Polly and the city

Today, after buying footy tickets for Sunday through the truly wondrous Ticketmaster/Bass Web site (which proved that high technology can overcome the monotony of queuing outside a ticket box or waiting on the phone for a lifetime – even if it does cost $6 extra per booking), we headed for the Polly Woodside museum. Dan’s a bit of a boating buff, so it was quite close to the top of the list of essential things to see.

The Polly Woodside is a metal sailing ship, built last century in Belfast, sailed around the world and renamed half a dozen or so times in its lifetime, which finally settled down into an easy retirement a decade or two ago. The National Trust has restored it and setup a maritime museum around it at its new home on the Yarra. Because that’s the kind of wacky, zany stuff the National Trust generally gets up to.

When we got there, the lady selling tickets had run out of tickets. She improvised by putting a small circular green sticker on my jumper to indicate that we’d paid. Naturally the green sticker fell off the jumper and flew off into the distance somewhere. I can only hope that somebody didn’t find that small circular green sticker, stick it on their jumper, and rip $7 off the National Trust by getting in for free. For myself I was merely hopeful that should I come across the lady selling tickets again, she would remember that I’d paid, despite my lack of green sticker.

The museum itself has improved immeasurably in the last few years – last time I was there it was looking a bit shabby, housed in some old sheds and with a cafe in a big but fairly shaky-looking tent. That old tent was freezing cold in winter, and it rapidly expanded and deflated if there was so much as a slight breeze. Now all the displays, and the cafe, have been moved into nice new, much sturdier-looking buildings, and they’ve added a lighthouse (or at least, the top bit of one) and a few other maritime-type bits and pieces.

Once everything in the museum had been thoroughly inspected, prodded, poked and studied, we walked along the Yarra foreshore, once an area of ugly industrial wasteland, now an area of ugly entertainment wasteland – the Crown Casino and other assorted attractions designed to separate you from your money.

We didn’t go in though, we just kept walking along the river, looking at the skyline and wondering if those big flame tower things in front of the casino would go off while we were there. They must be great for the homeless in winter. But I’ve often wondered how many seagulls have met their maker when the flames go off.

We partook of lunch at Southgate – our second attempt was successful, the first attempt having been aborted after just the beers when it became apparent that toddler and noisy hip restaurant with loud music don’t mix. Then we walked back through the city along Collins Street, stopping only to let our mouths water at Haigh’s chocolates, and to ensure that Dan nipped down to check out the luxury of the Town Hall toilets.

Walking past Parliament House, I asked one of the throng of police standing in readiness who they were expecting. Parliament House seems to be the standard point that protests head for – even when the protests aren’t actually protesting against the state government, which sits there. Today it was protesting students, said the cop. We saw them later, marching through the streets, ready to bring society to its knees with a revolutionary combination of face paint and street theatre.

Then we went for a walk through the Carlton Gardens so we could get sprayed by the fountains outside the Exhibition Buildings. A glance up at the very groovy mosaic on the side of the Fire Brigade HQ, a quick look in St Patrick’s Cathedral, and then we headed home, while Dan decided to roam around for a bit longer, in a vain attempt to see if he could lose himself somewhere in Chinatown, or at the very least get on the wrong train to come home and end up in Mooroolbark or Spotswood.

By Daniel Bowen

Transport blogger / campaigner and spokesperson for the Public Transport Users Association / professional geek.
Bunurong land, Melbourne, Australia.
Opinions on this blog are all mine.