Category Archives: Melbourne

A trip to Hurstbridge

Yesterday I decided to do something different and took the train out to Hurstbridge, 28km NE of Melbourne CBD, 38km by rail.

The railway was extended to Eltham in 1902 and then to Hurstbridge in 1912. The Eltham-Hurstbridge section was electrified in 1926. Parts of the line are still single track though a number of these sections have recently been or are currently being duplicated. The last part of the line passes through native bushland. 

The area that is now Hurstbridge was first settled by Cornelius Haley in 1842. He engaged Henry Hurst as manager. In 1857 Henry and his family took over the estate. Significantly, he built the first log bridge across the Diamond Creek.

Sadly on 4th October 1866, Henry Hurst was fatally wounded by a bushranger, Robert Bourke. Bourke was tried, found guilty of murder and hanged.

The township was progressively known as Allwood, Upper Diamond Creek, Hurst’s Bridge, Hurst Bridge and, since 1954, Hurstbridge.

Although dry and sunny it was a cold day so I didn’t spend long there but am hoping to return for the Hurstbridge Wattle Festival (last Sunday in August). One of the promised attractions is that Steamrail will be running steam-hauled shuttle trains.

The excellently signed heritage trail (PDF) takes in thirty buildings and other places of interest; I got to see about half of them.

Of particular note was the Little Bank Building, constructed so that it could be pulled from site to site by a team of horses or bullocks, and Saunders Garage, built 1912 as an engineering workshop then used as a motor mechanics since 1952. In addition, the op (charity) shops could have engaged me for a good while.

Then back to the station for the city-bound train – during the day it’s a 40-minutes service.

I broke my journey at Eltham to take a look at the historic trestle bridge. It’s the only surviving timber trestle bridge on the Victorian rail network. In the 1980s a plan to replace it was strongly resisted by local residents. They won and the bridge survived. It is now heritage listed.

The bridge is 195m long, 38 spans, and roughly 120 trains pass over it each day. It’s 121 years old … well not really, since none of the original members remain. When members are replaced the installation date is chiselled into the new member.

Then home – a good trip.

Taitset YouTube videos:

The Hurstbridge line

Eltham trestle bridge

Hurstbridge line map showing duplication works in progress (Victoria’s big build)

Hurstbridge railway substation (now decommissioned)
Hurstbridge railway substation
Hurstbridge Heritage Trail information plaque
Hurstbridge Heritage Trail information plaque
Little Bank, Hurstbridge
Little Bank, Hurstbridge
Saunders Garage, Hurstbridge
Saunders Garage, Hurstbridge
Eltham trestle bridge
Eltham trestle bridge
Data mark on trestle bridge post
Date mark on trestle bridge post

Anzac Day 2023

Today is Anzac Day (Anzac: Australian and New Zealand Army Corps). To quote the Victorian ANZAC Day Act 1958:

Anzac Day march 2023: Looking up the march route

Anzac Day march 2023: Looking up the march route

In commemoration of the part taken by Victorian troops in the Great War and in memory of those who gave their lives for the Empire, and in commemoration of the service of Australians for their country in subsequent conflicts and peacekeeping activities, the twenty-fifth day of April in each year (being the anniversary of the first landing on Gallipoli of troops from the United Kingdom Australia and New Zealand) shall be known as ANZAC Day.

If you know your WW1 history, you’ll know that the Gallipoli campaign was a disaster. After eight months the Allied forces were evacuated. Allied deaths included 8,709 from Australia and 2,721 from New Zealand. At that time Australia’s population was less than five million. To remember those who had died (and many more who were injured) Anzac Day was instituted.

This morning I set my alarm for 4.30 – not something I’ve done for many years. Why? I’ve been to watch our Melbourne Anzac parade on a number of occasions but to now have never made it to the 5.30a.m. Dawn Service, something I’ve felt I should do at least once. I was one of about 40,000 attending.

Anzac Day dawn service at the Shrine of Remembrance

Anzac Day dawn service at the Shrine of Remembrance

It was a moving occasion. In the darkness Master of Ceremonies Justin Smith reminded us that this year marks 70 years since the armistice of the Korean War, in which 339 Australian soldiers died. Those who returned weren’t given the recognition that they deserved, as was the fate of Vietnam vets twenty years later.

The Last Post was sounded, followed by a minute’s silence. The poem In Flanders Field was recited by Caitlin Fankhauser, the Shrine’s Young Ambassador. The MSO Chorus and Navy Band sang Abide with me and the New Zealand and Australian national anthems. The dignitaries moved to the Shrine sanctuary to lay wreaths.

