Enough with the heat


I’ll tell you what I’m sick of: hot weather. Today is actually reasonable, 24 or something, but it’s been bloody hot more often than not.I read this morning that January was the hottest month on record in Oz, following on from the hottest December on record. Personally, I can’t remember a hotter January in Melbourne.

It’s funny how such fierce weather can be so pretty. January was a beautiful month. There was hardly any rain, though there was a picturesque thunderstorm on Wednesday, few clouds, and the sky has been that very Australian blue. We need rain though, as always, and too many hot days lead to exhaustion and ill temper.

I find it trying, but I can live with it. My heart really goes out to all those beasties who have to endure this without the comforts of home. On those really hot days, I close the back door with Rigby inside and leave the aircon running for him. It also means I come home to a relatively comfortable environment, and it’s easier keeping the place cool than making it so.

January we had two days of about 44 degrees Celsius, a couple more in the low forties, and probably eight or nine days in the thirties. For most of the month, I had only the bedroom aircon working. The main aircon actually conked out on the first of the 44 degree days. I was able to sleep okay with the aircon in the bedroom but I’m never completely comfortable sleeping with it on. It dries out the air and makes for a lighter sleep and most days I would wake up weary. Tack a few days on end like that – and mine is a hot home – then it begins to add up. And it’s the same for pretty well everyone.

I managed to get the aircon fixed last week (on the same day I had a specialist appointment costing me $380; got my car aircon regassed; and had my bathroom taps replaced – on a 38-degree day). This weekend we have another 35 and a 39 forecast.

This sort of weather is made for staying indoors where it’s cool, or socialising out in the sunshine. I spent Sunday afternoon wading up to my knees at Hampton beach before having a few beers, some wine, and some take-away fish and chips with some friends on the foreshore.

This is what summer should be, only there’s too much of it. This is all over Australia and it’s hard not to think climate change and global warming, and be fearful. I wonder what those born today will have to endure in years to come. There’s no real reason to believe the small-minded politicians all over the world will ever wake up to the fact and actually cooperate in doing something to prevent this. By the time they do it’ll be too late. Hands up who disagrees? Barring some technological miracle, I figure that in a thousand years’ time we’ll be pretty well wiped out. All our doing, too.

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The smarter state


I remember the last state election I was staying in Rosebud. I voted there and in the evening my entertainment was watching the election broadcast. By coincidence I was once more in Rosebud over the weekend when the latest election took place.

I was busy out and about through the day but caught up with latest reports and results as they filtered in as I sat down for dinner. Very early on it was a clear that Labor where going to bolt it in. As it turned out that was spot on. The Libs in Victoria have been decimated and Daniel Andrews and his government given a ringing endorsement. It’s well deserved.

I’m a big fan of Daniel Andrews. I was a sceptic when he took on the role of Labor leader but I’m a convert. As premier he’s done what few of his predecessors have managed to do. He’s set out an agenda and delivered on it. It’s been a bold, innovative agenda too – removing level crossings, starting on the much mooted but forever delayed metro tunnel, he’s brought in assisted dying legislation, the safe injection room in Richmond, has championed safe schools and initiated a ground-breaking inquiry into domestic violence – among many other things.

Andrews has made things happen and my admiration on that front is shared by many Victorians. That’s a big reason he got so many votes on Saturday: he does what he says he will do, and he does a lot.

That’s not the only reason he go re-elected. The Libs, both federally and at state level played into his hands.

The rank dysfunction federally, the policy confusion, the stupid booting of Turnbull, along with an embarrassingly buffoonish PM don’t go down well in Victoria.

At state level Matthew Guy is a uncharismatic, slightly shifty character it’s hard to warm too. He might have had a chance, however, but for the ridiculous policy direction and campaigning.

Their slogan for the campaign was ‘Getting back in control’. I guess they’re trying to make a point, but fact is most Victorians would have laughed at the idea that things weren’t in control. The corollary of this slogan was law and order.

Law and order is a classic election theme, especially for the conservative side of politics. The problem in this case is that the scare tactics so much in play over the last twenty years have worn thin. It’s taken a while, but people are beginning to see them for what they are – hysterical attempts to inflame outrage and fear. Most of us have become cynical, if not disgusted, by the hyperbolic attempts to politicise what are matters of humanity.

It might work in Queensland, but there’s no chance in Victoria. Victoria is the most progressive state in the land. Victorians are not prone to knee-jerk reactions and will make their own judgement. Much has been made of this post-election, but I think it’s true. The Liberal tradition here has always been small ‘l’. We are liberal by inclination. With the Liberal party swinging to the unpalatable right a successful Labor party becomes a much more attractive option. Add to that a pretty handy protest vote directed at Canberra there’s no surprise it was a Labor landslide.

What is surprising is how the Libs have been ignorant of this. None of this comes as a surprise to the man on the street. I’ll tell you what’s important – climate change matters and we should be doing more about it, rather than playing politics. Education and transport matters. We’re tired of the demonization of asylum seekers and pity the children marooned offshore, and we’re cynical of the dog whistling regarding Muslims and ethnic groups – the likes of Dutton and Abbott have been disastrous in Victoria.

