Trains and tears….

gautrain3

Melbourne, weep.

A city as sophisticated and elegant as Melbourne Still does not have transport from its airports into the city.

Here I am, on a Friday evening in third world Africa, saying good-bye to my ‘baby’  Jessica, at the main Oliver Tambo Airport.    Painless the travel was, 30 minutes from home to airport, and when I was ready to go back, 35 minutes from airport to my front door

There is a distance of 33km, as the crow flies, from Sandton, where we ‘live’ to the airport. This can take more than an hour on the freeway, and longer if there is a traffic hiccup, which of course sounds quite familiar to my Melbourne ‘family’.

Except there is

The train;

the Gautrain.

gautrain1

Conceived in 2000 and completed in 2010 (imagine Melbourne thinking that far ahead!!).   I visited during the construction and there was disruption, no denying that.   In some of the busiest parts of the city  where large, sophisticated stations were built.

Big disruptions.

And we quietly muttered and grumbled and navigated our way around construction sites where there should have been roads.

And it cost heaps, estimated at SAR 3.5bill it ended up costing in excess of SAR25bill.

And it created jobs – heaps of them; more than 120 000 jobs and 15 000 courses for unskilled and management were made available.

It has 80km of dual railway line, 30km of tunnels and includes ten new stations.  11km of new bridges.

Other interesting trivia is that it involved about seven and a half million cubic meters of spoil [ph] and the tender papers took 7 hours to deliver and took up 18.5cu metres!!!!

A really a massive project –

As I said, Melbourne,

a big commitment.

But oh, does it work.   For a fair cost, one can park in the parking provided (and there is enough) get on a spotless, quiet train that leaves every 12 minutes and takes less than 20 minutes to deliver you right to the airport.

Why, oh why can a cities like Johannesburg and Pretoria plan and work together to create a state of the art commuter system to their major airport and Melbourne has a gridlock drive, hugely expensive parking and slow unreliable buses into the city and then perhaps if you lucky into the suburbs.

Melbourne weep.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Flemington

 

When the weather is kind to us, Flemington is a joy.

And without the crowds (120 000+)that assemble for the ‘big races’ it has a charm that makes a day at the races a treat to be savoured.

 

Dressed in our finery, we drive through the gates like royalty, being waved through because we have all the ‘right’ stickers; a privilege bestowed upon members at this exclusive racing club.    That Kate has a horse racing today is an added bonus.

We walk along the path marked with every Melbourne Cup winner and year beginning with the first race run here in 1861!!!!!   This in itself was fascinating, and never possible on the big race days because there are so many people there.   Today, though, we had the walk to ourselves and could read at our leisure, Makybe Diva (2003, 2004, 2005), Zulu (1881), Russia (1946).   I wonder at horses’ names; like “Neville left me” – does the horse care I ask myself.

img_5708img_5709 The roses are no longer out and still the grounds are beautiful, groomed and nurtured with such loving care, they could almost be horses.

Because these horses are treated like Royalty.

They are so loved and nurtured and cared for that I wonder if those who say this is a cruel sport have ever been to the stables, or been involved with horses in any way.   Have they ever seen how the strappers, and jockeys and trainers and owners Know their animals.    Every sign, quirk, like, dislike and know instantly if the horse is unwell or unhappy.

img_5714img_5716img_5715img_5712img_5754img_5744img_5722

img_5766

And we move into the members rooms : food, drink, elegant (and not so elegant) people, banks of TVs with races being televised from all over the country, Flemington is not enough, there is Randwick and Adelaide and Brisbane and Bendigo and and….

Heads down pouring over form books, so many seem to know exactly what they are doing.

Me?

Do I know what I am doing; of course not.

Does that spoil the day for me; of course not.

I people watch, and eavesdrop and love every minute of it.

