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Two nights at Swan Hill

Map (source Echuca Discovery Centre)

Map (source Echuca Discovery Centre)

With memories of my March Echuca mini-break fading, I decided it was time for another short break travelling by train. This trip was to Swan Hill, about 155km NW of Echuca and, like Echuca, on the south bank of the River Murray which separates Victoria and New South Wales.

The Echuca and Swan Hill lines share the same track as far as Bendigo (164km/100mi from Melbourne), after which the line to Swan Hill branches off for the 183km/114mi run to Swan Hill.

Swan Hill lift bridge

Swan Hill lift bridge

The railway reached Swan Hill in 1890, subsequently being extended for a further 42km, now freight-only, to Piangil. No prizes for speed – the journey takes 4:42, an average speed of 74kph/46mph – but the leisurely pace is made up for by the affordable comfort of travelling first class – the return fare was just A$108/£60. I stayed at the Jane Eliza motel across from the station and was very comfortable there.

PS Pyap

PS Pyap

What to do? There are a number of attractions in the area if you have a car, but if on foot there’s really just one, the Pioneer Settlement. It claims to be Australia’s first open-air museum and opened in 1963.

The train arrived at 1227 giving me time to check in at the motel and then get down to the Settlement for the river cruise.

Swan Hill Settlement village by night

Village by night

It’s a good job that the tickets cover admission for two days since I spent the rest of the afternoon and the whole of the next day there, and I’m still not sure whether I saw everything. You can find lots of information on the Settlement’s history, buildings and contents in Heritage Victoria’s report recommending that it be added to the state register. Not everyone wants this.

Highlights for me:

The PS Pyap cruise: In contrast to Echuca, there’s just this one paddle steamer offering a one-hour cruise each afternoon. Shades of George Washington’s axe, she was built in 1896 but has been re-hulled, re-decked and her engine replaced with a Gardiner diesel.

PS Gem at Swan Hill

PS Gem

Wandering round the now-static PS Gem, the largest paddle steamer to trade on the Murray. She was built in 1876. In 1882 she was sawn in half by hand, and the two parts were pulled apart by bullocks to allow an extra one third to be built in between the two parts. In more recent times several cruise ships have been cut and stretched, though without the use of bullocks!

Swan Hill D3 locomotive and 1924 Dodge Tourer

D3 locomotive and 1924 Dodge Tourer

A ride in the Settlement’s 1924 Dodge Tourer (included in ticket price, as is the carriage ride)

Seeing the Castlemaine-built D3 locomotive – like many of our exhibits at the Newport Railway Museum in need of some TLC.
Victorian Railways Dd fleet ran to 261 locos from nine builders including Baldwin in the USA and Beyer Peacock, Manchester

Swan Hill blacksmith at work

Blacksmith at work

More than a few exhibits, especially the traction engines, were a reminder of Britain being the workshop of the world.

Watching a blacksmith at work is always compelling

Visiting all the Settlement buildings – I went to the laser light show so was also able to see them after dark.


Swan Hill Giant Murray Cod

Giant Murray Cod

I did say that the Settlement was Swan Hill’s one real attraction but I’ll end with mentioning Swan Hill’s contribution to Australia’s fixation with giant things, the Giant Murray Cod.

With this trip done, I’ve just one more Victorian rail line to ride: the line to Bairnsdale. Watch this space!

Swimming in the 1960s

I was not a water baby. It took me a long time to learn to swim but thankfully I did. Back in 1863 Abraham Slade recorded:

July 14th. 1863. My poor dear Arthur aged 9 years : About 6 in the evening went alone to bathe in the river near Whitton, and got into a deep hole and lost his life, was brought home quite dead. Was buried in Twickenham Burial Ground on the 18th Saturday afternoon… Oh the anguish of soul it has caused his parents…

Thankfully as a child growing up in Twickenham I had many better, safer options. My first vague memory of public swimming pools is from the early 1960s. Keen that I should learn to swim, I was enrolled in Saturday morning swimming lessons at the old (1882) Richmond swimming pool in Parkshot, Richmond, by then showing its age. Changing cubicles lined both sides of the pool. We went there because the then Borough of Twickenham didn’t have an indoor pool. There I learned to swim!

