th, 2023

Beermats, as we know them today, were developed by Friedrich Horn, a German printing and board mill company in 1880.

Before that they were originally developed, to not only absorb spills but to cover the beer and stop insects from drinking your precious ale.

A practice that can still come in handy today.

Once they were made from absorbent board and printable, they became an advertising tool.

As I have mention, in a previous blog, collecting beermats has become a hobby, as they remind me of where we have been and what beers were on offer.

I have noticed, over the time, that overseas beermats now have many marketing uses. They are a great way to get attention for a brand, raise issues and even to tell history.

The Scottish craft beer rebel, Brew-Dog, uses their mats to tell the story of their carbon neutral approach to brewing and also their 50/50 sharing of profits with their staff.

Something that may have been forced on them by the mis-adventures of their founder James Watt.

Budweiser Beer by Budvar, in the Czech Republic, tells the world that their beer is the original Budweiser, not that crap copy from the US

While Scapa Special, from Swannay Brewery, in the Orkney Islands, at the very north of Scotland, has taken a historic approach and featured the 1919 scuttling of the German fleet at Scarpa Flow.

Here in Australia, the availability of beermats seems to be in decline and certainly those that are around are not putting the medium to it’s best use.

Like any advertising, they cost money, but they are certainly an engaging marketing tool that can bring recall to the brand.

Seagulls and some Americans
share a lot in common.

Wednesday, November 8th, 2023

Have you ever watched a flock of seagulls when there is ‘human food’ to be had?

They may live in a community but it’s a community where the individual rules. 

They are self serving. 

They always put themselves above their cohort. 

If there is any chance that another gull might get to the food first, or even be in a better position to score, they take over. 

With this individualistic approach to life, I can’t help but see similarities with parts of the American culture. 

Many in the US put themselves above the community. They regard their own needs as more important than those of the group. 

The louder I squawk the more attention I get. 

This attitude seems to parallel a certain US president of recent times. 

Australians appear to be fundamentally racist.

Wednesday, November 1st, 2023

This may seem a radical statement, however the result of the recent referendum proves it. Given that not one state voted in favour of indigenous recognition and only the ACT voted in favour. 

It’s not the average Australian that’s to blame but rather the Labour party and the ‘Yes’ Vote’s total lack of communication skills. 

They simply didn’t articulate the argument for the change. 

In contrast the Liberals and ‘No Voters’, understanding this failure, came up with a one line statement that grabbed people. 

‘If you don’t know, vote no.’

Politicians should understand that the average person needs simple explanations, not complex rhetoric. 

‘Joe’ or ‘Julie’ public don’t have the time or the inclination to wade through pro and con arguments.

They want it to be kept simple and that simply didn’t happen. 

To many, my headline that ‘Australians appear to be fundamentally racist’ might seem extreme and inflammatory but that’s how the world has viewed the result. 

The vast majority of the international press articles I have read, expressed a very negative response to the referendum’s outcome. 

For a nation that prides itself on it’s multiculturalism, this is a shocking result.


In Carlton, even a machine has a living history.

Friday, August 4th, 2023

I found this notice above an old biscuit making machine at Brunettis, a restaurant and coffee house in Carlton.

If you read the copy, you will discover it’s all about Pietro Berto. Yes, the machine has a name. He immigrated to Australia, from Italy, in the mid 1950’s.

Now this was about the same time as many Italians came to Melbourne and settled in the Carlton area.

As well as bringing biscuit making machines, more importantly they introduced the Espresso machine to our way of life. And it was from there that Melbourne’s coffee culture was born.

This resulted in Melbourne being voted the World Coffee Capital in 2022.

Carlton has a rich Italian heritage, that is further brought to life by this charming snippet of history.

You will find the words for the notice here:


Hello “Ciao”

My name is Pietro Berto, I was born in Vicenza Italy in the 1940’s.