Anzac Day march 2023: Melbourne High School band

Anzac Day march 2023: Melbourne High School band

Then home. I watched the parade on TV so the following pictures come courtesy of the ABC.

The march lasts for nearly three hours with representatives of around 370 units taking part. School and other bands provide the music. Here are the very impressively dressed members of the Melbourne High School band.

Here are a just a few of the more eye catching and interesting banners:

Anzac Day march 2023: 4th Light Horse banner

Anzac Day march 2023: 4th Light Horse banner

As can be seen from their banner, the 4th Light Horse saw service across the battlefields of WW1. Those marching behind the banner are descendants of those who fought.

Medals are worn on the left breast by those to whom they were awarded; descendants wear their ancestors medals on their right breast. According to the RSL rules photos of the person being commemorated are not to be carried but a good few people don’t comply.

Anzac Day march 2023: Usher's Mob

Anzac Day march 2023: Usher’s Mob

The march reminds us that every military force relies on all sorts of support operations, supplies, fuel, medical care, communications, engineers and here transport in the shape of the 118th Australian General Transport, aka ‘Usher’s Mob’.

I have no idea as to who Usher was, but his mob keep his name alive. The entire resources of the internet have failed to answer this question. If you find an answer please let me know via the comments.

Anzac Day march 2023: Catalina flying boats banner

Anzac Day march 2023: Catalina flying boats banner

The Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) operated Catalina flying boats as night raiders, laying mines in the southwest Pacific deep in Japanese-held waters.

In late 1944, mining missions sometimes exceeded 20 hours in duration and were carried out from as low as 200 ft (61 m) in the dark. Catalinas also regularly mounted nuisance night bombing raids on Japanese bases, with the RAAF claiming the slogan “The First and the Furthest”.

Anzac Day march 2023: Odd Bods banner

Anzac Day march 2023: Odd Bods banner

The Odd Bods Association was formed by ex-RAAF. and Allied Air Force members who had served in the UK, Europe and the Middle East in non-RAAF. units, mostly Royal Air Force units.

Once back in Australia they wanted an association of their own so that they could hold reunions and remember those who had lost their lives in the many conflicts during the war. Thus the formation of the Odd Bods Association in 1947.

Anzac Day march 2023: Wellington bomber banner

Anzac Day march 2023: Wellington bomber banner

458 and 460 Squadrons operated Wellington bombers.  458 Squadron was formed in 1941 and was soon sent  to RAF Holme-on-Spalding, Yorkshire before being sent to Egypt, Italy, France and Gibraltar.

460 Squadron was formed from members of 458 Squadron and operated from RAF Breighton flew the most sorties of any Australian bomber squadron and dropped more bomb tonnage than any squadron in the whole of Bomber Command.

Anzac Day march 2023: Scout and Guide banners

Anzac Day march 2023: Scout and Guide banners

And lastly, a thank-you to the Scouts and Guides who acted as marshals.

 *  *  *

Return of the Cruise Ships

Coral Princess approaches Station Pier

Coral Princess approaches Station Pier, 15th Sept 2022

For those of us in Melbourne who love looking at and travelling on cruise ships it’s been a long time since the 2019-2020 season was brought to a premature end by Covid on March 19th 2020. Then nothing for two and a half years until we had a visit from the Coral Princess on September 15th. She was welcomed with fire hoses as media helicopters overhead reported her arrival. But then nothing ….

Carnival Spendor and Pacific Adventure at Station Pier

Carnival Spendor and Pacific Adventure at Station Pier, 1st Nov 2022

… until this week – the first Tuesday in November being Melbourne Cup day – when the cruise ship season proper restarted, the Pacific Adventure, Pacific Encounter and Carnival Splendor bringing in thousands of visitors to watch the big race – just sad for our visitors that the weather was so cold, wet and generally unwelcoming. But that’s Melbourne for you – we’re now forecast to have temperatures in the mid-20s all this coming week.

Grand Princess leaving Melbourne

Grand Princess leaving Melbourne, 4th Nov 2022

Of particular interest to me, last Friday morning (Nov 4th) the Grand Princess arrived from Sydney. She’ll be based here all season, running thirteen cruises from Melbourne, the most important of which is the one I’ll be on in January, my first cruise since 2020. That evening I watched her sail for Port Chalmers, Dunedin, the first post-Covid cruise originating from Melbourne. After circumnavigating New Zealand she’ll be back here on Nov 17th. Cunard’s Queen Elizabeth, which will also be homeported here all season arrives next Sunday Nov 13th. I’ll be there to see her.