At primary school we had swimming lessons – memories are vague, but perhaps just during our last two years? A green Fountains coach would take us to Isleworth Baths (1936) and back to school afterwards. Outside school, I don’t remember going swimming very often: I never ever swam at the massive Twickenham Lido but would go to the then outdoor Teddington pool on hot summer days. Of the Twickenham baths, derelictlondon.com says

Built in the 1930s, in a concrete and brick art deco style, Twickenham Baths was municipal architecture in the grand sense with its wide hall, twin staircase and deep arches… The pool itself was an old-fashioned Lido, the last word in leisure, generously proportioned and with ample room for sunbathing on the paved areas. There were fountains at each end of the pool and a diving board at its deepest point, in the middle

Then to Hampton Grammar School. During my first few years during the summer term we would go swimming once a week at the outdoor Hampton pool, then unheated. If the water temperature was 10C (!) or more, it was deemed suitable for swimming.

Later in my school career we were given a wider choice of activities on games afternoon. Not being keen on the mud and cold of football, I opted for swimming. We were left to make our own way from school to the near-new (1965) Feltham baths by bike (c.3 miles, 10 mins), where our names were ticked off by Mr Pickering, supervising master who had driven there and would spend the session sitting in gallery catching up with marking. Once the allotted time was up we were left to get changed and make our own way home. Today there’s no way any school would be allowing its pupils to go off unsupervised, and I can’t imagine many parents would allow it either. The interesting thing about this pool was a movable boom which could be placed at one end to give a full-length pool or moved out to create a separate diving pool (in those days pools had springboards and high diving boards).

As the truly excellent Lidos Alive pages recount, the pools of my childhood are no more. In 1966 Richmond Parkshot was replaced by a new pool complex in Old Deer Park. The 1936 Isleworth pool and Library has been rebuilt as Isleworth Recreation Centre. Teddington, originally built as a lido pool in 1931, was closed in 1976 and rebuilt as an indoor facility in 1978. Hampton Pool was closed by LBRuT in 1981, then reopened following community pressure. It’s run by Hampton Pool Trust, a non-profit It’s still an outdoor pool, rebuilt in 2004, but the water is now maintained at a year-round temperature of around 28 degrees – such luxury compared with our 1960s 10C! Feltham baths is now Hanworth Air Park Leisure Centre & Library.

Twickenham Baths is the one that has disappeared. It was closed in 1980 and the site stood derelict for years. The old swimming pool was filled in and all buildings demolished in 2005. 41 years later the long term future of the site still has to be determined.

And now? The building in which I live has a beautiful 25m pool which I ought to use but rarely do. This winter I must make the effort to do so.

Three nights in Echuca

Map (source Discovery Centre)

Map (source Discovery Centre)

No cruise this year! Well not the cruise I’d planned anyway, on the Queen Mary 2 from Fremantle to Sydney. But needing a break, I decided to revisit Echuca, famous for hosting the largest paddle steamer fleet in the world and, of course, took a couple of boat trips.

As a tourist from UK I’d visited Echuca  in 1989 on a day trip but not since so a revisit was well overdue.

Echuca railway station

Echuca railway station

This time round I went by train – another of my ambitions, not a particularly ambitious one, is to ride every rail track in Victoria. Only Bairnsdale and Swan Hill left! Echuca has a fine railway station but it now gets but one train per weekday, two a day at weekends.

PS Alexander Arbuthnot passes the new under-construction Echuca-Moama bridge

PS Alexander Arbuthnot (1916) passes the new under-construction Echuca-Moama bridge

Echuca was first settled by Europeans in the 1850s and by the 1870s was Australia’s largest inland port, being the point of shortest distance between the Murray River and Melbourne. Across the river, on the New South Wales side, is Moama. The first bridge was constructed in 1878. A new bridge is now under construction.

Echuca wharf

Echuca wharf

The railway arrived in 1864, about the same time as the wharf was constructed. Until the 1890s depression the town flourished, but during the first half of the twentieth century the expansion of the rail networks on both sides of the river meant there was less need to for paddle steamers to bring cargo to Echuca. 1944 saw the removal of 80% of the wharf, cut up to provide firewood for Melbourne.

PS Pevensey (aka Philadelphia in 'All the Rivers Run')

PS Pevensey (1910) (aka Philadelphia in ‘All the Rivers Run’)

From here on the story might have been one of progressive decay, but from the 1960s the importance of Echuca’s heritage and its tourist potential was realised.