I expect the Victorian result will be largely replicated come the federal election next year. The Libs show no ability to learn and Morrison is a fool of the highest order. And I expect the lunatic right wing fringe will continue to hold the party to ransom. Reality is they’re too damn stupid to deserve power. I thought Abbott was a shocker, but Morrison comes a close second.

Old Melbourne


It’s easy to develop a fat arse when you work at a desk and so most lunch breaks I’ll go for a walk. I’ll head out in any direction with some destination in mind. It could be the Vic Market or the Aldi, it might be a book shop or department store or a little boutique. I’ll aim to walk for 30-40 minutes at least, rain, hail or shine.
Yesterday I set out for the Hill of Content book shop at the top end of Bourke Street. I’ve been going there since I was a kid, and recall – I think – actually visiting with my bibliophile grandfather. It’s a beautiful store with the just the right ambience for fine literature to nestle in. These days I browse the shelves without buying anything much, such was the case yesterday, but I had no intention of buying. I went for the walk and to survey books I might want to buy one day.

After the Hill of Content I walked the short distance to the Paperback Bookshop, which likewise has been there forever. It’s very different from the Hill. It’s small and inelegant but crammed full of nourishing books. I reckon I’ve been visiting it for 30 years and probably bought 30-40 books from there in that time. As much as anything else it was good to be back in such a familiar and warm environment. Once more I bought nothing.

Between the two book shops is Pellegrini’s, another Melbourne institution. Pellegrini’s has been in the news lately for all the wrong reasons. It was a couple of weeks ago when the alleged terrorist threatened with knife in hand, injuring some, and killing one – the co-owner of Pellegrini’s, Sisto Malaspina.

You’d have to have been living under a rock not to have heard of this. The outpouring of grief at the death of an iconic Melburnian has been immense. Everyone had a Sisto story, including me, such was his influence on the café society in this town.

Yesterday Pellegrini’s was shut. Not far away a state funeral was in progress for Sisto. Still, there was a small crowd outside the restaurant, loitering there and peering in the window and taking pics with their phone. There’s a strange, ghoulish aspect to many people that I can’t come at. I admit I looked twice at Pellegrini’s as I walked by but I wouldn’t dream of stopping. That’s just a bit too shabby for me, and somehow disrespectful.

Why it’s always good when Collingwood loses


There was a lot of talk last week before the grand final about who neutral supporters should follow in the contest between the Melbourne team, Collingwood, and the team from interstate, the West Coast Eagles. A few naïve souls, as well as many hopeful Collingwood supporters, proclaimed that as Victorians we should set aside our tribal hostilities and barrack for the local team. Fat chance that. Those tribal hostilities trump any regional loyalties, slim as they are, and it’s odd to me that anyone might think different.
We love our football teams, we identify with the history, the guernsey, the colours, and the players. Over time rivalries blossom as our team takes on others, and tribes clash. A great part of the joy of following a team is in getting the better of bitter rivalries. We take great joy from our team’s success, but we also celebrate the failures of our rivals. It happens everywhere, in every sport and in every land. It’s human nature.

That’s not an issue for the inoffensive teams in the comp. That’s why most of Victoria plumped for Footscray a couple of years ago. Perennial losers, no-one was about to get their nose out of joint if they won for a change. And certainly, in that case, we would support the local team over the interstate.

That was never a chance this year. Every right thinking Victorian hates Collingwood – the wrong think Victorian’s barrack for them. The thought that Collingwood – a team I don’t mind – could very well win gave me goosebumps. But I note that Fremantle captain when asked who he wanted to win said “anyone but the Eagles.” See, it cuts both ways.

In fact in the lead-up to the game I postulated my ideal outcome: Collingwood lose to a kick after the siren from a dodgy free kick. And, you know what, that’s just about what happened.

It was a great game. Probably the best grand final since 1989. The maggies got out of the blocks quick, as they have all finals series. They led by up to 28 points in the first quarter, before the Eagles got the last two, very important goals. From their on in they gradually ground Collingwood down. They hit the lead briefly in the third quarter and scores were level at the break. Collingwood jumped quick in the last again, kicking two goals in a minute. The Eagles pegged one back before Collingwood got another – all in the first five minutes. From there on in though the Eagles took a stranglehold.

Had they kicked the goals they should the Eagles should have taken the lead with ten minutes to go. As it turned out the game was much the better for their inaccuracy. A extraordinary passage of play with about ninety seconds to go led to a mark taken by Sheed on the boundary. It was a low percentage spot to kick a goal from. Maybe one in twenty would be kicked normally. On this occasion Sheed’s kick was dead straight and the Eagles took an unlikely lead. They were never threatened after that, and so went the premiership.

It was a just result. The Eagles were clearly the better team on the day. They were jumped early, but controlled the game thereafter.

The contention regarding the goal was regarding an alleged block that allowed Sheed to take the mark. I thought the umpiring was excellent throughout the game (not something I’ll say often). They let things go, which always makes for a better game. It was a borderline free in my view. Given that there’s about a 50/50 split in opinion I think it’s fair it was let go. In the wash-up the Eagles were disadvantaged by the free kick count, but it’s gratifying to hear the Collingwood fans squeal, and to see fat Eddie (a great reason to dislike the pies) go red in the face.