Melbourne’s cruise terminal is Station Pier, Port Melbourne. From its opening in 1854 it was linked to Flinders Street Station 3mi/4.5km away, by Australia’s first railway, replaced in 1987 by tram 109. During WW2 huge numbers of troops passed through Station Pier. After WW2 it was the arrival point for emigrants to Victoria: between 1949 and 1966, an average of 61,000 passengers arrived every year, peaking at 110,802 in 1960.

Spirit of Tasmania I and Seabourn Odyssey at Station Pier

Spirit of Tasmania I and Seabourn Odyssey at Station Pier, 22nd Feb 2010

With the development of aviation this trade disappeared and the pier saw fewer and fewer visitors, the main source of traffic being the daily ferries to Tasmania. On 23 October 2022, TT-Line moved its Victorian terminal from Station Pier to a new terminal just outside Geelong, leaving Station Pier as a dedicated cruise ship terminal.

One of my regrets is that cruise ships can’t come up river and dock in Victoria Harbour below my balcony. Why not? Because the 1990s Bolte Bridge was constructed with a clearance of 25m, far too low for today’s cruise ships (the Queen Elizabeth, now classed as a mid-sized ship rises 56.6m above the waterline). But cruising was very much a minority interest then. The Melbourne 2004-05 cruise season (the first for which PoM statistics are recorded) saw just 16 ship visits with 34,839 passengers and crew. Ten years later this had grown to 75 and 242,854 respectively. This season we’ll see more than a hundred ship visits with 120 visits provisionally booked for 2023-4. Hopefully our shortly-to-be-elected new state government will work with all interested parties to ensure that continuing growth is catered for and our visitors enjoy their time here.

Box Hill Cemetery visit

Instead of the usual talk, our October 2022 Box Hill Historical Society meeting took the form of a tour of Box Hill Cemetery (map). After the tour I did a bit of exploring on my own.

Box Hill cemetery first burial

Box Hill cemetery first burial

This story starts in 1872 when twelve acres of reserve to the east of Box Hill was set aside for use as a cemetery. The first burial, of three week old Jessie Lavinia Smith, took place on 30 August 1873.

In 1886 land between the cemetery and the recently extended railway line from Box Hill to Lilydale was annexed as an extension to the cemetery. Then in 1935 a further twelve acres was purchased by the Box Hill Council, bringing the cemetery to its present size of ~12.5 hectares (30.8 acres).

Box Hill cemetery columbarium (1929)

Columbarium (1929)

Box Hill cemetery pavilion (1923)

Pavilion (1923)

Notable structures within the cemetery are the pavilion, built in 1923 to mark the cemetery’s 50th year, and the 1929 columbarium built as a repository for the cremated remains.

In total around 50,000 people are interred at Box Hill. Here are a few of them:

Three businessmen who cared about the less fortunate

Sidney Myer

Grave of Sidney Myer, d.1934

Grave of Sidney Myer, d.1934

The most notable grave is that of Sidney Myer, founder of the department store chain and one of my great heroes. He was born Simcha Baevski in present day Belarus in 1878, coming to Melbourne in 1890. He died suddenly on 5 September 1934, aged just 56.

The Argus summed him up thus: He [Sidney Myer] came to Australia unknown and almost penniless. His life has closed with his name and his deeds known far and wide and with the largest general store in the southern hemisphere as a monument to his business ability.

Business success led Myer to be one of Melbourne’s greatest benefactors and so it’s not too surprising that 100,000 people turned out for his funeral. Through the Myer Foundation his generosity continues to this day.

I am not a politician; I do not seek publicity, nor have I any ulterior motive whatsoever, except my love for Australia and the Australian people.” – Sidney Myer

Why was he buried at Box Hill, rather than an arguably more prestigious place such as Melbourne General Cemetery, particularly since his home was in Toorak? Very possibly because Box Hill could offer such a large site. It’s also the grave site of his widow, Merlyn (1900-1982) and the ashes of his son Kenneth (1921-1992) and wife Yasuko who were killed in a light aircraft crash In Alaska.

William Angliss

Angliss family grave

Angliss family grave

A second prominent entrepreneur and philanthropist is William Angliss (1865-1957). He came to Australia in from England 1884, opened his own butchers shop in Carlton in 1886, then moved into exporting frozen meat. By the early 1930s it was claimed that his was the largest personally controlled meat enterprise in the British Empire.

