Manchester Canals

Manchester jewel of the north , gritty urban cobbled sprawl.
Twisting tidy streets, grandiose old buildings, mixed in with newer, silver steel high rises.
Teenag e mums with bleached hair extensions, large Botox enhanced lips and tattoos, wheeling tots roughshod over the cobbles , bellowing in harsh manchurian accents .
I am in the home of ” Corrie ” , the UK’s , 50 year young , longest running and much loved soapie.
The old city has a grace and dignity not easily reconciled to the smoking chimneys , grey skies and discarded remnants of the industrial tools of a working past .
Soft rain cloaks my steps as my wheelie case bounces across the cobbles .
It is a city of contrast, abandoned olde worlde 18th century , orange brick buildings , sprouting elaborate stained glass windows depicting British bird life. A brash steel and perspex triangular edifice houses the football museum where homage is paid to the twin religions of Man U or Man City.
It is a town divided by where your allegiance lies , to the big powerful all conquering ” U ” fans , or the humbler ” City ” supporters .
Tattoo parlours balanced above vintage clothing shops proffer fresh needles for every new client housed in three storey Dickensian tumbling ruins.
Tea shops abound paying tribute to the national tipple , their windows offering Victoria sandwich sponge cakes or the fractured Eton mess .
Primark , that UK shrine to consumer heaven is encased in Victorian stone surroundings , contrasting the permanent and impermanent.
Jamie’s Italian is here, housed in a turn of the century bank and pubs perch on every corner offering a multitude of amber ales .
Vivienne Westwood opens her doors in a soft grey stone edifice , her iconic signature , tilted crown and sabre proudly displayed above the door in gold .
The royal theatre , a grandiose old dame , offers live theatre in a tubular tardis like contraption .
I view a two man play whose main prop is a huge life like tree , the main character hidden in it’s branches , whilst I sprawl on green velvet couches below , last minute tickets costing a mere twelve quid .
Twisting, curving, gracious and fastidious architecture, mixed in with newer trashy incomplete and impermanent structures, scattered together like pieces of a child’s flung jigsaw puzzle .
The intriguing art gallery , offers temporary exhibition ” do it ” on the top floor, which seems to sum up Manchester’s attitude perfectly.


60 ‘s burnt orange is my body armour , bilious fake tan the shade. Anoxeric weight  proportions are a mere   2.1 kg .  Fast and speedy ,   never needy , wheels are my feet. Malvern spawned ,  Eastern Europe borne ,my neck is a steel double strut with black softtop . I have zips , zips , zips everywhere ,  zips to spare that go nowhere .



My Case
My Case

I am flashy ,

a tad trashy .


Portable , expandable , expendable , and dependable . Ryanair reject me if you dare .Comfortable , reliable , undeniably viable , packed tight with my tourist treasure trash , and forbidden glorious stash .

Relentless pleasure seeking , airborne , and always peaking , on another adventure and travel trail . Look out , I’ll  soon be in your town  , shouting the baggage carousel down , with garish tones of orange hue , zips , a handle , and a scuff or two . I am your ultra light , dynamic dream holder who won’t let you down , flight bound and constantly touring around .





Grey rain its Melbourne’s turn  to be bleak again
Windows streak
Rain turns to sleet
Gums wave in the night sky
Sodden branches flex and fly
Icy freezing artic winds make my coat spin
This winter has been grim
unrelenting cold has made me feel old
I yearn for summer
Her warm embraces and
Soft gentle touch that lanquidly grazes


Spinning wheels , sweat soaked bodies , yelps of pain . I am at the gym . Early morning disciples of fitness , we stagger blindly towards the garishly lit beacon , on the suburban side street . A torturous procession of exercises awaits us . Grinding , relentless , painful , and methodical . We push our reluctant body through weaves , turns , runs , squats, and stretches . Its painful , its boring , its becomes instinctive . Our bodies baulk , stop , evade and refuse to co-operate always taking the easy way out like a naughty child . We persist , pushing , pulling , pummelling and following our exercises by route .


Early morning starts , car refusing to start , its dark , lonely , solitary , and daunting on the empty morning streets . We cajole our lacklustre frames , into some semblance of fitness . The grungy , down at heel exercise mecca in gritty inner city St Kilda , becomes the backdrop to our trials , tests , and triumphs . The desk jockeys become our early morning friends , the pumping music a mask to our ineptitude . Why do we persist ? Its an inane reaction to ageing , an antidote to poor health , and a promise of nirvana that lies waiting at the end of all our toil , that encourages us and binds us to the path of semi acceptable fitness .

