16 June, 2016

Lunch With Old School Chums

With the exception of January, some old school friends meet for lunch at a restaurant in Carlton on the third Thursday of the month. This activity has been going on for many years. At my first lunch in March 2010, I was somewhat surprised to find that I had not seen 16 of the 20 attendees since 1952. It was a rather strange feeling to look at each person and to then focus my memory on their youthful images. Nowadays the average attendance is about 8. It is agreed that we don’t discuss politics, religion, or health (the group is interested in who is sick and the progress their treatment rather than digressing into talking about health in general).

In receiving an invitation to attend a lunch I was a bit apprehensive in accepting as I am not keen to mix with groups greater than six people. My preference is to engage in a meaningful, interactive conversation with a small group rather than to have a disjointed conversation with a large group. The latter situation results in me being bored, and what is more I find it disturbing to cope with the cacophony of voices which seem to get louder and louder.

Today there were five attendees. Upon settling down with drinks and a bowl of fries, Jim announced that he had been diagnosed with being in the early stages of dementia.  This news triggered off a conversation in which we shared our knowledge of dementia, and Jim explained its short-term effects. Since my involvement with the group we have witnessed two of the group affected by dementia; one has died and one is in a nursing home. It goes without saying that the group will support Jim as he endeavours to cope with the different stages of dementia.

The ages of the group range from 78 to 81. Thus, it is to be expected that there will come a time when a member of the group will announce that he is having to contend with a serious illness; two of today’s absentees are in this category.

Jim’s announcement is a reminder of the need to give thanks for being blessed with the gift of life. Life is a risk, more so now that we are hovering around 80 years of age: we are well and truly seated in god’s waiting room. Our challenge is to live each day to its fullest, and to temper this enthusiasm with the need to better understand the ageing process.

I really enjoyed today’s animated and, at times, humourous conversation. I left the restaurant in high  spirits.  

13 May, 2016

Club Hut at Mt Donna Buang

I have just come back from a memorable day with 3 former bush-walking mates, one of whom organized the day's activities and drove us to the Melbourne Bush-Walking Club hut at Mt Donna Buang.

For quite a few years Dennis and I have met once a year to enjoy a cup of tea and to celebrate our birthdays, mine being on 19 April and Dennis's being on 23 April. This year I rang Dennis and suggested that we break with tradition and go out for lunch to celebrate our 80th birthdays. Dennis had a better suggestion: a trip to the club hut at Donna Buang with the company of Lance and Vern. Dennis offered to drive us to the hut via Warburton. The four of us had enjoyed many overnight walks and camping during the time I was a member of the Melbourne Walking Club from 1989 to 1994. Prior to being a club member I had walked solo for 8 years.

My last walk with Vern, Lance and Dennis was in 1994. After a strenuous walk in the Mitchell River National Park, my wonky knee, after a 14 hour day, pleaded with me to swallow my pride and retire from what had been a series of wonderful walking experiences. 

Today was in essence a trip down memory lane for we drove through suburbs which I haven't seen since my bush-walking days. It was on such travels that we used to travel to Lilydale and to then branch-off for travelling east to such places as Warburton, Cathedral Ranges and Woods Point, or north and north-east to the alpine country. Now, when travelling in those directions, Patricia and I make use of the East Link freeway, mainly to travel to Healesville, where, from time to time, we enjoy a short 4 night stay in a rented cottage.

After a short stop at the Warburton bakery for refreshments, we drove 10 km to a car park near the track which leads to the hut. As the car wound its way uphill I thought of the time I rode my bike from Warburton to the hut for an overnight stay: a demanding ride up hill and an easy descent back to Warburton. Dennis had done the same trip with the difference that he started his return trip at Lilydale. I dips my lid to Dennis for his magnificent effort of riding an additional 70 km (35 km each way).

Prior to leaving the car park to go to the hut, Vern and Dennis had an intense discussion about different ways of going to the hut. Dennis pointed out that Vern's map was out-of-date, and that the direction of the original road had been modified. Be that as it may, I was interested to find that the way to the hut was easier than that taken by me in the past.

Many years ago the authority responsible for the catchment area offered the hut to the club for a small annual fee and on the proviso that the club would maintain the hut. Upon arrival at the hut a fire was lit for boiling the billy and we relaxed with more talking and having lunch.

Throughout the day we reminisced about the club, its members and the many funny and "dramatic" aspects of our walks. In particular, I was interested to learn about other club members with whom I had walked. Sadly I learned of those who had passed away and those in poor health. Our group of four, whose ages range from 80 to 89, also have varying tales of woe regarding their health. We are now at that stage in life where we have no option but to accept and adapt to the fact that our bodies are far from that level of health and energy that sustained us during our bush-walking days.