After selling out to Vesteys in 1934 Angliss pursued other business interests and by 1950 was reputedly the wealthiest man in Australia. From 1912 to 1952, he was a member of the Legislative Council of Victoria, his contribution to public life being recognised by a knighthood in 1939.

Sir William died on 15 June 1957. In his will he left £1 million for the creation of two charitable funds: one in Victoria and one in Queensland, which are administered by the William Angliss Charitable Fund, and he is also commemorated by the William Angliss Institute located in the Melbourne CBD which provides training and vocational education in hospitality and tourism.

Robert Campbell Edwards

Robert Campbell Edwards was born in Ireland in 1862. His father died in a farm accident when he was eight months old. In 1877 his mother decided to follow other family members who had already emigrated to Australia and after a long and trying voyage they arrived in Melbourne in 1878. After working for a tea importer he decided to set up on his own. Over thirty years he built up a large real estate portfolio.

In 1895, perhaps remembering his family’s struggles, and being concerned about the number of homeless boys around Melbourne’s streets, Robert established the Burwood Boys’ Home for destitute boys. The home was founded on the principle that: ‘No truly destitute boy is to be refused admission or turned away.’

When the superintendent of the home objected to the policy of taking in completely desperate cases, Robert replied that this is exactly the sort of boy for which the Burwood Boys Home had been established. From 1972 the home took in girls, operating as the Burwood Children’s Home, closing in 1986 when such institutional care was no longer required. The concern for less fortunate continues under the Campbell Edwards Trust.

Now to the graves of two younger women.

Georgine Gadsden

Georgine Gadsden (1920-1943)

Georgine Gadsden (1920-1943)

Georgine Gadsden (1920-43) was the granddaughter of Jabez Gadsden, founder of the packaging company J.Gadsden Pty Ltd. Her father, Norman Gadsden, served with the Australian Flying Corps in WW1 before rejoining the family business. Her mother, Dorothy, was an operatic singer.

Aged just 23, Georgine met a tragic death on Mt Bogong, Victoria’s highest mountain (6,516 ft/1,986m). The Australian Alpine Club website tells her story,  summarised here:

On August 2 1943, a party of three skiers (Georgine Gadsden, John McRae and Edward Welch) departed Bivouac Hut on the Staircase Spur (4,900ft/1,493m) bound for Summit Hut (6,410ft/ 1,954m) where they planned to spend the night, with the Cleve Cole Memorial Hut being their ultimate destination. Between them they carried sufficient food to last about five days Snow was falling but the party did not consider conditions unduly severe.

On August 5 it was still snowing but with a moderating wind a second group set off for the Summit Hut. Five hours after leaving the Bivouac Hut, they came across the three frozen bodies of the members of the first party lying in the snow, just 80 metres from the almost completely buried Summit Hut. Edward Welch was lying face down. About two metres further up the slope was John McRae’s body. Georgine Gadsden’s body was a further two metres up the slope.

The Gadsden Memorial marks the site of the tragedy.

Once you know this sad story you understand why Georgine’s grave, now ageing, is topped with two crossed skis.

Nellie Catherine Wales, d.1948

Nellie Catherine Wales, d.1948

Nellie Catherine Wales

And now for a mystery. This striking memorial commemorates Nellie Catherine Wales who died in 1948 aged 49. The rain-washed marble waterfall hides its 70+ years well.

The mystery: my Google and Trove searches didn’t produce any information about her, not even a death or funeral notice. Is there, as with Georgine Gadsden’s grave, a story to be told? All I have been able to find out is that Nellie was the daughter of Alexander Wright Wales (1859-1939) who from humble beginnings became a prosperous quarry owner and local politician. Later on, family money endowed  Alexander Wright Wales scholarships at Scotch College. Nellie’s brother George (1885-1962) was Lord Mayor of Melbourne 1934-37.

E.J.B.Forrester and 66 others

E.J.B.Forrester war grave, 1942

E.J.B.Forrester war grave, 1942

And, lastly, war graves: within the cemetery there are 67 war graves. The headstone shown here is similar to those used in many Commonwealth war cemeteries.