Today tourism is Echuca’s largest earner, given a boost by the TV series, ‘All the Rivers Run’ (I bought and am now watching the DVDs).

Holden Museum, Echuca

Holden Museum, Echuca

Apart from the wharf and multiple paddle steamer trips, there’s an excellent and free Discovery Centre, numerous preserved buildings in the port area and elsewhere, an excellent museum, the National Holden Motor Museum and more.

Next year, if plans work out, I’ll be back in Echuca, taking UK friends to see the sights. If you have the chance, do so too.

 

On falls

At the start of last week the headline news here in Victoria was that our Premier, Dan Andrews, had taken a tumble on some slippery steps and was in intensive care with broken ribs and a fractured vertebra. Most people were full of sympathy, myself because of my own experience in 2018 – unlike Dan I sustained a knock to the head which could have been very serious, and unlike him was free from pain and discomfort within a few days.

Sky News: Daniel Andrews is in intensive care

Daniel Andrews is in intensive care

Sky News managed a non-partisan headline on Facebook, but then opened their reports to comments. I think they knew (and looked forward to?) what would follow.

Some said what you might expect decent people to say, expressing sympathy and wishing him a quick recovery. Most comments – reflecting those who watch Sky? – were of another mind. I could have found hundreds more expressing sentiments like the ones quoted here.

Sky News comment: I hope Dan Andrews never walks agains

I hope Dan Andrews never walks agains

Demis Papillon: “I hope he never walks again”. Really?

Sky News comment: Shame there wasn't a noose around Dan Andrew's neck when he fell

Shame there wasn’t a noose around his neck

John Pikos: “Shame there wasn’t a noose round his neck at the time”. Not a Labor voter perhaps?

Sky News comment: Pity Dan Andrews isn't in the morgue

Pity it isn’t the morgue

Di Ward: “Pity it isn’t the morgue”. I hope she’s not first on the scene should I ever have an accident.

The real mystery to me is why people post such comments. Do they think we’ll be impressed? Does doing so make them feel good? Don’t they realise that every such comment reinforces the impression of Vic Liberals as the Nasty Party (TM Teresa May)? As I noted last October “You’re either with Dan (Daniel Andrews, our state Premier) or, spurred on by the LNP (conservative) opposition and the Murdoch press, have what might described as a vicious hatred of him”. As per the comments above the latter is certainly true. Sad, isn’t it. And if last weekend’s Western Australia election is any guide, the Victorian Liberals will be punished yet again at our next state election.

 

On Maths Teachers

Last Saturday saw the annual City Bible Forum ‘Life at Work’ conference. With the uncertainties of Covid-19 this year’s conference had to be a virtual one over Zoom. Whilst some of us in Melbourne missed the excellent food served up by our usual hosts, CQ Functions, many others away from capital cities were able to participate. One speaker was Eddie Woo, committed Christian and maths teacher extraordinaire. His YouTube channel, WooTube, started with him filming class lessons for a sick student in 2012, and it now has over 1.1 million subscribers. For his work he was made Australian Local Hero of the Year 2018 – a well deserved honour.

As for my own school maths teachers, they may never got to be known outside their local circles, but thanks to them I’ve spent 30+ years writing engineering software with more than a little maths. I owe them all a great debt.

Extract from Hampton Grammar School report

The facts do indeed justify the conclusion!

Two from Hampton Grammar School stand out. It’s an institution I carry less than fond memories of and yet I remember many individual teachers with affection.

Maths was my strong subject as this report extract shows (I’m not sure why this term’s class ranking was so low). Unfortunately I didn’t apply myself to most other subjects.

For O-level maths our teacher was the elderly (to us schoolboys) Frank Steffens. He was an old boy of the school having been Head Boy c.1924-5. He went off to university, then returned to HGS to spend the rest of his working life as a maths teacher. His apparent sternness disguised a kindly nature. He wanted every boy in his class to succeed and we did. I’m not sure whether today’s teachers would be allowed to make the weakest pupils of the week sit in the front row on the following week, but it was a tactic that worked!