And after they have poured over the form, they place their bets (or not, depending on what the form ‘tells’ them.   And I watch them reap the rewards of this study.   Sometimes handsome, sometimes lean.    And then I discover that they chose their horses because today they were picking ‘French names’ or ‘colours’ or ‘countries’ and I suppose that too, is a ‘form’.   With equal chance of success 🙂 🙂

 

 

Race 3:   That’s ‘our race’ and now even I look at the form book and open my wallet. It is so exciting to go into the mounting yard, hear the trainer and jockey and owners talk strategy;

the track is a 2 (a 2? what’s that mean – good.  Good But hard.   There’s a But to Good?   Apparently so)

stick to the inside;

swing out; hold back; let go.

Everyone listens intently nodding; me I listen, but of course I cannot nod – what do I know 🙂 🙂

img_5733
Mounting yard

img_5732

img_5730
Tavi Bay
img_5727
Michelle Payne – our jockey

It is so exciting to have a vested interest in the race – even if ‘by proxy’.   But while Tavi Bay won at The Oaks, today is not her day.

We gather in the owners lounge, eat our sandwiches and drink our champagne as the race is rerun on the banks of TV, not once, twice, no about twenty times.   And everyone  watches it – again and again.

Are they hoping the result may change if they watch often enough; studying the form; seeking how they could have run it differently, or dreaming of what could have been?   The post mortem continues; the track was too hard; it didn’t give everyone equal opportunity; why didn’t they water it; if we hand’t run last week….

img_5722img_5751img_5752

img_5741
Post mortem

The views are amazing, the skyline stunning, the staff courteous, the food good, the horses beautiful and the results always unpredictable.

Thank you Kate for the such a special Day at the Races.

img_5754img_5751img_5750img_5748img_5747img_5746img_5745img_5744img_5743img_5735img_5734img_5732

img_5720img_5718img_5713img_5730

Melbourne: a city that never disappoints

“Come with us into the city, Mum.   We will only  be a few hours.”

And so I did.

And as always, the city did not disappoint.

The weather was perfect, the city felt loved, cosseted as it was by people, hundreds and hundreds of them.   All shapes, all sizes, all codes of dress, all languages, all coming or going.   Horses, bikes, cars, dogs, picnics, music, headphones, cameras, selfie sticks, iphones, a happy form of chaos.

We could chose from tennis, cricket, soccer or concerts – a smorgasbord.

For us, a free Missy Higgins concert – a treat for all.

img_6452-1
A lazy afternoon
img_6458
Missy Higgins – she was Great
img_6473
‘Us girls’

Such a privilege to live in this city.

img_6468-1

Looking across the Yarra River from Birrarung Marr

img_6464
Just because..
img_6471
I liked the light
img_6462-1
A walk along St Kilda Road
img_6467-1
always beautiful
img_6466-1
manicured
img_6461
and changing
img_6410
laid out elegantly
img_6409
Beautiful pottery blooms

img_6411

img_6413
my favourite building
img_6472
The Australian Open
img_6447
creates a buzz

img_6450img_6445

img_6441-1

 Melbourne sparkles still

“Come with us to the beach, Mum.

We will only  be a few hours.”

And so I did.

That lazy January month when the days seem to last forever;

a full day’s work

and still time to go to the beach,

and then sit and watch tennis;

such was today.

Enjoy with me.

 

img_6525-1

 

img_6503img_6500

img_6501

img_6502

img_6519-1

img_6532-1

img_6529-1

img_6526-1

img_6528-1

 

img_6511-1

img_6512-1

img_6510-1

img_6507-1

img_6523-1

img_6521-1

img_6522-1

Melbourne sparkles despite…

…the greyness of this Saturday morning.

The cold and wet feels somehow appropriate, following the carnage of last night in our city.  Such madness has no easy explanation and the city collectively ‘stood still’ to absorb and process.

And then carries on, as it must, with ‘life as usual’

although of course for many, that will never be.

“Come to the tennis Mum”

“It will be long.”

And so I did and it was…

Cool and wet, we park at Gardiner, a newly renovated train station with some interesting artwork (although the renovation leaves some question marks).   As always a train ride into the city is an adventure.   This time, most passengers are on their way to the tennis; hats, backpacks, suncream, umbrellas, jackets (this is Melbourne after all 🙂  and the excitement and anticipation is tangible.

