Tag Archives: Melbourne

Exploring my own city: Westgate Park

I hate driving over the Westgate Bridge. It’s a real white-knuckle drive, what with the steep drop over the sides and all the B-doubles thundering past. But if I’m a passenger, that’s a different matter. I always look down at the park below and think that I must visit it one day- and today, on a warm, still Anzac Day- I did. Click on the images to enlarge them.

The lake, a former sand mine, turns a brilliant pink at the end of summer, but there was no colour in it today. There were no noisy miners, and so there was lots of bird life: wrens, honeyeaters, wattlebirds, mudlarks, magpies. It’s hard to believe that it was ever the blighted place it was forty years ago. The Age described it in 1979 as ‘scrofulous scenery indeed … dead water, swamp, sick factories, dead wood, haze, gasping barges, wretched refineries, wheezing chimneys, dead grass, institutional putrefaction’. It’s not like that now. There’s been lots of hard work done here by the Friends of Westgate Park since 1999 – a real gift to the people of Melbourne.

Site of Westgate Park 1984 Weston Langford https://www.westonlangford.com/images/photo/400480/

You can read more about Westgate Park here.

Christmas in Port Phillip 1840s

There is a rather rueful adherence to English Christmas customs in Australia even today. We have Christmas trees, holly, Santa and carols about dashing through the snow. Tomorrow my family will sit down to turkey, ham and plum pudding for Christmas dinner wearing our little paper hats unfurled from Christmas bon-bons; even as I am writing this I am eating a fruit mince pie. Although there is a shift to seafood and ice-cream plum pudding or berries, all the iconography of Christmas decorations evokes a winter Christmas that we just don’t have- unless you have “Christmas in July” which we have done occasionally just for fun.

But what about in Port Phillip in the early 1840s? I had assumed that these early immigrants would have brought over all these English customs intact. However, my suspicions were alerted when I found a letter dated 25 December 1841 that was part of a series of letters between J. B. Were and Farquahar McCrae over a dispute with Judge Willis. “Good grief”, I thought, “do these men have nothing to do on Christmas morning but exchange letters about Judge Willis?”  But, the more I think about, maybe they didn’t have anything else to do because Christmas didn’t have all the trappings that it does today.  This was confirmed looking through the newspapers at the time, which made very little mention of Christmas.

A warning here about methodology.  The three newspapers of Port Phillip were published on regular days throughout the week, and a fourth paper The Melbourne Times was published on a weekly basis during 1842-3.  I have only consulted the Port Phillip Herald (published on Tuesdays and Fridays) and The Melbourne Times, which depending on the day that Christmas fell, varied in their proximity to December 25.  Therefore, in 1840  the Port Phillip Herald was actually published on Christmas day itself; in 1841 the closest issue was 21/12/41; in 1842 it was 23/12/42 and in 1843 22/12/43.  I consulted two issues before Christmas and the one immediately after. The only pre-Christmas Melbourne Times available was dated 24/12/42.

Nonetheless, there does seem to be a dearth of Christmas good cheer.  I wasn’t looking for headlines as such, but I did expect some mention of church services, festivities, excessive drunkenness in the police court on the days following, advertisements for goods and effusive Christmas wishes from the editors.


The Port Phillip Herald was published on Christmas Day itself.  No mention of Christmas at all, but there is a land sale scheduled for 1 January which is styled as a “New Year Gift”, and the Independent Chapel will be opened for services on New Years Day.

1841 (Judge Willis was in Melbourne by this time)

Captain Cole had a picnic and fishing party to which he invited 150 of his friends on 21 December, commencing at 11.00.  Lieutenant La Trobe and his wife were invited, but I’m not sure if they attended- or even if the picnic had anything at all to do with Christmas.

1842 (Judge Willis still in Melbourne)

Port Phillip Herald 23/12/42

A little more here.  There are advertisements for “Christmas Novelties” to be conducted at the Royal Victoria Theatre on  26th December- a Monday evening, which was a popular night to attend the theatre.  “The Vampire or Bride of the Isles” was the theatrical fare for the night.

“The Vampire, the name of the first piece for Monday night’s representation has taken nearly a month to prepare, and will be brought out with a degree of splendour only to be witnessed in the mother country at Christmas time.”

For something a little less secular,  the Independent church may have had something for you.

“Clifton Independent Chapel, Richmond.  On Saturday next (Christmas Day) two sermons will be preached on the occasion of the opening of the above place of worship. 3.00 p.m. Rev Waterfield.  6.30 p.m. Independent Chapel Melbourne Rev. John Ham. “

Meanwhile on 24th December, at the Town Council Proceedings, there was discussion about the timing of the next meeting.

