Queen Victoria Market

For quite a while after moving to Melbourne I regarded the Queen Victoria Market as a place of gaudy t-shirts, awful leather belts and pan-pipe music. After a few recent visits I've been starting to enjoy it again, particularly during special events. It's never better than during the Night Markets which have just started again on Wednesday nights. The crowds are enormous and the air smokey, but it's a fun place to be (as long as you don't stray into the souvenir stalls).

Jean Paul Gautier at NGV


Spensley St. Primary School Fête

The last time I went to a school fête was back in Wollongong. I had returned to my old primary school, mostly to stomp around in the old lunch yard like a giant amongst the benches raised barely twelve inches off the ground.

I remember the school fêtes of my childhood. A jumping castle, the negligently dangerous tractor hay ride and lots and lots of sugar. I would usually hop onto the jumping castle until I hurt myself (I typically rolled an ankle or sprained a wrist within the first twenty seconds), then would limp around checking out the cakes and hover around the craft stall where my hastily assembled crêpe paper lion never seemed to sell.

With a text from my friend Jelly promising "plants!", I dashed off to sleepy little Clifton Hill to attend the cutely named "Tempting Fete". Though a bit low-key in the rides department (though I'm told the kids that did return from the box maze were never quite the same), I did spend some money on plants, two books, and some dumplings which had a retail markup of approximately 12,000%. It all ended with a cup of tea and some cake before I caught the wrong bus home and landed myself amongst some Oktoberfest celebrations.

Spensley St. Tempting Fete

Jelly at Spensley St. Tempting Fete

Box of $1 Dinosaurs at Spensley St. Tempting Fete

Spensley St., Clifton Hill, Victoria, Australia

23rd Key's graffiti, Melbourne, Australia

Walking back to Melbourne CBD, Australia

Evening after evening by the telephone

Red PMG-801 rotary phone from 1966

I'm conducting a little experiment. Actually, that implies there's a hypothesis to be tested or some expected outcome, which is not the case. Instead, I just want to have a little fun with it.

I'm making my phone number public.

It's a new (Melbourne-based) number which redirects to my previously unused landline.

If you want to call me to say hello, that'd be great. If you want to put on a voice and do your best celebrity impressions, that's okay too (any interesting pranky stuff I'll probably tweet about).

There's no caller ID, so I won't be screening calls. There's also no voicemail, so you'll either get me or you won't. There'll be large swathes of time I won't be around, or will have to take the phone off the hook, but I'll try to make it as available as I can.

I've fulfilled a childhood dream and bought myself a gorgeous, bright red rotary phone (pictured). It's a 1966 PMG-801, and built like a tank. I know because when I discovered it didn't work I had to open it up to reattach some of the wiring. That's what I'll be answering on.

I've posted the number on Twitter, you can go and get it there. If it stops being fun, I'll just cancel the number.

Ten years of tea

I am a tea drinker. I don't drink coffee. I sometimes stand in the windows of the glamorous, ultra-white coffee shops packed full of people awaiting their cups of caramel lava and wonder if it's time to join the club. I glance at the top shelf, in the back corner, almost completely out of reach and lock eyes on some faded tins of loose-leaf tea. English Breakfast, Earl Grey, Peppermint and Chamomile. The Beatles of the tea world (Green tea is the Yoko). I wonder when those tins were last pried open, a few moments after someone says, "I've already had three coffees today, I think I'll have a tea."

The smell of tea always appealed to me. Once, as a child, I insisted my parents make me a cup. It was brewed from the bright yellow Liptons black tea, the paper bag so rough I wondered how much of the paper fibre would shed into the cup. I held it under my nose to breathe in the warm woodiness, much like sitting next to an open fire. When it was finally cool enough to sip, I took a small mouthful. "Ew, it tastes like dirt."

When I was in my final year of high school I would occassionally keep my friend company in the art rooms at lunch time. She was working on her major project: a large, heavily textured canvas covered in dark blues and purples broken by angry shards of wire and cloth. I didn't really get it, so I assumed it was impressive. The art teacher had brought in a kettle so she could make tea during these lunchtime sessions, and I started to join in (which kid doesn't have a similar story of the savagery of peer pressure). Again, it was the yellow Liptons teabags, this time in disposable polystyrene cups (which I understand is how the Queen takes it). Black tea, no sugar, no milk. I was hooked.

I don't know at which point everyone else started drinking coffee. It's possible I was playing in the band for a children's musical that weekend, or perhaps everyone decided to make the switch at a very important party I wasn't invited to. Evidently there was some crucial moment during the last ten years that everyone decided to start drinking coffee except me.

Being a teatotaller (gold) has its advantages. From what I hear, a cup of coffee can set you back up to four gold discs which is enough to exchange for a box of one hundred teabags. Of course, you can spend a bit more on flavoured, loose-leaf tea, which I occassionally do. My preferred brand of teabag is Yorkshire, which sits at the high end of the supermarket tea range at five dollars a box. I alternate between this and loose leaf T2 (Melbourne Breakfast is a favourite). I skip the teapot and brew directly in my large 500ml mugs. Somedays I can drink two in a row, but I've also got a soft and gentle side.

The act of making coffee seems exceedingly wasteful. Crunching up a bunch of beans to a fine power, packing that down into some sort of puck and then briefly running water through it, only to throw out the powder immediately after. I'm looking forward to the next wave of coffee brewing which consists of merely waving the coffee dust near an open mug. Perhaps setting up the water on a date with the coffee dust, and seeing if they'll 'click'. It will surely be described in Times New Roman, dripping with irony. I do love the fact that a big machine is involved though. I think I'd like to have a big coffee machine installed in my apartment, but I'd want to rewire it to make chocolate chip cookies or something else more useful.

Ordering tea in a cafe is usually a disaster. I still take it "like a monk" (in more ways than one) – black with no sugar and no milk. Even so, the teapots usually arrive often broken, or filled with the too few (weak) or two many (bitter with tannin) leaves. Unfortunately the wildly absurd artistry attached to coffee has never translated to tea, so we have to make up for it with tea paraphernalia. Sometimes it pays off and the wait staff will bring you a tray full of miniature contraptions; a cup, a saucer, the teapot, a strainer, a second teapot of hot water to refill the first teapot, a cup for your strainer, and a little dolls' house-sized jug of milk. It's always nice when you have to pretend to apologise for taking up all the room at your table with a circus of tiny implements.

I've been drinking tea for ten years. As much as it pains me, I realise that if I'm going to still be drinking tea when I'm 88 (see: Angela Lansbury, my tea idol [1]), I'm going to need to see other drinks every now and then. I need to open up my relationship and explore the world of hot liquids out there. It's probably time I try to join the coffee club (not to be mistaken with The Coffee Club). The only problem is that I really have no idea what to ask for.

[1] My dream of creating a Murder, She Wrote themed tea bar (called "Cousin Grady") still burns brightly.