St Kilda Vaults

tunnel 3
tunnel 3



tunnel stk
tunnel stk



Corrosive sulphur smell masks raggedy peeling paint of a cerulean blue shade . Dim , dark spaces , tunnelling back into cavernous curving arches . Two iridescent orbs shimmering against black , inky , fetid air . Sea stench ,  chemical car exhaust , rotting vegetation , ancient dust ,  ground up insect carcasses , and embedded paint textures . Where am I ? Incarcerated in the St Kilda Vaults . Rust , dust and sea must , I am in a subterranean vault , below bitumen , juxtaposed between the upper and lower esplanades , of St Kilda . A boarded up retail space , sacrificed f0r the sweeping expansion of the bitumen tentacles of a spinning roadway .


stk tram
stk tram

A vicious volley of words , slammed doors and hurled insults . It became obvious that the time to leave was imminent . Fleeing the family home with a clutch of possessions and a heart full of resentment , a lonely drive from inner urban madness , to semi rural tranquility , my oldest child has left home .


bub shoe
bub shoe



Illness had decimated the family home . Daily tasks presented monumental difficulties , happy faces were replaced with ones of foreboding , and personal space eaten up . A mother’s love , and sibling affection not enough to hold a young man to the family unit .



A kaleidoscope of emotions rage through my body as he arrives to pack up the remains of  a life  , shared with his family of 24 years . Collective memories of a firstborn ,   tinkling laughter , and the early shared adventures of a nervous parent and inspiring child  . Latterly , charting the child’s progression from boy , through gawky adolescence , to manhood. Harbouring a furtive pride in the genetic transference of same eye colour and wiry hair , of the compassionate and caring nature of  the man he has become .


street art
street art

He has left . A sense of desolation engulfs me in a sea of sadness , and unshed tears . I brace myself and know I must go forward , grateful for the life I have created and nurtured , ever mindful of  the lifelong journey of parenthood , the deep passion it evokes , and the unrepentant  task it employs .



Sydney unleashed its tawdry charms for a stolen weekend  .


Its slightly down at heel scruffiness captivated me . The nonchalant beauty of it’s spectacular harbour . Seediness of Kings Cross , coiled energy of downtown , decaying splendour of the inner city , griminess of Darlinghurst and spectre of abandoned monorail . Dishevelled Surry Hills sheltering beneath the spindly branches of nude plane trees revealed its markets , cafes ,tri level houses , and dogleg lanes , sprinkled with  pocket handkerchief  parks . Brashness of Kings Cross overlaid with a faded , old worlde charm of ravaged gentility. Gritty Redfern spewing ghetto , burnt out terraces and sheltering the homeless , disadvantaged and desperate . Glittering Mosman  , the jewel in the harbours crown , reveals ordered streets , manicured footpaths and sprawling federation mansions . The cacophony of disparate noises tells the tired traveller they are in Chinatown , gateway to the newness of a swashbuckling , Darling Harbour . Far below the subterranean city , the surge and retreat of the restless harbour waters fuses Sydney’ s life force plying the steamy air with compressed energy .



Kings Cross
Kings Cross



Languid , gorgeous and slatternly she teases her dowdy younger sister , the sedate Melbourne , who cannot compete with her effortless beauty ,  easy grace and fecund charms .


botanica sydney style
botanica sydney style

Rumpled Ruschutters Bay , bawdy Bondi , bucolic Glebe , and bustling Paddington are an affront to classy Camberwell , hectic Hawthorn,  timeless Toorak  and brash Balaclava. The Coathanger , Sails , and nostalgic Ferry trade , captivate and titillate . A lone Anzac warrior stands , a silent sentry , at the entrance of the flyover to the West , encircled by primeval Gymea Lillies  , that most majestic of indigenous botanica .

Open House Melbourne

Open House is on the last weekend of July in Melbourne . A day for public and private buildings of significance and interest , to throw their doors open  to all .

A visit to the Mission to Seafarers , Australian Tapestry Workshop , and Malthouse theatre , whetted my appetite in 2012 .

Marvelling , I steeped into the portico of the squat , iconic Mission building in Flinders St . It was a building I had passed on a daily basis in transit to my city job . Its closeted chapel revealed  intricate stained glass windows depicting sea misadventures , and well polished wooden pews warmed by the bums of many seamen  .  In the silent sancturary of the Norla Dome , home to changing art exhibitions of marine themed works  ,  I felt the history of the building .

edgewater towers
edgewater towers


The bustling Australian Tapestry workshop  , housed in a unique 19th century white filigreed building , was a plethora of colour and action . Massive , striking , woven canvases were draped across enormous frames , as the weavers diligently performed their timeless craft . All manner of stories were being told in thread , from afl footy matches , to delicate indigenous themes .