The Mayor wished to gain the opinion of the Council as to whether it would be expedient to hold a meeting of Council next week, it being Christmas time.  He knew several members who had made engagements to go to the country and could therefore not be present.

The next meeting was scheduled for 2nd January 1843 as a result.

Melbourne Times 24/12/42

An advertisement advised that owing to Christmas falling on a Sunday, the following day Monday would be observed as a holiday at all the banks.

The TeeTotallers were to hold a meeting on 26 December

“…for the purpose of celebrating the festivities of the season over a bag of hyson skin…Who, fifty years since, would have contemplated the arrival of that day when the good old Christmas cheer of roast beef and plumb pudding, accompanied by the various spiritous and vinous drinkables, would be exchanged for the meagre fare of tea and toast?”

Even though the tee-totallers were missing out, this does suggest that others, at least, were enjoying good old Christmas cheer of some sort.

In Georgiana McCrae’s diary, she doesn’t mention Christmas Day 1842 at all, but does have an entry for 26th December that Captain Murchison,  Dr Thomas and his wife, Ward Cole, Donald Mackinnon,  Mr Simpson and Jones Agnew Smith all came for dinner.

1843 (Judge Willis was arriving back in England by this stage)

There’s quite a bit more mention of Christmas here.

From 15 December forward, there is a large advertisement for Annard, Smith and Co. for Fruits for Christmas- sultanas, muscatels, and pudding raisins; nuts, walnuts, figs, bottled fruit.  This advertisement appears each issue including 26/12/43.  There’s also an advertisement for currants and raisins by a competing merchant, but this is a small advertisement that only appears on the 15th.

The market report of the Melbourne Market printed on 26th December noted a good deal of animation on 24th December,

but there was not that bustling activity in all the various departments of buying and selling that might have been expected in a town boasting upwards of 10,000 inhabitants on the day previous to Christmas, when it might be supposed that many would be anxious to testify their joy on the advent of an occasion generally dedicated by almost immemorial custom to feasting and festive enjoyment.

On 26th December, the Herald has a bit of a dig at its nemesis, the Port Phillip Patriot which had been published on Christmas Day.

“The Patriot of yesterday, by way of a Christmas Box we presume, has obliginingly furnished its readers with a six column report of the proceedings of the Insolvent Court…”

The court case reported actually took place in August, which the Port Phillip Herald thought rather strange.

The Herald reported that Mr Geoghegan, the Roman Catholic priest, administered the holy sacraments to no less than 250 members of his congregation on Sunday and yesterday (Christmas Day).

The theatrical spectacular of 1842 must have been a success because the Victoria Theatre advertised that “this being Christmas week” the theatre would be open this evening (ie. 26th), Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday.  On 26th ‘The Two Queens or Policy and Strategem’; on Wednesday ‘Michael Erle or the Fair Lass of Lichfield’ and an appearance by The Somnabulist, on Thursday ‘The Bandit Host or  The Lone House of the Swamp’, then again on Saturday ‘The Two Queens’.


This doesn’t come from the Port Phillip papers, but it is  a report of Christmas in Sydney by Mrs Charles Meredith (Louisa Meredith) written in 1844 as part of her “Notes and sketches of New South Wales during a residence of that colony from 1839 to 1844.”


We now made a few weeks’ sojourn in Sydney, which, could we have laid the dust, moderated the heat, and dismissed the mosquitoes and their assistants, would have been very pleasant; but as it was, my colonial enjoyments were limited to our usual drives, and when able to walk at all, an idle languid stroll in the beautiful Government gardens.  For some days before Christmas, in our drives near the town, we used to meet numbers of persons carrying bundles of a beautiful native shrub, to decorate the houses, in the same manner that we use holly and evergreens at home.  Men, women and children, white, brown and black, were in the trade; and sometimes a horse approached, so covered with the bowery load he bore, that only his legs were visible, and led by a man nearly as much hidden; carts heaped up with the green and blossomed boughs came noddingly along, with children running beside them, decked out with sprays and garlands, laughing and shouting in proper Christmas jollity.  I liked to see this attempt at the perpetuation of some of our ancient homely poetry of life in this new and rather too prosaic Colony, where the cabalist letters L.[pound] S.[shilling]D [pence] and RUM appear too frequently the alphabet of existence.  It seemed like a good healthy memory of home, and I doubt not the decked out windows and bouquet-filled chimney in many a tradesman’s house gave a more home-like flavour to his beef or turkey, and aided in the remembrance of old days and old friends alike numbered with the past.