Thanks to Dennis, a good day was had by all. 

19 April, 2016

19 April: 1936 - 2016

19 April 2016: the day on which I gave thanks for completing my 8th decade, and the day before I took a tentative step into my 9th decade.

On 17 April 2016, the Tobrady family gathered to celebrate my 80th birthday at Vincents restaurant in Beaumaris. 

On the actual day of my  birthday, Patricia took me for lunch at a surprise location in Mordialloc - Tommy Ruff Fishbar where we shared a fisherman's platter and delighted in a glass or two of white wine.

My daughter Karen on a birthday card to me included a quote from the psalms:

Seventy years to our life,
or eighty if we are strong,
yet most of them are sorrow and trouble;
they pass quickly, and we are swept along.
                                                                                             Psalm 90 (89) 10

I give thanks that I have reached 80. With a bit of an effort, I may have crossed the line from 79 to 80 years, but I am far from strong. As I reflect on the past, I can remember moments of sorrow and trouble, but overall I am content with the life I have experienced. I concur that the years have passed quickly and that we have been swept along by a series of events. And now, as I prepare to enter my 9th decade, I pull up a soft padded chair and rest comfortably in "God's Waiting Room".

17 February, 2016

Triple-Fronted Brick House

During December 2015, we read an article in The Age titled Home Truths by Ray Edgar: a perspective on the suburban home, and, in particular, a reflection on Howard Arkley's artistic depiction of suburban bungalows and triple-fronted buildings. The article referred to a current exhibition of Arkley's paintings at the Tarrawarra Museum of Art, Healesville. Having lived as a family for 54 years in a triple-fronted brick veneer building, we decided to visit the exhibition. 

At the time when I was an apprentice electrician in the 1950's, I worked on many triple-fronted brick veneer buildings as Melbourne progressively expanded beyond the long established inner-suburbs. The second half of the 20th century was notable for 80% of Australians fulfilling their dream of owning a house on a quarter acre block along with a car port and a barbecue area.

In 1941 my family moved from the inner suburb of Brunswick to Ormond; we moved from a small single fronted home of which the facade was built just in from the footpath to a Federation style home located on a large block of land (that home has since been replaced with two units). In 1960 Patricia, Leanne, our 3 month old daughter, and I moved into a triple-fronted house on a quarter acre block in Cheltenham.


Click on photos for larger version

An outstanding feature of Arkley's works of art is the visual effect of luminescent paint. His paintings have been described as "...seductive pop images of suburban bungalows and triple-fronted buildings." Arkley worked hard to establish the suburbs as subjects which are as worthy as the bush landscape tradition. While drifting though the gallery we were entertained by music from Arkley's record collection, and we looked with interest at the displays of his notebooks, sketches, visual diaries and photographs; resources which stimulated the creative imagination of Arkley.

For information on the artistic endeavours of Howard Arkley, I suggest you contact Mr Google.

04 November, 2015

Country Towns 7: Echuca

Instead of travelling east, as we usually do for our short holidays, we decided to go north to Echuca for it is many years since we visited this region. 

Echuca is a town located on the banks of the Murray and Campaspe River in Victoria. The border town of Moama is on the northern side of the Murray River in New South Wales.

Our first visit was to the Information Centre where we planned activities for our 4 night stay (Monday 26 to Friday 30 October). Our accommodation was close to the town's centre:

The main attraction of Echuca is its port and paddle steamers. The Port of Echuca Discovery Centre and adjacent buildings provide an insight into the history of the port and the river trade of days gone by:

Click on photos for larger version

The Pride of the Murray was our selection for a 1.5 hour cruise and luncheon on the Murray River. 

After the river cruise we stepped back in time by visiting the Penny Arcade situated in the port's main road. For an hour we watched in amusement a few short silent movies, and then played games on seven old machines into which we inserted pennies. These activities brought back youthful memories of when we use to play similar machines.

On Tuesday afternoon we drove 40 km to Mathoura, NSW, where we passed through a red gum forest. Along the way we stopped to visit the Reed Beds Bird Hide. As we moved towards the bird-hide along a boardwalk we stopped from time to time to read colorful discs containing information about the birds. The discs were a novelty for when they were spun a bird call, relevant to the description, was emitted. The only birds we could see were perched in the isolated tree on the other side of the water.