At the age of 10 I travelled to Roma where I settled for a while and worked in Bar Santa Chiara, near the famous Pantheon. Here I helped make many delicious sweets, enjoyed by many tourists and locals.

At the age of 16, looking for new horizons and wanting to share my skills, I travelled thousands of miles by ship and migrated to Melbourne, Australia. I worked in various “Pasticcerie” in Melbourne, but finally settled here at Brunetti. I have been responsible for all the delicious almond biscuits you have enjoyed over the last 30 years.

I am now in my 70’s and have recently retired, but don’t worry I have passed on all my recipes and skills to my son, Pietro Jr. who will continue my legacy. Between you and I, the young generation are excellent in many things, but they just lack the toughness of us old guys.

P.S I love having my photo taken so #brunettiselfie and I can share it with all my friends!

Also don’t forget to try Pietro Jnr’s Biscuits!

The soundtracks to our life.

Monday, February 28th, 2022

On Tuesday February 8th, 2022, the composer John Williams turned 90.

Now that’s an incredible achievement within itself, however the amazing thing to come from William’s life was the legacy of movie soundtracks that he created, especially during the 1970s and 1980s.

Soundtracks that not only help us recall the movie but also the time in our lives that they were screened.

He also helped to immortalise some of the new directors who commissioned his music. George Lucas and Stephen Spielberg are just two.

In 2012, Spielberg stated that: “John Williams has been the single most significant contributor to my success as a filmmaker,”

The movies Star Wars, Jaws, Indiana Jones, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Superman and E.T. The Extra Terrestrial defined a cinematic era.

Other movies, especially the James Bond series that started in the 1960s, used the then currently famous songwriters and performers to write and perform their theme songs. 

Goldfinger, 1964 and Diamonds Are Forever, 1971 are both by Shirley Bassey. Live and Let Die, 1973 by Paul and Linda McCartney and The Spy Who Loved Me, 1977 by Carly Simon, are some I recall.

On reading about John William’s 90th birthday, I searched Spotify for a playlist.

That night, over dinner, we were transported back to another time in our lives.

It’s amazing where music can take you.

Very clever.

Wednesday, December 29th, 2021


I discovered these signs leading to, and in front of, the public toilets in the St Collins Arcade on Little Collins Street, Melbourne. 

They not only indicate that there is a convenience nearby but use the universally accepted graphic to point out exactly where it is and where you need to go. 

This is the first time I have ever seen this done – it’s very clever.

Back to Yack.

Friday, April 30th, 2021

April 22, 2021. Melbourne to Milawa. 

This short break was very much a family affair and built around another return trip to Yackandandah or Yack, as it is affectionately known.

Yack holds a very special place in the hearts of Thea’s family.

Her father, although born in Melbourne, spent much of his early childhood in Yack after his mother died when he was only 8 months old. He was then raised by his grandparents in this quaint country town.

Yackandandah was a former gold mining centre and has its origins in the 1850s. Immigrants from around the world flocked to this area when gold was discovered.

We had visited Yack at this time of year in the past and were taken by the spectacular display of Autumn colours.

We were certainly not disappointed this time as well.

Our first night’s stop on the way to Yack, was at Milawa, an area is known for its wineries and food. 

We had booked into the Gamze Smokehouse and Restaurant for dinner, which was just 200 metres from our motel. 

As the restaurant name suggests, there were lots of local cured meat on offer. We therefore started with the Charcuterie board. 

We should have stopped there, as it was huge. 

They even had Bridge Road Brewery Pale Ale, from Beechworth, on tap as well as many local wines.


Brown Brothers of Milawa (1889)

April 23, 2021. Milawa to Yackandandah.

It was only a short 50km drive to Yack, so we decided to visit some of the famous gourmet food manufacturers that are in the region.

After breakfast at the motel we went looking for a coffee and popped into Brown Brothers.

This celebrated winery, dating back to 1896, was at the forefront in the creation of the Milawa Gourmet Region.