The shrub chosen as the Sydney ‘Christmas’ is well worthy of the honour (the rough usage it receives rendering the quality of the post it occupies rather problematical, by the way). It is a handsome verdant shrub, growing from two to twelve or fifteen feet high, with leaves in shape like those of the horse-chestnut, but only two or three inches broad, with a dark green, polished, upper surface, the under one being pale.  The flowers, which are irregularly star-shaped, come out in light terminal sprays, their chief peculiarity being, that they completely open whilst quite small, and of a greenish white colour; they then continue increasing in size, and gradually ripening in tint, becoming first a pearl white, then palest blush, then pink, rose-colour, and crimson: the consant change taking place in the, and the presence of all these hues at one time on a spray of half a dozen flowers, has a singularly pretty appearance.  Their scent when freshly gathered is like that of new-mown hay.  Great quantities of the shrubs grow in the neighbourhood of Sydney, or I should fear that such wholesale demolition as I witnessed would soon render them rare.

The ‘Christmas dinner’ truly seemed to me a most odd and anomalous affair.  Instead of having won a seasonable appetite by a brisk walk over the crisped snow, well muffled in warm winter garments, I had passed the miserable morning, half-dead with heat, on the sofa, attired in the coolest muslin dress I possessed, sipping lemonade or soda-water, and endeavouring to remember all the enviable times when I had touched a lump of ice or grasped a snowball, and vainly watching the still, unruffled curtains of the open window for the first symptom of the afternoon sea-breeze.

So, what then can I say about Christmas in Port Phillip?  It seems that the prominence of Christmas seems to be increasing as we get further into the 1840s.  I wonder if the Meredith extract reflects the influence of 1844 more than her experience five years earlier.  It’s important to remember that the trapping of Christmas as we know them- the trees, the carols etc- were themselves being constructed in Victorian Britain at the time.  The term “Christmas Tree”  was first used  in English in 1835; Prince Albert decorated the tree at Windsor Castle in 1841 thus bringing a German tradition to England; Christmas cards first appeared in 1843,  and many of the hymns we know we written in the 1840s and 50s onwards- O Come All Ye Faithful in 1848, or Once in Royal David’s City in 1851 for example.  And then, of course, we have Charles Dickens’  A Christmas Carol, published in 1843 which seems to exemplify everything we think of in a ‘traditional’ English Christmas.

And as for Louisa Meredith’s fear that the Christmas Bush would become extinct- well, I must say that I’m not at all familiar with the Christmas Bush and especially its use as a substitute for holly and evergreens today, but it still seems to grow in the Sydney area at least.  There are certainly other descriptions of Australian Christmases- Henry Lawson,  Edward Sorensen, and many engravings of Christmas activities but many of these seem to date from the 1880s onwards, and probably reflect the spread of the ideal of the Victorian English Christmas across the empire.  But 1840s Port Phillip was part of an early 1840s world with a lower profile of Christmas than in the years following, right up today.


Geoffrey Rowell ‘Dickens and the Construction of Christmas’ History Today, 43, Dec 1993

‘Christmas in the Colonies’ Australian Heritage Summer 2007

The Australian Christmas In Days Gone By


I did find this reference to Christmas in South Australia in 1836 from The Diary and Letters of Mary Thomas. Mary Thomas wrote up the diary she had kept from early settlement days (Dec 1836) in 1867, expanding her entries with reminiscences- always a bit dangerous because later memories can overlay earlier ones, particularly of an event that occurs on an annual basis:

We kept up the old custom as far as having a plum pudding for dinner, likewise a ham and a parrot pie

Source: Michael Symons One Continuous Picnic: A history of eating in Australia.

(He also notes that Ken Inglis has a chapter about Christmas in  Australian Colonists)

On Rhodomontade

It would seem that there is no longer a Melbourne Debating Society. I’ve found the Debaters Association of Victoria Inc. but no sign of a Melbourne Debating Society. Which is rather a shame, as it was one of the earliest civic and ‘intellectual’ societies of Melbourne.

