Football, Meat Pies, Kangaroos and Holden cars …
… or MoMA and MOFO
The catchy 1970s advertising tune for Australia’s much-loved Holdens came to mind when I recently had a few days in Australia – eating meat pies, watching rugby football, having dinner with a former Holden representative … and avoiding road kill …
It had been a couple of years since I was in south-eastern Australia but this time I was able to spend just a few busy days in Tasmania and Victoria, attending a few meetings, going to art exhibitions and having lunches and dinners with old friends.
I had left a pretty warm and wet Thailand behind me and flew into a pretty bloody cold and wet Melbourne where it climbed up to about 120C during the sunny moments but I had my gloves and scarves and coats ready … but no umbrella.
I stayed in a lovely nudist nineteenth-floor apartment in Melbourne’s exciting Southbank: was greeted at the door by a naked host but Melbourne’s winters saw me with woolly long johns tugged up under my chin and not a sight for children or those with easily-upset stomachs.
Southbank is an area of ever more and more condominium buildings and lots of great restaurants and bars and walkways by the Yarra River. Usually when I am in Melbourne I manage a theatre show or two but this time there was not much on offer – the Australian Ballet version of Merry Widow or The Wizard of Oz … so my much-needed culture injection came from two visits to the NGV – the National Gallery of Victoria.
I have always wondered how a State capital can claim a “national” gallery … perhaps it’s a bit like the USA staging World Series baseball games with the only teams involved all from the USA …
New York’s Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) is currently (until 7 October – rush to get there!) presenting a huge exhibition of works at the NGV. I was amused – bemused? – to see long queues of people of all ages buying tickets and then queuing again to gain access to the galleries, but it was worth it.
One of my favourites, Edward Hopper, was there along with Salvador Dali, Mondrian, Warhol, Picasso, Georgia O’Keefe, Joan Miró and even Lichtenstein’s Drowning Girl:
- I don’t care! I’d rather sink … than call Brad for help!
What a cad Brad must have been.
An elegant city no more?
Melbourne has always struck me as Australia’s most civilised city – a place of good theatre and opera, lots of great restaurants, so-so beaches in the summer, rowers on the Yarra, a wonderful free tram that trundles around the city centre, the very fashionable Collins Street – with Dior and others at “the Paris end” and Tiffany relegated to the “other” end.
Melbourne has also struck me as a sophisticated city with well-dressed people and flowering trees and great sporting venues. Perhaps times change – but this time I noticed all too many women heavily made-up as if about to star in a vaudeville or burlesque show, and all too many men who seemed to think it appropriate to wear sloppy track pants without underwear in the city.
There was a huge police escort for a very small crowd of protestors against slaughterhouses, there were people sleeping rough, beggars, street artists and even a now-ubiquitous “human statue” or two, and people selling copies of The Big Issue. The daughter of a Tasmanian friend lives in Melbourne and has got to know many of the street people over the years and was a fine advocate for those who had chosen that lifestyle and for those who had unwillingly had the lifestyle thrust upon them – even inviting one busker to perform at her wedding.
Melbourne’s city planners did a wonderful job, with the city centre criss-crossed by major roads echoed by their “little” friends:
- Collins Street and Little Collins Street
- Burke Street and Little Burke street
The smaller roads were, probably, designed as access to the large shops on the “big” roads, but now many have smaller alleys leading off them, packed with trendy coffee shops, elegant arcades, pubs and, like Hosier Lane, outdoor graffiti galleries.
As a long-time supporter of the Australian Wallaby Rugby football team, my Melbourne visit was also an opportunity to wave a flag or two as they played their second match against the visiting Ireland team – one they lost, unfortunately, having beaten the world’s Number Two team the week before.
I had a seat just a few rows back from the side-line and right on the try line – so had a wonderful view of all the action if it happened in that corner! Not much did. I was also surrounded by hundreds of Irish supporters and had just two other Australians beside me – and we did not make much of an impact on the wonderful singing and chanting of the green supporters.
- Chris: Go Wallabies!
- Irish man: Settle down poppet …
That is what I love about this game – apart from the physicality and delicacy and speed and absolute stillness the game offers at different times – the fact that the spectators are usually well-behaved and in good spirits (LOTS of beer is guzzled at games!) and all spectators will occasionally even applaud good tackles and tries by members of the opposition.
A sight I hope to be able to forget was the Irish supporter standing next to me at the urinal at half-time, with one holding the business end of the operation … while the other had a pint glass of beer being poured down his throat.
I wonder: is this a new form of perpetual motion?
