Archives for posts with tag: melbourne

We’re not paying $40 for a Japan guide book! Outrageous! So we make for the State Library in Melbourne to steal the information we need: in the imposing surroundings we surreptitiously photograph page-spreads for our journey.

But there’s an excellent exhibition there about the making of the State of Victoria. And I am drawn to the story of the legendary bushranger, Ned Kelly. Here’s his helmet, and body armour, beaten from ploughshares; here are his letters in elegant handwriting; his rifle; and here, spotlit, is his death-mask, head shorn of hair and beard, a slight smile on the lips.

Outside stands a grand statue of the Library’s founder, in his robes, in 1854. Sir Redmond Barry also founded the University of Melbourne, and the Royal Melbourne Hospital. And he was the judge who later hanged Ned Kelly.

“Such is life…”, said Ned, before he dropped through the trap. Redmond Barry died twelve days later.

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‘200 countries of origin. 230+ languages. 120+ faiths. 1 community.’
That’s the slogan of the Melbourne Cultural Diversity Festival in Federation Square. It’s a beautiful day, there are food stalls from many national cuisines, and crowds have turned out to see band after band take the stage. Afrobeat gives way to Colombian cumbia; Vulgargrad, ‘perestroika punk rogues’, follow the Lebanese Dancers for Peace; Bombay Royale, a tight horn-riffing Bollywood 9-piece, is followed by a Serbian folk-dance troupe (I take a rest from dancing for a while). And we have a speech from the besuited Minister for Multicultural Affairs.
The festival finally winds up with Dereb the Ambassador: a thrilling, soaring, quarter-tone voice against mesmeric cross-rhythms, from a small Ethiopian in a baggy sports jacket. The day is perfect: bright sun on the plaza, and cool in the shade of the crazy modern buildings that surround Fed Square. And the most relaxed Aussie vibe, from the Chinese, African, European, Asian, Latino, and indigenous Australians watching, dancing and smiling.
We get an email fom a friend back in the UK. She went to a meeting in Brighton, about multi-culturalism. It was besieged by thugs from the so-called English Defence League. Sickening.

Mac keeps quitting. I slept badly. Shoulder hurts. I take 2x 30/500 Co-Codamol. They kick in on the tram downtown: ‘Aaah…’ Life becoming more intense, and interesting.
Victoria Market: vegetable, meat, fish stalls: oysters, king prawns, scallops. Fish I don’t recognise, take-away food of all kinds. I squirm into the crush (I’m enjoying this) and emerge with a big Weisswurst with sauerkraut.
On Elizabeth Street: Dura-glit sunsparkling Harleys on the pavement. The clacking ‘CROSS’ sound goes off and a welcome wave of pedestrians breaks over me.
Big sound on Swanston: a Chinese anti-Party demonstration. Many uniformed people in ranks, protesting persecution of Falun Gong adherents. Mild interest turns to horror: a beaten man is hanging by his wrists from a gibbet. ‘Surgeons’ surround a bloodied shape on  an operating table; supposedly removing live organs. Leaflets and petitions: a small woman sings a haunting melody into the microphone.
I’m in a darkened theatre. Dancers swirl and writhe. A grid of silvery wires suspended, their ends connected to a wheel at the side. Music: cutlery-smashing sound, sub-sonic bass, power chords, feedback… The dancers attach themselves to the wires, and every movement changes the beautiful hanging shape, like a mantra-ray swooping. Music swells, crashes, fades… Rather polite applause. I’m stunned.
Then to Melbourne’s Botanic Gardens. Slender eucalypts with their pale grey and pink striped bark, and massive, text-book palms. It’s not Itchycoo-Park – but it’s all too beautiful!