Meeting Celebrities in Melbourne
19th May, Australia
Our day began with a drive to a place called Thomastown where there was a VW garage. Yep, Ethel needed to go in for a check-up. Nothing major, just a few tweaks here and there to get her fighting fit again after recent inactivity. This meant that at just after 8am we were on a train bound for the centre of Melbourne, the earliest we'd been out-and-about for a long time.
We got off at Flinders Street Station, one of Melbourne's most famous landmarks with its yellow brickwork and green domed roof. Directly opposite is the much more modern architecture of Federation Square, and on the corner the information centre which is our usual start point in any city. We loaded up on all the pamphlets we might need (and no doubt loads that we wouldn't need but were given anyway) then moved on to stage two of operation 'Get to Know Melbourne' - a tram ride around the perimeter of the Central Business District. The circle tram line is a free service laid on primarily for tourists (that'll be us then) that really helps you to get your bearings. We did the complete circuit, then carried on a little further from the start point, getting off near the Victoria Parliament building.
As I was taking some photos of the building (from across the road), Manda looked like she was being accosted by a businessman on the steps of parliament. As I got back across the road, the man was asking about how our visit was ("Our first day here"), and seemed very affable, very neatly presented and supremely confident. "I'm Robert Boyle, leader of the Liberal party here," he explained, offering his hand. Naturally, we shook his hand as he gave us a travel tip for tourists: "Take the circle line, it's free and you'll see much of the city from there." Well, we'd found that one out for ourselves already, but it was a nice gesture, just doing his PR thing (ironically for people whom he'd get no benefit from in return). Does this count as meeting a celebrity? Well, perhaps, but not quite as much as Manda bumping into Will Smith when in Melbourne a couple of years ago!
We carried on around that part of Melbourne, taking in the Treasury building, the Catholic Church of St Peter and Fitzroy Gardens. Inside these gardens are Captain Cook's cottage (taken apart, shipped to Aus and re-built on the grounds there complete with bronze statue of Cook in the back garden), a pretty average-looking model Tudor village and an even stranger 'fairy tree' (a refuge in the park for fairies, and a place where children - or adults - can leave notes for the fairies to read when they come out. Hey, I'm just reporting what I see).
In the evening we went over to Marni's place in a town called Riddle's Creek to be jumped all over by the five dogs that live there. Actually, truth be known we were there for dinner with Marni, Chris and a couple Nancy and Chris (Marni's best friends and housemates). The dogs were all quite lively - Buster and Charlie the beagles, Elvis the alsation (named thus because he likes to sing) and Jerry-Lee (the typical Aussie dog - a Kelpy).
But there was another dog there too, one that you could easily miss because he was so quiet in his bed and he was something of a celebrity - the second we'd seen today!
Chester, another beagle, used to be a quarantine sniffer dog working at Melbourne airport. He was the dog you would see in the promotional videos and the posters. Marni showed us photos of him working his beat back in his heyday but he was definitely in retirement now, and all but completely deaf with it. When he retired, he appeared in a number of magazine article marking his exit from working life. Now, though, he was just another old hound waiting for his next meal - and when dinner was served he proved that he had not lost his sense of smell, suddenly coming to life and occassionally letting out a gruff bark that sounded for all the world like "Food!".