Over the Bass Strait
- Ladies and gentlemen – Jetstar Flight 123 to Launceston is now boarding through Gate 46. Although it is raining you may not use umbrellas on the tarmac
It apparently never rains in Melbourne – or Launceston or Hobart – so some airports do away with trivial things like airbridges and encourage passengers to enjoy the great outdoors, scurrying though gusty downpours, ducking under wings, dodging orange witches hats and clambering up wet staircases to plonk, soggy and dishevelled, in a narrow plastic seat.
For some reason my ticket entitled me to a free drink or snack after take off:
- Good afternoon Mr Hall – would you like some wine once we are airborne?
Silly man! Of course!
I was duly served a mini bottle of sparkling wine. The flight attendants removed the empty bottle but I had to scrunch the plastic beaker – no Baccarat crystal – into the magazine holder rack to get rid of it. Umm … nope … seconds later it leaped out of the rack like a slightly boozed jack-in-the-box and landed in my lap. Ah – the joys of flying Jetstar.
As I drove the ninety or so kilometres to the lovely seaside village of Bridport, on Tasmania’s NE coast, I was reminded of the hazards of country driving in Australia. So many small animals – wallabies, possums, wombats and even kangaroos – have yet to evolve modern defensive bounding skills and consequently fail terribly in their one-to-one encounters with passing trucks and cars.
The Pipers Brook area, where friends used to own a small vineyard, is on the way to Bridport, and is home to several much larger vineyards supplying excellent local wines: Tasmania has a thriving wine industry and one quite overlooked by those who think only of the Hunter River, Margaret River and Barossa areas. Pictured at left is one of the lovely Pipers Brook staff packing some bubbles for me.
The Midlands Highway South
Tasmania is quite a small island – you can drive right around it in a couple of days if you scurry a bit – and the roads are generally pretty good. The Midlands Highway is dual carriageway for most of its distance from Launceston with its delightful Victorian-era buildings and the renowned Australian Maritime College, down to Hobart.
Originally a dusty road for the early settlers on their horses and in their Mail coaches, the highways now by-passes most of the pretty little towns each a day’s coach travel apart:
- Past green fields dotted with white sheep and glimpses of snow-topped Western Tiers and Ben Lomond
- Campbell Town (where astute gourmet gardeners have the choice of buying sheep manure or horse poo or both), Ross, Tunbridge, Oatlands (with its restored wind mill)
- Jericho, Bagdad (not Baghdad), Bridgewater with its lovely black swans drifting on the Derwent River and into Hobart
Hobart is a lovely city crouching under the towering snow-capped Mt Wellington and sprawling out on both sides of a superb river, and the Hutchins Contemporary Art Prize – an event I helped establish almost twenty years ago – was an added draw card.
Hobart is one of Australia’s oldest cities and in an act of reconciliation with the original inhabitants, there is a proposal that it be renamed “Nipaluna”. I think this has as much relevance – or more – as “Hobart” which honours the 1804 British Secretary of State for War and the Colonies, Robert Hobart, 4th Earl of Buckinghamshire and given to the settlement by the English settlers who occupied at gunpoint Van Diemen’s Land.
- Londinium > London
- Bombay or Mumbai?
- Stadacona? Try Québec
- Where is Temasek? Now it’s Singapore
What’s in a name, indeed …
Names change all the time. In Thailand, people frequently change their names if a monk suggests better fortune would follow with a more auspicious name. Place names change for political or cultural or historical reasons.
The name David Walsh means many things to the people of Hobart. Some see him as a saviour because his stunning private Museum of Old and New Art (MONA) has played a huge role in developing Hobart as a tourist destinations. To more than 17000 others who have signed an anti-Walsh petition, he is something like the devil incarnate.
The recent DARK MOFO winter festival featured inverted red crosses, seen to be insulting to Christians:
- These crosses are harmful, hurtful and frankly a waste of public funds 1
- St Peter was crucified upside down because he did not want to be like Jesus. So maybe all the churches that have up-the-right-way crosses are blasphemous. 1
As the recent Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse has found evidence of such abuse, the Anglican Church of Tasmania has released a list of properties including fifty-five churches it plans to sell, partly to help fund an $8.6 million redress for survivors of child sexual abuse. 2
Sad sad news – but perhaps Walsh is right to keep us questioning and searching for answers and the truth, wherever it may lie.
Whatever truth you may be seeking, however, I am sure that a hot meat pie with tomato sauce, eaten while watching a good international Rugby Union football game will be just about the closest thing to heaven you can find.
Text and photographs © Christopher Hall 2018 except where otherwise indicated
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If a man ascended into heaven and gazed upon the whole workings of the universe and the beauty of the stars, the marvellous sight would give him no joy if he had to keep it to himself. And yet, if only there had been someone to describe the spectacle to, it would have filled him with delight.
Attributed to Marcus Tullius Cicero – On Friendship
Photographs of the Wallaby football team, and of Edward Hopper’s painting from Internet.
1 The Mercury newspaper 19 June 2018