Thursday, May 17, 2018

Autumn Grapevine Colour

During spring and summer the leaves are the engine room of the vine as it is where most of the food necessary for growth is manufactured. This process takes place in the numerous leaf cells containing chlorophyll.
It is chlorophyll which gives the leaves their green colour. This chemical absorbs energy from sunlight which it uses to transform carbon dioxide and water into carbohydrates like sugars and starch.

Along with this green pigment are also yellow to orange pigments, carotenes and xanthophyll, which, for most of the year, are masked by the greater amounts of green.
In autumn, due to changes in the length of daylight and in temperature, the leaves cease the food-making process. The chlorophyll then breaks down, the green colour disappears and the yellow to orange colours become visible.
At the same time other chemical changes can occur forming additional colours through the development of red anthocyanin pigments.
Some mixtures give rise to the reddish and purplish colours while others express orange.
In other words all the different colours are due to the mixing of varying amounts of chlorophyll residue and other pigments in the leaf during the season.

At this time other changes are also taking place. At the point where the stem of the leaf is attached to the vine, a special layer of cells develops and gradually severs the tissues that support the leaf. The vine seals the cut, so that when the leaf is finally blown off by the wind or falls from its own weight it leaves behind a leaf scar.
This is called abscission. This is a fascinating and complex process. More information here.

With one or two exceptions, no Australian native plants change colour or lose their leaves in autumn so it is left to exotic plants to give us some colour other than green.
Grapevines are one of these.

Tuesday, May 01, 2018

Australian Currency

Way back in the 1960s Australia made the decision to change over from the imperial measurement system to metric (SI units)
This was done over a number of years from 1970 to 1988.
It was also decided we should first convert our currency from pounds, shillings and pence (£.s.d) to decimal.
The old system was a bit of a nightmare.
2 half pennies = 1 penny 
12 pennies = 1 shilling
20 shillings = 1 pound 
You imagine the time we wasted as school kids doing calculations based on this. 
There was some controversy when our obsessively royalist PM of the time, Robert Menzies, wanted to call the new unit of currency a Royal.
But sanity and the dollar prevailed.
The big day was 14th February 1966 and we were bombarded by various TV ads for many months before. That jingle never leaves your head!
But in the end all it meant was:
1¢ = 1d
$1 = 10 shillings.
$2 = £1
Both currencies were used in tandem for quite a while.
I was reminded of all this when I read the obituary of renowned gold and silversmith Stuart Devlin who was the designer of the original coins.
Below is a picture of the obverse side of them. The Queen's head is always on the other, even to this day.
They are (L to R) Australian coat of arms, feather tail glider, platypus, frilled neck lizard, lyre bird and echidna.
The 1¢ and 2¢ are no longer in circulation. The lowest denomination is now 5¢ and even this may be withdrawn in the not too distant future.
Paper currency started with the dollar and two dollar note progressing through 5,10, 20, 50 and 100.
The first two have been subsequently replaced by coins.
Stuart also designed the $1 coin which was released in 1984.
The $2 coin followed in1988.

Modern polymer banknotes were first developed by the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA), Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) and The University of Melbourne. They were first issued as currency in Australia during 1988. 
In 1996 Australia switched completely to polymer banknotes.
Many other countries have also gone completely polymer including Canada and New Zealand. The latest countries to introduce polymer banknotes into general circulation include the United Kingdom and Chile.
They are more durable than paper and have the ability to incorporate many security features.
Unfortunately even this hasn't stopped the forgers, just made it more difficult.
Our $50 note is a prime target.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

A Trip to Melbourne \ Phillip Island, Wilson's Promontory and Home

Our destination for the day was Yanakie in the Gippsland region just outside Wilson's Promontory National Park so we had plenty of time for a small detour.
Leaving Melbourne on the M1 freeway we headed for Phillip Island. The island is about 100 km2 (40 sq mi) in area and is connected to the mainland by a short bridge. It is a very popular holiday destination for Melbourne residents and tourist destination for those wanting to experience the Penguin Parade where the little penguins species come ashore in groups at dusk.
The beaches on the southern ocean side are surfing meccas and were designated Victoria’s first National Surfing Reserve
There is also a motor cycle Grand Prix and car racing circuit.
Cowes is the main town but being Victorian school holidays we avoided this area and, after excellent coffee at Smith's Beach with the surfing crowd, we ended up at the far end of the island at The Nobbies and Seal Rocks. This was surprisingly uncrowded so we enjoyed sitting in the warm sunshine looking out over the ocean. About 1.5 km offshore on a rocky outcrop is the largest colony of fur seals in Australia, up to 16,000.