Gulpa Creek and Red Gum Trees

On the last day we had lunch at Morrisons Riverview Winery and Restaurant. As we were being led to our table we noticed two kookaburras perched on the railing adjacent to our table: each bird was perched adjacent to our two chairs. So proudly did they stand that it was as if they had been trained to welcome visitors. The birds soon lost interest in us interlopers and retreated to a nearby red gum tree. Prior to leaving, it was our pleasure to compliment the chef for a delectable lunch. Upon return to our accommodation we drifted gently into the comfort of a siesta.

On the way home we stopped at Gisborne for lunch.

At the Information Centre we learned that there is a limited train service from Southern Cross to Echuca. Perhaps our next return to Echuca will be by train for a two night stay.

We now plan to revisit Healesville for a short holiday during the first week of December.

07 July, 2015

14 July 2015 - Celebrations

Recently, a phone call from a friend was accompanied with the question, "What does 14 July mean to you?". Without hesitation, I replied with pride that it was on that date in 2014 that Patricia and I relocated from our home of 54 years in Cheltenham to an apartment in nearby Highett. After a short chat about this anniversary, he reminded me that 14 July is also Bastille Day or La Fête Nationale. Knowing of my interest in all matters French he invited Patricia and me to a luncheon which commemorates the French Revolution at the Sacrebleu French Café, Rye. The suggestion of a luncheon was timely as it would also allow us to celebrate the first anniversary of living in our apartment.We accepted with gratitude the invitation.

Details of the café and the menu for the commemorative luncheon are on Facebook.

An article in The Age prompted us to reflect and comment on our experiences of living in an apartment. The article was aptly titled Yearning for the simple life  (Domain: page 8, June 19-20 2015, words by Lorna Edwards):


Large apartments with plenty of room to move and spare bedrooms so the children and grandchildren can stay over.

When considering purchase of the apartment, a lot of time was spent planning the placement of furniture as we didn't want to live in a cluttered environment. We have ample space in the living area, the two bathrooms, the study, and, in particular, the two bedrooms. I was not impressed with the small bedrooms that I saw in apartments elsewhere. Small bedrooms mean that the occupants have no option but to share the living room.

Our two spacious bedrooms suit admirably the individual needs of Patricia and me. Patricia has a single bed, an armchair, a bookshelf, and a television; my bedroom contains a double bed, cabinet, bookshelf, and a recliner chair. We had a similar arrangement at our old home.

Over the years it has been one person rather than a couple who stayed overnight. Thus, a visitor is welcome to stay in Patricia's room, and, for a bonus, have access to the ensuite. Our grand-children are beyond the age of wanting to stay over.

Modern apartments with very high-quality fixtures and fittings and greater energy efficiency than the older houses they are leaving.

That statement sums up our situation. Our home of 54 years had well exceeded its use-by date. The house was neat and tidy, but was begging for renovation (carpets replaced, rooms painted, kitchen modernized etc.). Given that we live in a brand new apartment, it will be about 10 years before we need to concern ourselves with thoughts of renovation. Double glazed  windows and air-conditioning ensure ideal constant internal temperature throughout the different seasons. Air-conditioning is economic as we do not have to have it running all day. Having seen our apartment, a friend of ours commented, "You have set yourself up nicely".

Apartments without stairs and buildings with an adequate number of lifts for residents.

At the front of our building there are 5 steps and a ramp, and a lift to take residents from the car park in the basement to the sixth level. It is certainly a delight to not have to climb stairs.

Low-maintenance residences with good security to enable them to lock up and leave when they travel for extended periods or head for their weekenders  along the coast.

Ticks for low-maintenance and good security. At our old home we had to rely on neighbours to keep an eye on our house while we were away. This is not the case now that we are living in an apartment. Storage of odds and ends in the basement is secured behind a locked roller door.

Now the kids are gone, they can live it up a little and want to be close to cafes, restaurants, city attractions, and great  parks for walking. 

When we moved into our apartment we brought with us four kitchen chairs, and placed them in storage. The idea being that if more than four people were to dine with us then the table could be extended, and  the addition of four kitchen chairs would provide for a table of eight. There has only been one occasion in the past year when we needed two kitchen chairs for a family get-together. Perhaps it's time to give the kitchen chairs to charity.

At this stage of our lives we are quite happy to treat friends and family to a meal at one of the many nearby restaurants. This removes a burden from Patricia who no longer has the energy to cook for a large number of guests, We are ideally located for travel by train; a 15 minute walk places us at Highett station, and in 2016 the government intends to build a station adjacent to the Westfield Shopping Centre, Cheltenham, which is only 10 minutes or so from our apartment.