I was in the ‘Latin A’ [express] stream which meant that we took our O-levels after four years instead of five; for maths we took the ordinary exam in January followed by Additional Maths in June. There were 32 of us in the class (not streamed for maths); 28 of us got a grade A in the O-level, 4 got B’s and 4 C’s (when pass grades were A-E), an extraordinary achievement. Later, in the sixth form Mr Steffens took us for a general studies class. Us boys were amazed that someone so ancient (he would have been in his early 60s!) could understand and explain to us the science behind Dolby stereo!

We started our A-level studies under Stan Barton, who was also Deputy Head. With an interregnum between heads, he was often called away and so would set work for us to get on with in his absence. Not too much work was being done when Alan Waltham, head of maths, happened to walk by the classroom and hearing our chatter decided to investigate. He decided that it would be best if our group could sit in his classroom and get on with our work while he taught his main class, breaking off occasionally to check on our progress. Finding that four of us were well ahead of the others he offered to coach us to sit pure and applied maths as two subjects rather than sit the combined paper, an offer which we accepted. And so this left him teaching three different groups at the same time! And we all passed!

Then to Reading University: No specific maths classes but in my last year those of us in the Building Surveying stream had a weekly structural engineering class. It was the high spot of my week, not so for most of my fellow students. Our lecturer, Mike Hewitt, owned a calculator which could calculate sines and cosines! We were in awe of this device which had cost him a couple of months salary. We did our calculations with slide rules! He understood that some were not mathematically inclined: “In the exam there will be seven questions and you have to do five. 4½ will be mathematical questions and 2½ essay questions [i.e. one half-and-half]. That’s so those of you who can’t add up 2+2 can at least pass on the essay questions and the clever buggers among you [looking at me] can’t get 100%”. He’d be pleased, I hope, to see what this ‘clever bugger’ has been doing for most of his working life.

Silo art 2: St James, Devenish and Goorambat

St James silo art

St James silo art

Here’s a look at three more of the silos I visited last month.

The first are at St James, a small town 148 miles north of Melbourne. It was first settled in 1870 and reached by railway in 1883, St James then being the end of what would become the Oaklands line.

The silo art depicts the history of wheat farming in the area, with one silo featuring a portrait of Sir George Coles (1885-1977). George Coles snr ran the St James store, selling it to his son in 1910 for £4500. From this grew the Coles Group supermarket empire we have today.

The silo art is by Tim Bowtell who also painted the Colbinabbin silos shown in my last piece

Devenish silo art

Devenish silo art

One stop along the line is Devenish, also settled in the 1870s. The silos were painted by Cam Scale and completed on Anzac Day 2018.

These two, built 1943, show a modern day combat medic and a nurse from WW1 – special to me since my maternal grandmother (who I never knew) served as a [British] army nurse in WW1. Fifty young men and women, one sixth of the then Devenish population, enlisted for service in WW1. Seven never returned.

The other silo, not shown here shows a Light Horse man.

Goorambat silo barking owl

Goorambat silo barking owl

The next stop on the line, the last before it joins the main line at Benalla, is Goorambat. The silo art is by Jimmy DVale. Shown here is a Barking Owl, an endangered species with fewer than 50 breeding pairs left in Victoria. What a magnificent depiction of a magnificent bird.

I’ve shown you four of the seven silo groups in NE Victoria. If you ever get the chance go and visit them yourself!


Australia Silo Art home page

 

Silo art 1: Colbinabbin

As previously mentioned, only eleven weeks ago one of our politicians (to spare his blushes I’ll call him ‘Jason Wood’) was telling us that “if NSW could manage with around twenty cases per day, then why does the Victorian Labor Party and our stubborn Premier want to reach this ridiculously unrealistic target of a 5 case average over 14 days?!” Thanks to Daniel Andrews’ ‘stubbornness’, today is our 59th consecutive day without a community-contracted case of Coronavirus. On November 9th he promised us a COVID-normal Christmas as a reward for our long hard winter of coronavirus restrictions and that’s what we’ve had. Sadly most of the world hasn’t been so fortunate.

R-class loco and grain train

R-class loco and grain train

As part of that long winter lockdown, from the start of August we weren’t allowed to travel more than 5km (3 miles from home). Then from November 8th we were free to travel anywhere in Victoria, so I decided to take a break visiting the silo art in NE Victoria. Much as I love Melbourne, it was so good to be able to go away.