Back on the mainland, and after lunch at Wonthaggi (ex coal mining town now site of a large wind farm), we stocked up on a couple of days supplies at Leongatha to tide us over for a two night stay at the very comfortable self catering Buln Buln cabins.

Next morning we drove into the Wilsons Promontory National Park which was first reserved in 1898.

It covers 505km2 including offshore islands and is renowned for great views, wild beaches, cool fern gullies, spectacular rock formations and abundant wildlife.
It is home to more than 700 native plant species, 30 kinds of mammal (kangaroos, wallabies, wombats, koalas, seals & bats) and approximately 180 species of birds.

First stop was Squeaky Beach so named for the quartz sand that squeaks when walked on. All our beaches at home squeak when you walk on them too so that is not such a big deal. But it's the rock formations and the wildness of the place that is so impressive.

Next stop was the Lilly Pilly Gully walk.This 6km round trip on a well formed track provides a glimpse into the Prom’s forested interior, traversing heathland, eucalypt forest ending up at boardwalk loop through warm temperate rain forest.

It was here we came across a small bronze plaque commemorating the life of an obviously young boy.
Later investigation established that Paddy Hildebrand was with his family on this walk back in 1987, ran ahead around a bend and was never seen again. Hundreds of people searched for 5 days and found nothing. One of Australia's missing persons mysteries. The whole story is here.

Then it was onto Tidal River the park's only settlement. This is where the holidays makers are and it was crowded. I used to come here as a child camping with my parents for holidays and then it was a remote destination. Not any more.
And this is about as far south on the Australian mainland you can go by road. It is a 3 day return walk to the tip of the Prom and the lighthouse from here.
 Heading back towards Yanakie we came across a pizza shack in a tiny settlement which was pretty new judging by the furniture and had a nice late lunch with many other hungry travellers.

Then it was chill out time on the veranda of the cabin looking over the rolling hills and gearing ourselves up for the long trip home.
Next day was an 8 hour drive to the fishing port of Eden with stops in Sale (coffee), Bairnsdale (quilt shop) and Orbost (lunch and quilt shop).  Much of the coastal highway, Route 1, is two lane, hilly and winding with just a few overtaking lanes. Big Double B trucks, petrol tankers and timber jinkers can hold you up doing 40km/hr up hills and 120km/hr down with no chance to get past. It makes for a slow trip. Little wonder there are so many accidents due to the frustration factor.
There are a lot of roadworks going on however and things will improve over the next years. This is the second major road between Sydney and Melbourne so it definitely needs upgrading.
An early dinner at the local pub and on the road at 7:30am next morning for the 3 hour trip home with a couple of stops for breakfast and a coffee.
It was a great trip but it was good to be back.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Melbourne is........

Federation Square
St.Pauls Cathedral
Flinders Street Station
Tree Lined Downtown Streets
Shrine of Remembrance
The Yarra River


Street and Laneway Art

Victorian Era Arcades

Gardens and Fountains

Unique Buildings

and trams

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

A Trip to Melbourne \ Activities Day 2

Early morning start to visit a specific fabric shop which happened to be in an area of the city famed for its laneway art.
Some of it is spectacular.

Other stuff is just graffiti.

Then we trammed it down to the National Gallery of Victoria to see its Triennial Exhibition.
The NGV describe this as cutting edge technologies, architecture, animation, performance, film, painting, drawing, fashion design, tapestry and sculpture.
The venue was very crowded and the work was just not our scene. We did a few rooms but gave up.