Established in 1994, this food and wine area was the first to be developed in Australia.

As well as wine there are many other culinary delights manufactured in the region, such as mustards, cheeses, breads, olives and, as we discovered, smoked meats.

We did manage to do a bit of shopping before continuing our journey.

Another side trip on the road to Yack, was a stop in Myrtleford. There we walked through the Rotary Park, where we discovered the historic Log Tobacco Kiln that was built in 1957. 

From the 1930s to the 1960s tobacco growing and curing was a major industry in this region. Much of the land was owned and worked by Italian immigrants.

It was then time for a walk and along the Ovens River.

We were accompanied by a group of young adults with disabilities. They were having a great outing and delighted in discovering a series of mosaics that had been created along the river walk.

In the heart of Myrtleford, we discovered Coffee Chakra. It was officially closed but they still managed to serve us. 

It was both a coffee roaster and cafe so the brew was excellent. 

Myrtleford seems to have become a haven for Australians of Indian heritage, as we saw many around the town. They were not just visiting but active in local business as well. In fact the barista, owner and coffee roaster at Coffee Chakra was of Indian origin but with a broad Aussie accent.

On the way out of town we visited The Big Tree. This giant Red River Gum is one of the largest of its kind in Victoria and over 200 years old.

That night there was a large group of 12 for dinner, which was at the Star Hotel.

The Star is also known as the Top Pub, being at the top of Yackandandah’s High Street. It was also very close to the motel where most of us were staying.


Yackandandah Creek

April 24, 2021. Yackandandah. 

We all had a quiet day in Yack, punctuated by a group walk to Yackandandah Creek.

The main purpose was to visit the spot where the ashes of Thea’s father, mother and brother have been scattered.

That night it was dinner at the Yackandandah Hotel, or the Bottom Pub, which, understandably, is at the bottom of the High Street hill.


Lake Hume

April 25, 2021. Yackandandah. 

It was Anzac Day and Yackandandah, like many country towns, had a parade.

High Street was blocked off and the local returned service men and women, as well as others wearing their relative’s medals marched up the hill. After them came the children of the town’s sporting groups, clubs and school.

All this was accompanied by a marching band. 

It was a very short parade that lasted less than 10 minutes. There was then a wreath laying ceremony in the Memorial Park.

In the afternoon we drove to the Huon Reserve car park and did a return walk, along the Lake Hume and High Country Rail Trail to the Sandy Creek Rail Bridge. 

Lake Hume, formerly Hume Reservoir, was constructed between 1919 and 1936 by damming the Murray River downstream of its junction with the Mitta River.

The dam has many purposes, such as flood mitigation, hydro-power, irrigation, water supply and conservation.

There are hundreds of dead trees partly submerged in the lake, giving it the eerie feeling of a tree graveyard. 

That night dinner was back at the Top Pub and being a Sunday night it was much quieter than it had been on Friday.

Friday seems to be the night that country people hit the town.


The grave of George Henry Backhaus (50 years) and John Henry Backhaus (42 years) Who died September 23, 1915

April 26, 2021. Yackandandah to Corryong. 

This was our last morning in Yack, before the shortish drive to Corryong, where we would stay for two nights.

It was a day of ghost hunting for Thea as we meandered towards Corryong.

We stopped at Yabba Cemetery where George and John  Backhaus are buried. Tragically these two brothers, great uncles of Thea, died in a house fire on September 23, 1915.

It was the strangest cemetery I have ever visited. Out in the middle of nowhere, we had to go through a farm gate then walk across paddock to get the cemetery entrance.

Once we reached Corryong I had some work to do and the best place was in the bar of the Corryong Hotel, which is where we were staying.

Well it did have good internet and a bench to put my computer on.

In town the Corryong Hotel/Motel is also known as the Bottom Pub. What is it with this top and bottom thing?

The food was ok and they did have Blowhard Pale Ale from Bright Brewery on tap.