Flinders Station is always a lovely spot to alight and as we emerge from the ‘old lady’ we are greeted with a city ‘on fire’ – people everywhere, buskers, beggars, tourists, locals, volunteers in highly visible blue uniforms, police, cyclists, horse carriages, families, : just ‘Life’.

flinders

img_6608

A wander down Birrarrung Way reveals a wonderland of games, buskers, views, people. The girls keep chasing me cause I want to dawdle and sample and savour this space.

We stand in line waiting for the gates to open to allow us into the tennis precinct.  ‘Friends’ whom we have never met before share thoughts on the weather, yesterday’s tragedy, the tennis, our favourite player, what tickets we have;  some have Rod Laver and/or Margaret Court tickets (fancy tickets); some – (that’s us), have Ground Passes (unfancy 🙂  We banter and joke and enjoy a coffee from a ‘walking kettle’ – a Lavazza man who carries some contraption on his back that pours out hot water, like a they would siphon soda into your glass in a pub.

The gates open.

And with that, the clouds, wind and drizzle fade and Melbourne produces a perfect day.

img_6724

With our ground passes we can visit all the outside courts and the Hisense Arena.

We do.   Although  we could in fact spend 8 hours here and not watch a single game of tennis, there is so much else to see and do.    We can test our serve speed; have a massage; get our nails done; buy a whole new wardrobe;  or a new car, a Rolex watch;  we can have a coffee ($5+ or a beer $10); visit any number of ‘countries’ to eat, or just sit and people watch.   My favourite.   There is also a Huge section for younger people, fields of Lego, climbing equipment, tennis games – I didn’t have time to explore 😦

melbourne

img_6643img_6646

img_6638img_6633img_6634img_6632img_6640img_6637img_6635img_6636img_6651

But we do watch tennis, lots of it.

We see Jennifer Brady play a Russian lady (is it just me that has trouble with their names?   They are long, all similar and the women too, are long, similar, (blonde and gorgeous) and vocal.)   We sit at outside courts, we watch singles, doubles, fun doubles and more singles indoors at Hisense Arena.

melbourneimg_6631img_6721img_6730img_6727img_6706

And then there’s ROGER FEDERER.

I hear he is practising at 3.30pm on Court 17.   So at 2pm I find court 17 and at least two hundred people already waiting to see him.   I am so lucky that a couple right up at the glass backing of the court, invite me to squeeze in with them.  And squeeze I do.   We are like sardines in a tin.   We were also friends, although none of us have met before.   Our admiration for Roger makes us instant comrades and the hour and a half passes pleasantly as we share memories, matches, stories (some of my new friends have been standing here since 12 noon waiting – they saw Andy Murray come and go, a Russian lady with a long name, and some others whose names I have forgotten.)   Some have tickets for the full two weeks.   Some know every player, (almost), their stats, their history, their parents, favourite colour, meal, you name it, they know it!!!!

img_6657

img_6703
with his fans (look beyond the blue security guard)
img_6715

img_6684
the maestro
img_6685

Two very large young men dressed in heavy blue clothes (it is a very hot day now) arrive on court and we know the ‘time is near’.   Photographers arrive, TV crews are here with all their paraphernalia and then Roger himself.

Carrying a small tennis bag talking to his coach.   His is accompanied by one other person, Seppi and Seppi’s coach (who has a smile like an elf which doesn’t leave his face all afternoon).   They all ‘hang around the net’ and chat amiably, clearly old friends and finally move onto the court.  He is larger and more powerful than he appears on TV.

It is not possible to describe the grace, fluidity and elegance of his game.   He practised serves, – lots of them;  then backhands, – lots of them; then volley’s.  Yes you get the idea, lots of them too.  He and Seppi trade shots, laugh, talk and continue to play.   And then quite suddenly they stop, sit down, have a drink, chat some more and then Roger moves across to the fans.

He signs balls, he signs hats, he signs paper, arms, t shirts, hands.   He smiles for photographs, he spends more time with his fans than he did practising.   With the same grace, fluidity and elegance.   He is a most unusual man.

img_6720
the sardines 🙂

img_6684
the maestro

img_6703
with his fans (look beyond the blue security guard)
And then he is gone and we look at one another, smile and sigh;  content.  We swap numbers and promise to share our photographs and now we all go our separate ways.  I have new friends whom I will in all probability never meet again, but am linked to forever by this special time.