For my base I chose to stay at the Addison Motor Inn in Shepparton which I can thoroughly recommend. On day one I visited the silos at Colbinabbin and Rochester – it was seeing an R-class loco pictured on one of the Colbinabbin silos that first gave me the idea for this trip.

Colbinabbin silo art

Colbinabbin silo art

Pictures do not though begin to convey the scale of these artworks. Look at the size of the person standing in front of the silo and you’ll get an idea of the size of these silos.

Originally only the concrete silos were to be painted, then it was decided to paint all six. The artwork, by Tim Bowtell, was started in April 2020 and took just 50 days to complete. This was his second silo art project after St James.

Colbinabbin - Farmers picnic (close-up)

Farmers picnic (close-up)

The overall theme is the story of the railway and its significance to the Colbinabbin district. How wonderful to see a vision come to fruition and congratulations to everyone involved.

History notes

Colbinabbin was the terminus of the Rushworth railway line, opened 1913, closed 1987. The concrete silos are of the Williamstown type – 57 were built in Victoria between 1935 and 1950. The steel silos are  of the Ascom design. From the 1930s until privatised in 1999 all grain passed through a government body known as the Australian Wheat Board which built these silos.


Australian Silo Art home page

About the art

Colbinabbin Silo Art Trail Facebook page

 

Where do the Spice Girls, Evelyn Waugh and Bart Simpson hang out?

One answer might be Madame Tussauds (London waxworks) – I haven’t checked. Another is in my DVD drawer – I’ve remarked on multiple occasions that a look at my DVD collection will tell anyone that I’m a crazy mixed-up person! To help pass the Covid-19 lockdown I set myself the target of watching (for the first time in a few cases) every single one of my 100+ DVD collection, including Spiceworld and several Simpsons series. It’s a project that’s yet to be completed – I’m about two-thirds through.

But what if I could only take a few DVDs to the BBC Radio 4 desert island? Five of my boxed sets – some of the finest British TV drama ever IMO – would be at the top of the list. They’re all of a similar genre – loosely being classable as coming of age series. In broadcast order, with the original author and publication date(s) in brackets, the five are

  • The Forsyte Saga, BBC 1967, (John Galsworthy, 1906-21), 26 episodes, 21 hours. “Viewers remember the way the nation shut down each Sunday night for the event. Pubs closed early and the streets were deserted. The Church even rescheduled its evening worship services so that the immense audience could be ready for the start of the show at 7:25pm.” “It was not the first literary adaptation on TV, but it was longer and more ambitious than anything screened before, and it has come to represent every value and standard to which British TV has aspired ever since.” [Sarah Crompton, 2002]. A wonderful cast includes Kenneth More, Eric Porter, Susan Hampshire and Nyree Dawn Porter. Sadly it was made in black and white – the cost of colour was seen as unjustified in an era when few owned colour TVs. Amazon £89.95
  • The Pallisers, BBC 1974, (Anthony Trollope, 1864-79), 26 episodes, 21 hours. Another series set in Victorian England, this time following the aristocratic Plantagenet Palliser and his rise to Duke of Omnium and Prime Minister. The scale of this production is shown by Wikipedia’s ‘partial’ cast list, 81 names! Philip Latham and Susan Hampshire starred as Palliser and his wife. Among other well known names, Anthony Andrews and Jeremy Irons would later star in Brideshead Revisited. Amazon £99.99
  • Clayhanger, ITV 1976, (Arnold Bennett, 1910-18), 26 episodes, 26 hours. A wonderful coming-of-age series tracing the life of would-be architect, Edwin Clayhanger, from school-leaver to pillar of society. Peter McEnery stars, with Janet Suzman as Hilda Lessways, Harry Andrews as the terrifying then pitiable Darius Clayhanger and my favourite, Denholm Elliott as factory inspector, Tertius Ingpen. Amazon £18.48
  • Brideshead Revisited, Granada 1981, (Evelyn Waugh, 1945), 11 episodes, 11 hours. In contrast to the others here, written as multiple novels over and extended period, Brideshead was written in just six months. Brideshead Revisited is television’s greatest literary adaptation, bar none [Daily Telegraph]. Another brilliant cast including Jeremy Irons, Anthony Andrews, Lawrence Olivier, John Gielgud, Claire Bloom, Diana Quick and John Grillo. Amazon £35.37
  • Strangers and Brothers, BBC, 1984 (C.P.Snow, 1940-70), 13 episodes, 12 hours. The series follows Lewis Elliott’s life and career from humble beginnings in an English provincial town, to reasonably successful London lawyer, to Cambridge don, to WW2 service in Whitehall, to senior civil servant and finally retirement. Shaughan Seymour stars as Lewis, Sheila Ruskin as his mentally troubled first wife Sheila and Cherie Lunghi as his second wife Margaret. Other cast members include Anthony Hopkins, Nigel Havers, Peter Sallis and Tom Wilkinson. Amazon £10.50