The co driver headed back to the quilt show and I decided to have a look around Chinatown.
Melbourne's Chinatown dates back to the gold rush days of the 1850s and is the longest continuous Chinese settlement in the western world.

Unfortunately there were lots of roadworks going on and it was dusty, noisy and pretty uninviting so no lunch there.
How to rescue the day's activities?
Back at Federation Square I knew that the Ian Potter Centre of the NGV houses an extensive Australian art collection so headed there.

To my pleasant surprise there was also a Colony: Australia 1770–1861 exhibition which brings together the most important examples of art and design produced during this period and surveys the key settlements and development of life and culture in the colonies. Importantly, the exhibition acknowledges the impact of European settlement on Indigenous communities, so I 'did' both, with a snack in between, during the afternoon.
Day rescued!
Meeting up with the co driver we made it back to our apartment for a well earned rest. She was a bit disappointed that two sewing machine companies (looking at you Bernina and Janome!) seemed little interested in promoting their wares. Pfaff on the other hand was quite helpful.
For dinner we chose Rice, Paper, Scissors an Asian fusion restaurant we had noticed just around the corner and always had queues waiting (they don't take bookings).
What a great place!
We got there early and were immediately seated.
Five shared dishes (seafood, meat, vegetarian) and a bottle of Pinot Gris was a great way to end our visit.
Their menu is here.
Back to the room to pack and watch some Commonwealth Games on TV and get ready for the trip home.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

A Trip to Melbourne / Activities Day 1

The trip into Melbourne city from the freeway was uneventful and we were soon checked into our usual accommodation in the inner city suburb of Fitzroy.
Fitzroy used to be a bit dodgy but now it's regarded as lively suburb with a bit of a bohemian reputation. Its many eclectic bars and restaurants are popular with students, weekenders and young professionals. Brunswick Street, a short walk from our apartment, is a trendy retail and nightlife strip. There were at least 30 restaurants and bars within walking distance.
We went out on a limb and chose an Ethiopian restaurant for our evening meal. The food was interesting. No utensils so the food was 'scooped up' from a communal bowl using pieces of  traditional Injera flat bread. I liked the food eg. slow cooked goat in berbere (spicy!) but the bread was too sour for my taste.
I don't think we will be trying that cuisine again.

 Next day we geared up for the major reason for the Melbourne visit ie. the Australasian Quilt Convention.
After breakfast at a great Vietnamese bakery (we ate there the three mornings!) it was a reasonably short stroll to the Royal Exhibition Building venue for the AQC.
Standing in Carlton Gardens, this building is as beautiful inside as out.
It is the oldest surviving building from the Great Exhibition era that is still operating as an exhibition hall and continues after 135 years to bring dozens of trade fairs and public expos to the city annually. It's also home to gala dinners, fashion shows and community events.
It was the first World Heritage listed building in Australia.

I spent the morning there (quilt pics in separate post) but left the co driver 'to it' while I headed into town to explore some old haunts of my hometown.

From Federation Square I walked past Flinders Street Station and St Pauls Cathedral, around the main city blocks, down tree lined Collins Street which is known for its grand Victorian architecture, prestigious boutiques and high-end retailers. The street has served as Melbourne's traditional main street since 1837.

The eastern end is known colloquially as the 'Paris End' due to its numerous heritage buildings, shopping boutiques and alfresco dining while western end of the street is increasingly referred to as the 'New York End' due its modern glass skyscrapers and history as the financial heart of Melbourne, home to various banks and insurance companies.
I really see no comparison to either of these great cities but that's Melbourne for you!
Then I took in some of the old arcades and rode a tram along Swanson Street before eating an Asian inspired lunch of gyoza and nori fries.

Then it was time to meet up with the co driver, discuss her purchases and plan our next day's activities over a much earned coffee.
She wanted to road test a few sewing machines as her current ones are showing their age and might be heading for 'toes up' territory.
All the major brands are at the show.

That night it was drinks at a trendy bar and simple burgers and fries with a beer at Mr. Burger.