If you’re interested in joining a future cemetery tour check out the Box Hill Historical Society web site

Twickenham Ferry

Last week a Melbourne Maritime Heritage Network meeting discussed Melbourne’s Ferries – Past, Present and Future. Upstream of the city all the ferries across the Yarra – one of which I will return to – have been replaced by bridges. Downstream, the river is subject to a fairly low speed limit, reflecting the use of the river by small leisure craft, container ships accessing the docks as well as the need to protect of the river banks. Geography means that for most destinations, unlike Sydney, other forms of transport are quicker or cheaper.

Bellarine Express and Geelong Flyer ferries passing in Victoria Harbour

Bellarine Express and Geelong Flyer ferries passing in Victoria Harbour

Apart from the tourist ferries from the CBD to Williamstown, we do have two ferries running from here in Docklands to Portarlington and Geelong, both services starting in the last few years. Portarlington  in particular lends itself to a ferry service – it’s not served by rail and the ferry is probably quicker than driving. Will we see more ferries? Not without suitable mooring facilities, the meeting was told.

But back to Ferries past. When the first settlers came here they brought a lot of their former place names with them. So as a one-time resident of Twickenham, now living in Docklands, I can easily visit Richmond, Hampton, Sunbury but no Twickenham. We do though have a Twickenham Crescent in Burnley. Why? Let the Australasian, 4 June 1904 explain:


Extract from 1889 David Syme woodcut: Twickenham Ferry on the Yarra

Extract from 1889 David Syme woodcut: Twickenham Ferry on the Yarra

One of the prettiest reaches on the Yarra, within easy distance from Melbourne, is that portion lying between Burnley and Toorak, about 4 1/2 miles up from Prince’s bridge. Here a ferry conveys passengers across the river, starting at the bottom of Grange-road, Toorak, across to Burnley. The ferry dates back to 1880, when Jesse Harrow, a veteran waterman, founded it.Unlike its English namesake on the River Thames, where the ferryboat is manned by a “jolly young waterman,” Twickenham Ferry on the Yarra is worked by means of a suspended rope, stretched across the river*, with a sheave wheel and regulating lines at each end, so that it can be raised or lowered, according to the height of the water.

Twickenham Ferry postcard c.1907

Twickenham Ferry postcard c.1907

On the Burnley side of the river, partly hewn out of the bank, is constructed a most picturesque old dwelling, containing four rooms and a shop. Here the widow of the late Jesse Barrow, together with her son and daughter reside, and retail refreshments, ranging from soft drinks and kola beer to apples, pears, and lollies, to the thirsty oarsmen. The ferry hours during the weekdays are from 7 in the morning till 10 at night, and on Sundays from 8 till 9, the fare being one penny each way.

“There are a good many ‘dead heads,’ though,” added the ferryman; “you see sometimes, men looking for work, want to cross the river, and, of course, promise to pay when they return, and again sometimes a lady finds she has left her purse at home, or has no change; then we have to trust to their honesty. So it’s not all profit, in addition, we have to pay £5 a year for a license.”

Thirty years later the ferry service was no more:


Not least perhaps among the many functions which his Grace the Duke of Gloucester will perform will be the official opening of the Centenary Bridge at Grange Road, well on the way to completion. Another step in the path of progress no doubt; but progress, no matter how desirable in practical ways, is not always a source of unalloyed gratification. At least, so thinks Mr. Barrow, the picturesque boatman of Twickenham Ferry, who, with the opening of the bridge, will find his occupation, like Othello’s, gone. Incidentally another, perhaps one of the last of those links that bind us to Melbourne’s pioneer days, will be broken.

Mr. Barrow, who has lived in or near his present habitation, Twickenham Ferry, just by Burnley, throughout his life, is the son of Jesse Barrow, who came to Australia from England in 1861….

None of the many regular or casual voyagers carried in his little craft during nearly half a century ever made an un-interesting trip with Mr. Barrow. Short though the transit might be, there was always time for some interesting reminiscence that gave additional interest or charm to an already charming spot. The strong structure that makes his service “no longer necessary” will be stolidly silent where he was eloquent, retaining its frigid parvenu dignity somewhat in-appropriately in the midst of rustic beauty. But though Mr. Barrow’s services will be no longer required, we in Melbourne know, they will not be forgotten

Argus 15 Sept 1934

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.


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.

Covid-19: Month 5

I didn’t write anything about the Covid pandemic in May and June since there was really nothing to say. Then in my July 15th piece, “After the shock of July 10th’s 288 new cases, one couldn’t help be scared at the thought of this number continuing to escalate. The next day, 216 (phew). But it’s not over: 270 yesterday, 238 today.” But any optimism at that point was misplaced as this chart shows.