When thinking about this piece I was tempted to say that nothing on the scale of these series will ever be seen again. But in recent times we’ve seen Downton Abbey, reportedly Amazon’s highest selling DVD boxset of all time. I don’t own it so it didn’t qualify for the list above, but even if I did, it wouldn’t be there. Why not? When I watch it, or any of the Austen Bronte, Dickens , Hardy etc TV adaptations I’m always conscious that I’m watching fiction. With the five series above I’m watching real-life biographies, or so it seems to me. Just me? Comments?


Amazon [UK] links above are given for your convenience only – I don’t get any commission from you following them. Prices are correct at time of writing. Strangers and Brothers at £10.50 and Clayhanger at £18.48 should be no-brainers! Are any of these on Netflix? I’m not a subscriber so don’t know. If you know, please add a comment.

Covid-19: Disappointment day

It’s nine weeks since I wrote my last Covid-19 piece. Thanks to mistakes and bad practice by various parties our daily Victorian positive number hit a peak of 725 in early August and by then (Sep 21) had dropped to 11, a figure that people in Europe and USA would think miraculous. As someone whose family is all in UK, I’m all too well aware of the result of failure to take hard measures when required. Look at this graph: Victoria is the red line, the UK the blue one. As our fight against the second wave was taking effect, the UK sadly lost control. How it (France, USA etc) can recover, I don’t know.

One of the sad things about the pandemic here in Victoria is how it has split society. You’re either with Dan (Daniel Andrews, our state Premier) or, spurred on by the LNP (conservative) opposition and the Murdoch press, have what might described as a vicious hatred of him. Tim Smith LNP deputy leader posted “a series of playing cards graphics of Labor MPs that appear to be inspired from the ‘kill or capture’ campaign waged by the US against Iraq’s Saddam Hussein“. Murdoch journalists turn up at the daily press conferences more intent on pursuing an agenda than asking the questions most people would like answered. A photographer from The Australian turned up on CHO Brett Sutton’s doorstep – one might see the subtext as being “we know where you live; we know where your wife and children live” – as Dan observed, it wasn’t as if they were short of photos of him.

Michael O’Brien, LNP leader, endlessly negative, has sought publicity by encouraging lawsuits against our state government. Win or lose, the cost of defending them will come out of the pockets of ordinary people. One of his causes was café owner, Michelle Loielo, who claimed to have lost 99 per cent of business under the state’s lockdown – my local café is no doubt down on business but take-away business still keeps three people busy. A look at her website doesn’t inspire confidence in her business sense: its ‘News’ page is still (as I write this) advertising Fathers Day specials starting with Seafood Bonanza for 2 $138.00; Fathers Day was September 6th, seven weeks ago. I hope the food isn’t that old!

After the 725 case scare, Daniel Andrews declared that our (very hard) lockdown restrictions would be lifted only when it was safe to do so. Not unreasonably this drew a lot of criticism for its vagueness, and so some hard numbers were substituted, the one for today being that the threshold for lifting a whole swathe of restrictions was subject to a 14-day new case average of 5 cases or less, with the caveat that this was subject to circumstance (e.g. 11 days at 3, followed by 5,10,20 would give an average of 4.8 but the upkick would be worrying and justification for delay). Needless to say, our LNP opposition were still unhappy. To quote Jason Wood LNP MP’s Facebook post of two weeks ago:

If NSW could manage with around twenty cases per day, then why does the Victorian Labor Party and our stubborn Premier want to reach this ridiculously unrealistic target of a 5 case average over 14 days?!

