Tram Mayhem – Melbourne Vignettes – Winter '17

‘Come here Sahs! Come here quickly. There has been an incident. An incident on this very tram. This very tram, Sah! My tram in fact. I am very distressed. Very distressed but I will be all right. I will be okay. Come on …come in, if you please, Sahs.’

Always a joy travelling around on Melbourne’s trams – but sometimes things can go awry. But we’ll be back to this incident later.

I shouldn’t have been ear-wigging – I really shouldn’t, but the following conversation tickled my fancy. And, being packed into a No.11, making slow progress up Collins, it was hard not to overhear as the pair were pressed up against me. But he, well, he was more than pressed up against the young lady in question. He, of swarthy Med/Middle Eastern appearance, was decked out in full St Kilda regalia, obviously off to Etihad Stadium to witness the Saints demolition of an inexplicably lacklustre Tigers outfit later that night. She was a slim brunette, dressed in mufti, white-bread white in contrast to her partner – but obviously infatuated by him. They fondled, they caressed, they gently pashed with, as he nibbled her on earlobes, it going something like this after a quick reference, between nibbles, to his hand-held device.
‘Guess what, Babe. GWS have just drawn with the Hawks!’
‘Sweet – well that’s, like, rad. Really rad.’
Yeah Babe – it might even be some sort of record, having two draws in a row (It wasn’t. Carlton also did it back in 1921). How incredible is that?’
‘Amazing. That’s, like, just so amazing.’
You could tell she wasn’t really interested, but she was trying for his sake, in between planting sweet kisses all over his face. But, well, there’s nothing like the romance of tram travel to warm the cockles, but more about adventures on the city’s transport system later.

Van Gogh, to be honest, despite being the main focus of the trip, was something of a let down. Through a variety of events the trip was later in the year than I intended, it coincided with Victorian school hols and the exhibition at the NGV St Kilda Rd was in its last days. Taking all this into account, my goal was to be there on the dot of ten, opening time according to the gallery’s web-site. I achieved that, only to find people had been pouring in for a good hour – special opening times you see. Poop. Hundreds, thousands maybe, were lining up and once eventually in, it was difficult to get close to any of the works. It would have been fascinating and engrossing had there been less of a throng, so I contented myself taking pictures of those who could peer at the sad master’s works. So many starry, starry nighters were determined not to miss out that the only consolation for me was that the line up was even longer as I exited the show.

Making up for that was the excellent Aardman exhibition at ACMI – Wallace & Gromit and Friends. As well, there was the examination of the world of creepy-crawlies at the Melbourne Museum, Bug Lab. Looking at the enthralled faces of the children of all ages viewing these, I cannot but highly recommend both to anyone travelling to Yarra City, with kiddies, in the near future. The pair of attractions sure bought out the inner kid in me. The creators of the first, with their claymation, have set a new standard for the entertainment of young and old alike – and the display at Fed Square was brilliant in conveying their artistry. I took in the atmospheric images of the controversial Bill Henson, also at the NGV I, as well as the retro photographic installations of Patrick Pound at its Federation Square mate. I also did my usual trip up Swanston Street to take in the interesting offerings at the Ian Potter Gallery, University of Melbourne.

It was such a treat spending time with my beautiful sister Frith and gorgeous niece Peta. I took the former to a couple of my favourite haunts around the market at South Melbourne. We basked in the balmy winter sunshine to the tasty soft-bunned delights of the Goodegg (303 Coventry Street). Be warned, here the hipster coffee is only trendily luke warm, but the tucker made up for it. I took Frith to the duck shop, Licorice Home (8 Union Street – off Coventry). There was an array of cute and cheap wooded animals on display but sis went for the ducks, as you would. She came away with three. Peta drove us with zing and elan through the ‘burbs to ‘Little Saigon’, in Richmond, where I thoroughly relished my prawn rolls and stewed duck soup at Than Ha2 (120 Victoria Street). It was jam-packed with an ethnic cross section of Melburnians enjoying it’s fare – intestine soup anybody?