Edmund Finn writing as ‘Garryowen’ tells us that the debating society commenced in 1841 with a Managerial Board consisting of President: Hon. James Erskine Murray; Vice-Presidents: Rev. James Forbes and Surgeon A. F. Greeves; Chairman: Mr J.G. Foxton; Committee: Messrs James Boyle, G.A. Gilbert, R. V. Innes, D.W. O’Nial and J. J. Peers; and Treasurers Messrs. Thomas B. Darling and E. C. Dunn. The Herald of 12 October 1841 reports its first meeting. It appears to have met weekly, on a Wednesday evening, although sometimes on a Friday.

In his book The Capacity to Judge: Public Opinion and Deliberative Democracy in Upper Canada 1791-1854, Jeffrey McNairn highlights the importance of voluntary organizations in the development of “democratic sociability” i.e. that it was possible for men to deliberate in public, using argument. In particular he highlights literary and debating societies as a site for this development. So perhaps it just wasn’t that there wasn’t anything on in Port Phillip on a Wednesday night….

Garryowen continues:

This Society attracted to its ranks most of the talent of the town. Weekly meetings were held at the Scots’ Schoolroom on the Eastern hill of Collins Street, and considerable debating power was rapidly developed. It was not a mere ordinary school-boy exhibition of vapid declamation and puerile rhodomontade, but an intellectual gathering, where questions of interest to the community were good-humouredly, intelligently, and patiently discussed.

Rhodomontade??!! Now there’s a word to conjure with!!! Merriam-Webster tells me that it means “bragging speech, vain boasting or bluster”. Well, there was certainly scope for some rhodomontade at the Melbourne Debating Society because here are the topics that I’ve found in the Port Phillip Herald so far

  • Topic in October: “The motives which actuated Brutus and other conspirators in the assassination of Caesar”. The meeting came to the conclusion that “the death of Caesar resulted from patriotic motives”
  • Next topic “Whether America or any other nation will ultimately supplant Great Britain in the scale of nations”. Conclusion- no, Britain reigns supreme
  • November topic “Whether India has been befitted by British Connexion?” No clear cut result here – the meeting adjourned after a long discussion.
  • The November topic“Was the conduct of Elizabeth towards Mary, Queen of Scots, justifiable?” provoked a “long an animated discussion” but the meeting was all but unanimous for the negative. I suspect that the strong presence of Scots emigrants held sway here- there’s a heavy preponderance of Scots on the committee (President, and both Vice-Presidents at least), and the meeting is being held in the Scots school room
  • December: “Whether the character of King Charles the First is entitled to respect? The question was decided in the affirmative.
  • January “Is the practice of dueling justifiable?” also decided in the affirmative
  • February “Are literary and scientific pursuits suited to the female character?”, again decided in the affirmative
  • “Is Phenology founded on reason and the evidence of acknowledged facts?”.

At the stage I’m up to in my reading, the Phrenology debate in late February was postponed because of the imprisonment for contempt of court of one of the members of the society, the young Port Phillip Gazette editor George Arden, on the orders of Judge Willis, the ‘real’ Resident Judge of Port Phillip. The night was spent discussing the imprisonment, and a petition and address signed to George Arden (although from what I can find at the moment, not actually made public)

Here the Melbourne Debating Society spilled over into Politics with a capital ‘p’. As McNairn pointed out in relation to the Canadian debating societies:

P. 90 “The political significance of debating societies thus lay more in their guiding principles and in the skills and sociability they fostered than in the content of their meetings. Since most brought together men from various religious and partisan affiliations, denominational and political controversy was shunned and, in most cases, prohibited. Societies provided a haven from the less-controlled debate of public politics, but as training grounds their political role was undiminished.”

The Melbourne Debating Society had been grappling with the issue of religious and partisan affiliation from its commencement.Within the first months, there was discussion over whether rules should be promulgated for the quoting of scripture, and one of the December meetings was turned over to a discussion of ‘the expediency of countenancing the discussion of polemical and political subjects by the society’. At its 31 December meeting (no New Years Eve frolics here!) it was decided to prohibit  religious and political discussions.

Am I surprised by the topics chosen? It seems that they draw on a shared knowledge of British and classical history (a knowledge that could by no means be assumed today) and an awareness of Britain’s wider empire- at least in the United States and India. It’s important to remember that these debates are conducted within the politics of their time: the 1857 Sepoy rebellion in India had not occurred; the United States at that time included the original 13 states and the states ceded through the Louisiana Purchase, but the western 1/3 of what we now know as the United States had not been annexed at this stage. Australia hadn’t seen the last of dueling: Sir Thomas Mitchell and the politician Stuart Donaldson fought a fuel over allegations of extravagance in the Surveyor-General’s department in September 1851!! (and I thought politics today was all theatre!)