What’s turned out to be ridiculous was the assertion that this was an unattainable target. We have reached it! So why have I titled this piece, ‘Disappointment Day’? Sadly we have reached it but – not unlike my example above – have had a sudden outbreak of school-connected cases in the last few days. So, not unreasonably in my view, the hoped for relaxations (opening of non-food retail and hospitality etc) expected today have been deferred for a few days to see whether this outbreak develops or comes to nothing. For everyone’s sake we all hope the latter. But these two representative comments from The Age website show how polarised a society we have become:

  • We have all been through so much to drive numbers down. It would be tragic if all our hard work and forbearance was in vain and we went into a third wave, just because we couldn’t wait a few more days. Patience and persistence, Melburnians! We’re almost there! Anonymous
  • This incompetent government continues to lead us to destruction, until we change the leadership we are destined for failure ! Drew

Hopefully tomorrow and Tuesday’s numbers won’t show anything to worry about and the changes we hoped to see today can be implemented. But whatever happens, the damage this virus has done is not just to health, not just to livelihoods, but to the understanding that people of diverse political views can maintain those views with a respect for those who differ.

And then …. (Tuesday update)

It was a long 24 hours but what a result! Zero new cases and zero deaths (repeated today!). And so mid-afternoon Monday Premier Dan was able to announce that from midnight tonight retailers would be free to reopen as would – subject to occupancy limits – restaurants and cafes, with many other restrictions being eased or removed either now or in two weeks.
In other news, a poll gave Dan a 52% satisfaction rating – pretty good considering the way certain sections of the media have hammered him. In contrast, ‘Mr Negative’, opposition leader Michael O’Brien’s satisfaction rating was a derisory 15%; even amongst LNP supporters he could only manage 27%. It’s gratifying to see his style of politics so resoundingly rejected, and a welcome remind that the popular press holds much less sway over its readers than it might like to think.

You could earn $$$,$$$!

What do you watch? And how do you pay for it? Back when I was born in the UK, there was just one television channel, the BBC. Television ownership was then far from universal, though the Queen’s Coronation on June 2nd 1953 had spurred the demand for televisions. The BBC was financed (and still is) by a licence fee, payable by everyone who owned a TV  (or radio in those days), rather than by advertising. This gives it the freedom to carry content that doesn’t necessarily command a mass audience but serves subsets of the population. The counter argument would be that the freedom from commercial imperatives leads to content which doesn’t match the desires of those who have no choice but to pay for it.

The endless BBC-knocking stories in the right-wing UK press invariably draw comments on the theme of ‘The BBC should be cut loose and made to finance itself’. Let me just note that according to BARB research, the BBC channels are the most watched (51:29 per day avg, 14-20 Sep 2020), well ahead of ITV (37.58), Sky (17:32), C4 (17:02) and C5 (11:59). A couple of decades ago, ITV had more viewers than BBC so who is failing the audience? If the BBC lost its licence fee and was made to take advertising, the other commercial channels would no doubt take a massive hit.

But all these channels are now up against other competition, Netflix, YouTube, Amazon Prime etc. Most are subscription services. YouTube gives viewers the option for ad-free content, but do many people pay for this? In its early days it seemed to be a home for what were once dismissively called ‘home movies’ but no more. The production values of most YouTube content are as good as anything on mainline TV.

What’s really interesting is that YouTube has evolved to be a money-making platform for content creators. In most cases it’s a case of attracting eyeballs and getting a cut of the associated advertising income, but what I find interesting are the ones that ask for money. The users pay, not because they have to, not because they are going to receive anything in return (perhaps a mention in the credits or a preview), but just out of a desire to reward the producers of what they’ve enjoyed and to encourage them to do more. The patronage of past times, where the wealthy supported causes close to their hearts has been democratised. According to its website, Patreon  now currently supports more than 100,000 creators, who receive recurring donations from over 3 million supporters. Some are earning six-digit sums each year. Few manage this of course, but in principle anyone could! All made possible by technology. Lest you wonder I’m not planning to become a YouTuber. But here are three of my favourite YouTube channels:

  • Big Car – for anyone interested in the history of ordinary British cars (Patreon)
  • Cruise Tips TV – videos all about cruising (ad-hoc donation support)
  • WooTube – how an Australian maths teacher became a cult figure

P.S. Dec 2020. Nicky from Kitchen Sanctuary explains How we made over $100,000 in the first half of 2019 – great recipes!