We were quite proud of the Australian native garden of our old home, most of which had been dug-up and redesigned in 2010. The garden was lovingly cared for up to the time relocated to the apartment. The loss of this garden was offset by a large park which is adjacent to the three blocks of apartments. It is with pleasure that we can look out on this park from our lounge chairs and the porch. It takes 20 minutes or so to walk the perimeter of the park; walking around the medium sized lake is popular.

Sharing walls with neighbours is often a new experience for downsizers, who aspire to buy into buildings with owner-occupiers in similar situations and age groups to themselves who won't be partying until 3 AM. 

We have observed that the residents living in the 8 apartments on the fourth level belong to a range of age groups. Thankfully, the insulated walls protect us from sounds in adjacent apartments. At times low level sounds can be heard in the hallway while waiting for the lift. There were only two occasions on which the corporate body had to act on two complaints - cigarette smoke in the hallway and a barking dog.   

For more details of our apartment see the article Downsizing which is listed on this blog.


04 July, 2015

The Battle of Waterloo

From 1997 to 2008 Patricia and I participated in four extensive tours of Europe. During our first tour we quickly realized that as tourists we were gaining a piecemeal insight into the history of the countries we were visitng. And so it was on all the tours.

In June 2000 I was guest of an email friend in Belgium. Armand took me to  the site of the Battle of Waterloo. We visited the farm where Napoleon made plans for the battle (Napoleon's headquarters is now the Musée du Caillou), and a museum which provides information and graphic details of the battle. We then climbed a man-made hill, adjacent to the museum, to a position from where we looked in the direction from which the French made their attack on Duke of Wellington's armies of the Seventh Coalition. Above the lookout point stands the statue of a lion pointing in the same direction of our view of the battlefield. The lion is the heraldic beast on the personal coat-of-arms of the monarch of the Netherlands, and symbolizes courage. Its right paw is positioned upon a sphere, signifying global victory. It commemorates the location on the battlefield of Waterloo where a musket ball hit the shoulder of William 11 of the Netherlands (the Prince of Orange), and knocked him from his horse during the battle.

Click on photos for larger version

The reader may be interested to know that the battle didn't take place at Waterloo, but rather on an expanse of farmland near Waterloo. Waterloo was the location where the Duke of Wellington resided before the battle. The battlefield is located in the municipalities of Braine-l'Alleud and Lasne, about 15 kilometres south of Brussels, and about 2 kilometres from the town of Waterloo.

During our tour of England we visited Walmer Castle. It was there that the Duke of Wellington resided in the capacity of Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports (Robert Menzies, a former prime minister of Australia, was also awarded the same title). The castle contains Duke of Wellington's memorabilia, such as the iron bed on which he slept prior to the battle. On our visit to St Paul's Cathedral, while walking through the crypt, we looked with interest at the tombs of the Duke of Wellington and Lord Nelson.

I am currently reading Hugo's novel Les Misérables, which contains a potted version of the Battle of Waterloo. While reading the novel, I learned that there was to be a reenactment of the Battle of Waterloo in Belgium from 18 to 21 June 2015.

Given my visit to the site of the Battle of Waterloo, and, thanks to Hugo's novel, I renewed my interest in the Battle of Waterloo by subscribing to a video reenactment of the French attack and the allied counter attack. For an understanding of the historical details of the battle go to:

The commentators of the reenactment provided comprehensive details about the battle. One significant fact was the carnage generated by the battle:

Waterloo cost Wellington around 1,500 dead or wounded and Blücher some 7,000 (810 of which were suffered by just one unit: the 18th Regiment, which served in Bülow's 15th Brigade, had fought at both Frichemont and Plancenoit, and won 33 Iron Crosses). Napoleon's losses were 24,000 to 26,000 killed or wounded and included 6,000 to 7,000 captured with an additional 15,00 deserting subsequent to the battle and over the following days.

Ref: Wikipedia

"22 June. This morning I went to visit the field of battle, which is a little beyond the village of Waterloo, on the plateau of Mont-Saint-Jean; but on arrival there the sight was too horrible to behold. I felt sick in the stomach and was obliged to return. The multitude of carcasses, the heaps of wounded men with mangled limbs unable to move, and perishing from not having their wounds dressed or from hunger, as the Allies were, of course, obliged to take their surgeons and wagons with them, formed a spectacle I shall never forget. The wounded, both of the Allies and the French, remain in an equally deplorable state".

Ref: Major W. E. Frye After Waterloo: Reminiscences  of European Travel 1815-1819(Wikipedia)

The commentators stated that after the battle the farmers had the macabre task of clearing the farmland by burning and cremating bodies and carcasses.