I was fascinated by the “female question” debate, which was reported in some detail on 8th February 1842. It’s very hard to find reports of public activities of women in Port Phillip in the 1840s, but on 30th November, the Debating Society decided that in future ladies will be admitted, “their fair presence and patronage being secured, victory is certain.” They were certainly present for the Charles the First debate, which was “graced by the presence of ladies”. However, there is no further mention of a female audience in later reports, which seems odd given that the February debate centred on “Whether literary and scientific pursuits are suited to the female character?”. Certainly, if they were there, they didn’t contribute to the debate- only men ever spoke.

The Hon. President James Erskine Murray opened the debate in the affirmative by enumerating various females of literary distinction, and asserting that they were rendered “more sensible and conscientious in the discharge of their domestic duties” than women of limited capacity and neglected education- “in short, that it was easier to direct the intelligent than the ignorant”. The respondent, Mr Osbourne, contended that woman was not by nature intended mentally or physically to sustain the labour of acquiring that superior extent of knowledge, and that it would interfere with her devotion to domestic affairs. Women would no longer be fascinated by respected individuals of the other sex “upon whose opinions she rests with confidence as the safest code of general direction”- instead of being fascinated, they would actually take a part in literary and scientific discussion! Thoroughly modern SNAG as he was, however, Mr Osbourne commended the more beneficial system of education that has become prevalent in Britain, America and Europe where “all the pretty nothings which at one time formed the almost entire course of female education” had been replaced with general principles of science and useful literary studies. The Hon James Erskine Murray, in reply, decried this education that made women “in many instances as only fit to hearken to the insipid babblings of young men in preference to intelligence and rational conversation” He instanced Mrs Somerville, Lady Jane Grey, Mrs Clarke, Johanna Billie, Edgworth and others. Mr Smith, speaking for the negative, accounted for the difference in ability between men and women by a description of the respective skulls of the two sexes. Mr Stafford, for the affirmative, brandished Mary Stewart, Elizabeth, Catherine II and the Countess of Pembroke to shew that the sex gave evidence of genius , which no system of exclusion could obscure.

The warmest applause of the evening went to Mr Smith who “alluded to the domestic happiness to be experience by a Benedict, who, returning to dinner after the duties of the day, instead of finding the rump steak and oyster sauce &c. smoking a welcome to his appetite, finds his lady so deeply immersed in Euclid, or buried in the mysteries of Algebra, as to let him cater for himself.”

And so the evening ended. As the Herald concluded:

The subject of debate, as far as opinion went, had, we imagine, been decided in the breast of every one ere the discussion commenced. The question was too loosely and generally given for an advantageous discussion, and was decided in the affirmative.

So there you have it.


 Finn, Edmund The chronicles of early Melbourne, 1835 to 1852 : historical, anecdotal and personal / by “Garryowen”, Melbourne, Fergusson and Mitchell, 1888

McNairn, Jeffrey, The Capacity to Judge: Public Opinion and Deliberative Democracy in Upper Canada 1791-1854, Toronto, University of Toronto Press, 2000.

Possum Magic

The residence of the Resident Judge has, for some months, been under a vermin attack. Last year it was the mice, then -worse still- the rats in the ceiling.  A couple of weeks ago possums took up residence in the roof. Exterminators and removers have been called, and the place SHOULD be vermin free.

But it’s not.

A couple of weeks ago, I noticed a chewed banana on the kitchen floor.  I thought that one of our four FOX TERRIERS (supposedly renowned for their vermin-chasing propensities!) had brought it in.  A little later, I noticed that after I had used half a banana on my cereal in the morning, the other half had been eaten while still in the fruit bowl.  Alert now, AND alarmed, I started to scrutinize the fruit bowl more carefully. Yes- the tops of pears had been nibbled; whole bananas would be eaten leaving the empty skin still attached to the others in the hand; bananas would be taken out of the bowl and left on the bench.

We thought they might be getting in through the dog door (specially cleaned of doggie snot for this photo lest you think me slovenly)

Could they be getting in through the doggie door? Well, maybe…. so I’ve taken to locking it. The first night I locked it so that they could get out but not come in (lest they already be here in the house).  At 1.30 a.m. I could hear them bashing at the door.  After a brazen banana heist that night, I took to locking it completely- no ingress or egress! I’ve tested it- they can’t be getting in through here. But at 5.00 a.m. this morning they were back…

How are they doing it? The dog door is locked.  All the cupboards are shut- and I can’t believe that they’d shut the cupboard doors after them (after all, no-one else in the house does).  The airconditioning and central heating vents have not been disturbed.  The dogs are not sniffing anywhere.