Malthouse , the stark modern theatre buit on an industrial site of a working brewery , is home to Melbourne’s avant garde theatre . Rehearsal rooms , costumes , sets and theatre spaces were explored with some dexterity by the zealous guide . Forced to forgo a visit to the police horse stable as the queue  snaked around the corner and down the street , I remembered it had also been a daily backdrop to my working life .

In 2013 , I want to visit the grotesque edgewater towers in St Kilda , Melbourne’ s first high rise dwelling built in 1959 . The quirky , Cairo , art deco bachelor  apartments  in fitzroy, and the majestic , distressed ballroom , atop flinders st railway station . Conversely , I  have been fortunate enough to enter , via the stagedoor , the Palais de Danse theatre in St Kilda . I too have danced on the rollingstage , crept  up into the roof space and peered out from the juliet balconies.

Hi Rise StKilda 1959
Hi Rise StKilda 1959

How successful is Open House Melbourne ?  I regularly attend the gallery space at the Mission to Seafarers ,  have attended a woodcut printing workshop at the tapestry workshop , and enjoyed several performances at the Malthouse Theatre . Fingers crossed that I win the ballot , and get the chance to peek inside the compelling , ruined splendour of  the Railway Ballroom  , this year .


Johnny Cash

Tex wore black . I wore black , in sync with the Melbourne nightscape . Ruth, shimmered towards me in a sea of red . Her alabastar skin encased in an opulent red velvet cape , arms neck and fingers festooned  with oversized  rubies ,  luxuriant brown locks garlanded

June's Dress
June’s Dress

with red ribbons. Tex crooned and titilated . He sang , danced and played guitar and seamlessly reeled out the Johnny Cash song catalogue chanelling the man and his music effotlessly . The back up band could have been Johnny’ s own and the pretend June Carter Cash , adorned in glorious gowns , lifted her voice to the heavens , to match June’s own . The ancient Athenaeum theatre was packed , and gave a rousing reception . Old classics were revived with singalong and hand clapping . Gems buried from youth were unearthed . ” Ring of Fire ” , bought the house down . Stumbling out into the freezing Melbourne night , I knew I had witnessed something unique . An aussie impersonating Johhny so well it could have been the original , in the surrounds of the gracious old girl theatre , the Athenaeum , letting her hair down .


Betty was my mum . Dimunitive in stature but feisty in nature she was born in 1926 in rural outer Melbourne .  She grew with an older sister and enjoyed a bucolic lifestyle in the period between two wars , a forerunner to the  Great Depression .It is a shared history of many older Australians  .

These events helped shape my mum’s early life , as did a bout of peritonitis when she was 14 , that required a 6 month stint in hospital , and precluded her further education . Betty went to work at 15 in the British Australian Tobacco company , Swanston st , Melbourne .  First sweeping the floors for discarded tobacco skeins , later graduatiing to the sorting bench . Lifelong friendships were forged and happy events shared , particularly when VP day was announced  . Dancing  in the streets and all out revellery was enjoyed as a young spirited nation could put the grim spectre of war behind them .

Mum married ,  moved , lost a baby  , and subsequently raised my brother and I in Colac , a country  town in the Western District of  Victoria . She was an astute baker , sewer and gardener and seamlessly re -adapted to rural life . Independence presented itself in the form of her tiny Morris Minor and a driving licence .  She was soon seen careering around country roads , only travelling marginally faster than the pedestrians , with us , and the corgi “Taffy ” firmly ensconced in the back .


Betty Ellen Kiernan
Betty Ellen Kiernan


A move to  Melbourne saw Betty take on the joint running of  a pub. The first in gritty industrial Port Melbourne circa 1969 . A subsequent move to a South Melbourne  pub , where she remained for 30 years followed . Betty nursed her partner through cancer and retired to the home she had made for herself . Some uneventful years followed . Mum travelled , gardened , entertained and viewed the world at a more leisurely pace .

Warning bells began to ring when phone calls became discordant  , words jumbled and sentences incomplete . Heating was unable to be turned on or off and letters were attempted to be posted at flinders st railway station.Taps were left on and keys were lost . Falls in the street , and further falls late at night alone in an empty house , indicators to Betty’s world slowly unravelling .Inoxerably Betty ‘s progress towards a nursing home was charted .

Comfortable , modern ,    great views and caring staff replaced her much loved home .  She mourned for and lamented with flickering anxiety her home . It was mirrored in her plaintive cry of ” I just want to go home ” . Betty survived for 4 years in the new regimented environment , daily submitting her will to greater indignites and submerging her independence . The slurred speech , unkempt appearance , wild hair , and muddy eyes , signified her gradual descent into madness . Her final act of rebellion , I believe administered by what remained of her addled brain was to stop eating . Betty peacefully slipped into oblivion on the 27 september . There is not a day goes by that I don’t miss her and rue her passing . Dementia is a cruel , remorseless disease .