Coronavirus cases Victoria Jul/Aug-2020

Back in 1989 when I started my software business the internet as we know it didn’t exist. It was some while before I got a credit card merchant account – in those days merchant facilities were only granted after careful scrutiny of your accounts and an inspection of your premises. Thus my one source of orders was people sending them by mail with an accompanying cheque or purchase order, and the day’s mood was set – for better or worse – when the post landed on the mat.

It’s felt a bit like this during the last month, waiting each morning for the latest new case count. On July 27 we saw our first ‘5’, 523, then were relieved to see a couple of days fall, only to be shocked by a one day rise from 384 to 723, beaten by 725 a week later. Kipling’s stanza re dealing with triumph and disaster came to mind as at the daily press conference our Premier and chief medical officer reminded us that not too much should be read into the latest number. Coupled with the new case rate was the steady rise in deaths, mainly among the elderly in residential care homes, their families distress being the greater because of the restrictions on funerals.

Not surprisingly early August saw severe new restrictions including compulsory mask when outside, a curfew from 8pm until 5am. and the closure of many business premises. Thankfully the vast majority of people seem to be complying with these rules – the doubtful being encouraged by hefty fines – and the daily welcome or unwelcome surprise has been replaced by numbers following a steady trend. But of course the only number that will really satisfy is zero, and New Zealand’s recent experience has shown us that a long run of zeroes doesn’t guarantee anything.

I suspect that things still won’t be back to normal by Christmas, am waiting to be told that my February cruise is cancelled, and am by no means sure that I’ll be making my annual visit to UK next July. Time will tell.

Covid-19: Month 4

On April 8th I wrote a post, Covid-19 Month 1. I envisaged adding an update each month, and in no time three months have passed! This partly reflects me being in a very fortunate position compared with most and partly because until a few weeks ago it looked as if here in Australia we’d tamed the virus, even if we hadn’t eliminated it.

Each Sunday I have a Skype chat with my sister: inevitably the conversation turned to the latest figures and the school maxim of ‘compare and contrast’; from the second half of April through to late June we rarely had more than twenty new cases a day (mostly from quarantined returning residents), with deaths being counted in ones and twos, in contrast with the UK. On 6 June, both New South Wales and Victoria reported no new cases for the previous 24 hours, with Queensland and Western Australia reporting one new case each. As I write this the numbers are (Aus/UK), cases: 10,251/291,000; deaths: 108/44,968. Even allowing for a population ratio of 1:3, the UK figure are still horrific. Is this because we’re so spread out? Scarcely: most of us live in a handful of big cities.

So with these happy numbers we started to look forward to returning to normality. More shops were open, restaurants were allowed to reopen, albeit with limited occupancy, and I felt safe taking the occasional tram ride. For my birthday, I invited my fellow church home group members for dinner at a local restaurant: it was the first face-to-face meeting we’d held in more than three months.

Then …..

New coronavirus cases in Victoria July 2020

New coronavirus cases in Victoria

… it all went wrong. A judicial inquiry is being held to determine the exact causes, but as of now it appears that the private security firm engaged to guard the hotels being used to quarantine returning residents failed on several fronts. Were the allocated staff adequately trained and did they understand what was required of them? Apparently not. Did they exercise any common sense? From the lurid tales of them fraternising with those who were being quarantined, definitely not. What was the security firm’s management doing? And what responsibility rests with those in government (politicians and civil servants) who set this arrangement up. We shall find out. But the bar chart above tells all: these ‘security guards’ took the virus home, then spread it through their communities.

So now we’re back on stage 3 lockdown – no visitors allowed, restaurants closed and army-manned roadblocks isolating metro Melbourne (where most cases are) from the rest of Victoria, and Victoria from New South Wales. We’re only allowed to leave home for essential shopping, daily exercise, medical treatment and study/work (those unable to work from home). After the shock of July 10th’s 288 new cases, one couldn’t help be scared at the thought of this number continuing to escalate. The next day, 216 (phew). But it’s not over: 270 yesterday, 238 today and a small but growing outbreak in NSW. For the next week we’ll all be watching the daily numbers. Our experience is a warning to people everywhere not to be complacent.

If you’ve come here from Docklands News ….

Perhaps you’ve arrived here via the link in Docklands News where I’m this month’s Docklander! If so, you’ll probably find one or more of the following more interesting than the most recent posts on computer hardware. I hope so.

Thanks for dropping by and I’ll try not to get too dizzy with fame!