My daughter’s room has a sliding door, is locked and has no visible space under it.  The bathroom and toilet don’t seem to have any visible sign of entry. There’s just one room…at the end of the passage.  My only subscriber knows what’s behind the door. COULD they be squeezing under the door and getting in from there???

So here we are: flummoxed by a possum.  I have taken to leaving some banana outside on the porch, but last night it REJECTED it!! Self-serve, it seems is the way to go.

Hey, I used to work there!!

I see from an article in the Age that the Fitzroy artist Alexander Knox has created a light installation on the old Royal Mail building, on the corner of Bourke and Swanston Street.

Wow! That looks better! By light of day it really is a rather unprepossessing modernist building. Whenever I see that AC/DC film clip of the band travelling down Swanston Street on a flatbed truck, I notice ‘my’ building and try to imagine that it was ever viewed as anything except ugly.

What was there before? Apparently, the Royal Mail Hotel, built in 1848 and named because its owner E. B. Green had the contract for carrying mail by stagecoach throughout Victoria. Its second licencee was William Johnston Sudgen, previously Melbourne’s Chief Constable – nice little career shift there.

According to Robyn Annear’s A City Lost & Found, construction works to modify the building during the 1930s uncovered a wall containing bricks bearing thumbprints- generally considered to be a mark of convict manufacture. The brick-clay was examined by a visiting Tasmanian, who asserted that it was of Port Arthur origin, and the bricks were declared to be among Melbourne’s oldest.

(I am ashamed to confess that I have wasted nearly half an hour investigating when convicts were withdrawn from Port Phillip- a wild-goose chase prompted by my failure to finish reading the paragraph in Robyn Annear’s book! Stopping mid-sentence at the words “convict manufacture”, it struck me that 1848 was very late to have convicts still working in Melbourne. Half an hour later: I was right. Convict transportation from UK to New South Wales was suspended in 1840, and on 28 Oct 1843 Governor Gipps instructed LaTrobe to send the remaining convict gangs in Port Phillip up to Sydney. But they were still here 0n 13 December 1844 because Gipps again proposed withdrawing all the convicts, in exchange for the receipt of a cargo of Exiles- prisoners who had served 1-2 years in Pentonville prison before being issued with conditional pardons to take up as settlers (not prisoners) in New South Wales. A.G.L. Shaw writes that 1727 Pentonville exiles had landed in Port Phillip between 1844 and 1849 until popular protest against them culminated in the turning away of ships containing exiles and redirecting them to Sydney. So- Port Phillip convicts didn’t make the bricks in 1848. As, of course, Robyn Annear went on to say, had I read further.)

According to the excellent Walking Melbourne site, the old Royal Mail hotel was sold to the British company Hammerson Property and Investments Trust for 455,000 pounds. In October 1960 the hotel was demolished and this wonderful structure erected in its place.

I worked on both the fourth and third floors from about 2003-6. At first I was on the third floor in an office without windows located just behind the blue billboard at the bottom of the picture at the top of the page. At the time, there was a television screen mounted on the building, and I used to fantasize, in moments of extreme boredom, of sticking my head through the wall and emerging in the middle of the screen to survey the people below. I later moved onto the fourth floor to the rear of the building where my window overlooked the rooftops of the rather unsavoury cafe/restaurants fronting Swanston Street. However, it did give me a new appreciation for the copulatory habits of pigeons who inhabited the ‘pigeon brothel’ there.

On the other hand, working there did give a wonderful view of Melbourne. The Melbourne Cup march would go straight past, and political marches would stream by. Unfortunately the AFL Grand Final march turned up Collins Street instead, so I couldn’t watch that one. There’s a great little ‘structure’ of a pig with wings mounted on a pole on the corner which you can only see if you look up, but was directly in our line of sight. When the building across the road (that in my childhood had a rather evil Santa beckoning children onto the Foy’s rooftop garden each Christmas) was owned by Nike, we would watch spellbound as huge advertising posters were erected obscuring the building completely. However, the metal-man busker with his synthesizer loses his appeal after listening to him all day, and dog-lover though I am, a bait would be too good for the cattle dogs who bark twice at the end of each line of ‘How much is that doggie in the window?” sung ad nauseum for hours by the Slim-Dusty lookalike on the corner opposite.

So, good on you Alexander Knox. It looks beautiful, and I can’t wait to see it.