As the kitchen closed at 8:30 so it was an early night, made even more interesting by the size of the room we were in.

You could barely swing a possum in there.

We found the best place to get out of each others way was to sit on the bed and watch TV.


Blue-tongue lizard on the dam wall

 April 27, 2021. Corryong.

Breakfast at the motel wasn’t great but it was included in the cost of the room.

We then had a coffee at the Cafe Corryong Brew, which is next door to White Owl Coffee Roasters.

The coffee was great, that’s after giving the barista a few instructions as to the size and strength of what we wanted.

Today we were searching for the source of the mighty Murray River and not looking for ghosts. 

That was until we discovered that the spring, which is the source, is in an inaccessible wilderness area 

The weather was beautiful with a high of 23°C+ – time to drag out the shorts from the bottom of the bag. 

We did stop at Bringenbrong, which crosses over the Murray River on the border between NSW and Victoria.

From there we drove into NSW and on to Khancoban Dam, where we walked across the dam wall. Halfway across we found a rather large blue-tongue lizard, sunning itself on the side of the road.

The views from the spillway of the Khancoban Pondage and the Swampy Plain River valley were spectacular.

Being in the heart of the Snowy Mountain Scheme we then drove the short distance to the Murray 1 Power Station.

This is just one of seven power stations, sixteen major dams, 145km of interconnected tunnels and 80 km of aqueducts in the Snowy Scheme.

Completed in 1974, it took 25 years to build and today is regarded as one of the seven engineering wonders of the modern world.

It was then back to Corryong where we did a bit of local sightseeing.

The Man from Snowy River, a poem by Banjo Peterson, (1864-1941) is immortalised in a statue by the artist Brett Garling. The statue sits proudly next to the Corryong tourist information office.

The poem was first published in the Bulletin magazine on April 26, 1890 and is one of Australia’s most famous pieces.

It is believed that the The Man, is the legendary local stockman, Jack Riley, who migrated form Ireland to Australia, as a 13-year-old, in 1850.

Another local hero, this one of the canine variety, is Horrie the Wog Dog. His statue is in the memorial gardens, which is next to our favourite coffee shop, Cafe Corryong Brew. 

It’s no coincidence that Horrie’s statue sits near the war memorial celebrating those locals who lost their lives in times of conflict.

Horrie, an Egyptian Terrier, was the unofficial mascot of the 2/1st Machine Gun Battalion of the Second Australian Imperial Force. He was befriended by an Australian soldier, Private Jim Moody, while they were fighting in Egypt during the Second World War.

He served as an air sentry and was promoted to rank of corporal.

Horrie moved around with the Battalion and was finally smuggled back to Australia when Jim Moody was repatriated in 1942.

Due to Australia’s strict quarantine laws it’s believed that Horrie was put down in 1945. However there is an alternative story, that has become local legend, that Moody substituted another dog for Horrie and he lived on in Corryong.

Dinner was at the Corryong Hotel again as there wasn’t much else open. 

That night it was a Super Moon or Pink Moon as it’s described in the northern hemisphere. This has nothing to do with the moon’s hue but the colour of the spring flowers that are found during this Spring moon event. 


Murray Grey cattle in their original habitat

April 28, 2021. Corryong to Melbourne. 

After another good coffee at the Cafe Corryong Brew, we set off on what was to be a long day’s drive home.

The first part was an exploration of the newly named Great River Road. This took us from Corryong through Towong, Walway and Jingellic to Lake Hume.

The scenery was spectacular as we drove west, with the Murray River coming and going on the right hand side.

We even came across the birthplace of the Murray Grey at Thologolong, as well as a small herd grazing on the roadside.

This iconic breed of cattle was discovered by accident in 1905 by the Sutherland family. It can now be found throughout Australia, New Zealand, Asia, North America and Europe.

After the meandering drive along the Murray to Lake Hume it was then onto the Hume Highway and back to Melbourne

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

Monday, 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.

Sunday, 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.