The rest of the day is spent in the cool of Hisense Arena.   Hingis in doubles.   Henri Leconte and his friends, including the ball boys in a delightful interlude – not sure who actually won that.   And Milos Raonic/Gille Simon.   Raonic wins and we leave the arena and walk out to a perfect evening.

img_6729

The skyline silhouetted against the last rays of what has been a glorious day.   We wander back to the station and home.

To watch more tennis on free to air TV.

I love my city.

mca_hero

Parks

I have been taking advantage of Melbourne’s glorious weather, my free time and the parks that are local to our home.

It all started when I started to measure the distance of our walks, our jalks (something between a walk and a jog) and on occasion, our jogs.   This meant I had to carry my phone (on which is the MapMyWalk app).    It also meant I had a camera on hand, albeit an iphone point and press type of camera.

From those beginnings, some meanderings emerged.   I hope you enjoy the indulgence of sky, fields, my ‘friend’ and the privilege of time.   Join me either through these ‘roamings’ or by creating your own.

Today, we, that is my ‘friend’, one of my two ‘babies’ ♥ and I drove 20 minutes from our home to Sassafras and found  a garden of Eden.

img_7162
We found the start
img_7165
Although there appeared to be some doubt about the route
img_7174
But trusting always,
img_7163
they set off
A little cool and misty in the early morning
We had the ‘world’ to ourselves

As the sun came through, it warmed up
there were ‘dark’ patches

https://youtu.be/WhtjcFD4qW4&rel=0

and glorious bright patches

There is always an adventure to be had when you go with my ‘friend’
Of course we had to go ‘up’ again 🙂

 

up and up
img_7217
the occasional interlude
img_7218
to cool off
img_7222
Then we waited will some got coffee
img_7226
and sat and drank it in the sun

Walks in and out of parks

This meander took my ‘friend’ and I through a local school, streets and park.

A tranquil reminder of what it means to have time to stop and ‘smell the roses’ (which we didn’t actually do 😀    but we did relish the gorgeous day. ♥

 

16681466_1477172842301816_6157823531682741200_n
A run
16649436_1477172882301812_4540784895638972022_n
all over the grounds
16603056_1477172862301814_4943368904892858816_n
while, it seemed the world of vehicles had disappeared
16681997_1477172952301805_7373297548931885232_n
some shade
16602756_1477173078968459_809841676426252491_n
before the walk home
16684094_1477174615634972_6943020040647677794_n
and a stop to look
16602620_1477173022301798_6343205890748541662_n
and walk again
16708178_1477173062301794_5725218472470916976_n
with another stop to look
16684075_1477173105635123_7339796082791797977_n
one more street
16649019_1477173182301782_3203262049871519984_n
and I’m home with my hippo friend 😀

 

 

A Walk at Dusk

After days of eye burning heat, my ‘friend’ and I f0und a cool evening to renew the joy of roaming locally.

16649197_1475484479137319_4495244184108942245_n
I always have to sit….
16640870_1475484519137315_2719303314438338058_n
…before I am allowed to run
16508089_1475484502470650_4384215860693752481_n
But then I run….
16681564_1475484639137303_1864657824196143278_n
And would continue running into the dark except when …..

there’s my favourite water spot

16602964_1475484679137299_2758258702176070681_n
And time to walk home

A Different Park

And in case you’re not bored yet, with our ramblings, in both senses 😀  –  Here is one of our favourite local parks.

16406635_1474369769248790_5208097691434326171_n
The Vista
16472883_1474369819248785_8375303902301959589_n
so ‘large’
16641047_1474369782582122_3410623720674243782_n
with water everywhere
16603125_1474369939248773_8332292228826797492_n
and games to play
16472864_1474369852582115_7720110055766411297_n
My drink
16473665_1474369972582103_4020820877621888828_n
While ‘they’ have their coffee