I wonder if some think that the taggers’ overlays make it a more authentic experience – to me it’s just plain ruinous. Hosier Lane is always a must on any trip over to Yarra City, sitting as it does opposite Fed Square, between Flinders Street and Lane. There are invariably new and beguiling-to-the-eye street art to be found on each occasion – but this time the taggers seemed to have outdone themselves in defacing those works with any semblance of artistic merit. I can’t comprehend the logic. Do those perpetrating it need to stake out their territory like a dog? Do they do it to big note to their ilk? If my opinion is shared and given this lane-way is in the epicentre of the arts precinct, drawing hundreds each day to snap away with camera and mobiles, surely, for the city’s reputation, something needs to be done. A night-watchman perhaps? Now that wouldn’t be too much of an impost on the rate payers there, would it?

The Kino (45 Collins St) brings to the CBD the best of the new releases, both from Hollywood and the world of art house. In 2017 it is celebrating its thirtieth year of doing so, so late Saturday arvo I had the choice of sitting in a pub over a few ales watching the footy or taking in a film. I chose the latter, with a couple of beers at the Kino’s bar either side of ‘My Cousin Rachel’. With Rachel Weisz as the cousin, she’s the older woman who first marries a young man’s ailing guardian and then, after his demise, presumably sets her sights on his ward (Sam Caflin). She’s after his inheritance, no doubt. But is this temptress all she’s cut out to be? Sam’s character falls for her big time and is soon handing over the dosh, but in the end does not know quite what to believe about her. Does he make the right call before it’s all too late? Set in Poldark country, it possesses the same vibe as the tele series, is based on a Daphne du Maurier novel and is directed by Roger Michell. I did not regret my choice.

Now the trams. The plaintive cries I started this account with were part of the first of several happenings that occurred to me journeying the network over my four day stay. The plea for assistance came from the driver of the one taking me out to visit Brother Jim in Camberwell. Pulling up to a stop, this agitated driver leapt out of his compartment and yelled his complaint to two approaching safety-vested fellows about to board. One of these took control of the tram, the other sat the poor guy down a couple of seats ahead of me. He kept repeating that he’d be all right, but he obviously had had a scare sometime prior to my embarkation. I presume the burly person sitting next to him was a counsellor or an official sent to debrief. I couldn’t hear much of the conversation, but nurses and pharmaceuticals were mentioned. At one stage the bigger fellow chuckled, only to be rebuked by the smaller stating that clearly, for him, it was not a matter for laughter. I suppose it is a credit to the poor driver that he had continued on his journey given his distressed state without any hint of something amiss, at least to this passenger. Yarra Trams, the next morning, presented me with a breakfast bar as a way of apologising for my trip along St Kilda Road being interrupted by roadworks – very thoughtful of them. Two nights in a row journeys on the three-carriaged No 96 were diverted, this due to bingles between trams and pedestrians, both requiring the attention of first responders and road blockages. Then, travelling down Fitzroy Street one night, back to my home away from home in the world’s most liveable city (personally I wouldn’t swap Hobs for it), the Cosmopolitan Hotel, I heard a tapping on the tram’s window whilst it was still in motion. I turned and looked into an anguished male face, thirty-odd in years I’d say, peering back in at me mouthing, ‘Let me in. Let me in.’ Now, even if I’d wanted to, I could not have opened doors programmed not to do so until a stop had been reached. As I turned away, the conveyance suddenly shuddered to a halt between said stops, the driver alighted and the tram-surfer disappeared. But what beats me is how he managed to cling on. There is a narrow running board outside, under the doors, but on the sleek chassis nothing I could discern could have given any purchase for one of his hands, allowing the other to tap frantically. Quickly our driver re-entered unperturbed at events and we continues our trip, but the mystery plagued my mind for the rest of my stay.

But all too soon that was over and I was jetting my way back to home. After we touched down, a few seats ahead of me, I heard a little cherub ask, ‘Have we landed in Bali Mum?’
‘No, darling, I did explain. Tasmania is an island, just as Bali is. Don’t you remember? I didn’t say we were going back there. I’m sorry sweetheart. I though you understood.’
‘Oh dear, Mum. I thought we were going to Bali.’
I hope Tassie didn’t disappoint the little one too much.

Trailer for ‘My Cousin Rachel’ = https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2n_KOgXMSyA

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