Thursday, 29 November 2012


Monday 12th November 2012

Poor Karen had to get back to work, and she kindly offered us a 7 am lift into Melbourne. This, being a holiday we politely turned down and instead walked to her local train station and took a considerably later train into town instead.

The old Melbourne Gaol was our first stop. We cunningly blagging a 50% discount on entry for being National Trust members (without even being asked to provide corroborative evidence) and sallied forth into the main exhibit.

Cell after small cell, there was a unfortunate life story to embrace, that each ended on the prison gallows for their crimes. Gruesomely, each cell also had a eerie plaster cast "death mask" for each unfortunate courtesy of the then emerging science of Phrenology - the science of studying facial and skull shapes  in an effort to identify the characteristic features of the criminal mind.

The Old Melbourne Gaol is also famous/infamous for its part in the tale of Australis favourite anti-hero, Ned Kelly, who spent his final days here before being executed. We couldn't help imitating ...

his crimes...

and his punishment (on this very gallows).

A more interactive side attraction to the gaol was a recently decommissioned (1994) holding station for more weekend drunkards and other arrestees. Here we Caroline found her natural home in a padded cell, and soon after the actor playing our arresting Sargent released us, but not before having our mugshots taken.

Tuesday 13th November 2012

The next day we once again took the option of the later train in to Melbourne. Just outside the train station we discovered that a sunscreen company was offering free UV photos, just like you see on those terrible Channel4 "embarrassing bodies" type TV shows.

These allow you to determine the level of sun damage you'd done to your skin and the Aussies seemed well taken by this, which isn't surprising really, as the ozone hole means that the sun is fiercely strong "down under" and many Aussies sported leather hide like skin.

Not wanting to turn down anything that was free, we immediately got a place in the queue and starting debating which of us was more likely to have had high sun exposure in the past. Look at the photos below. Who do you think has the more damaged skin?

Slightly shocked by our results (slightly better and slightly worse than the average Aussie) we took  our free sunscreen samples and plastered our faces against the ravages of further UV exposure. This lead to all photos taken that day having an odd appearance as in my haste to protect my skin, I'd failed to realise that i was smearing my face in a not so invisible, "SPF30+ invisible foundation". Oops, not my manliest moment by a long shot!

Later that morning we visited the Immigration museum and tried to work out whether Australia would give us permanent visa's. I scored 90% on the citizenship test with no revision (75% pass threshold) and so would be allowed to enter if i had a company sponsor or desirable career profile.

We also sat through an interactive video quiz and correctly accepted the 1930s couple into Australia (a pair of teachers/aspiring farmers with growing family) and rejected another (actor and travel agent in 2012) according to policy of the day.

At the end of the day we popped into the Victorian Parliament and were enchanted by the gold plated chambers, decorated at the height of Gold Rush optimism. These were modeled on the British parliament system (green chairs for the lower chamber, red for the upper), but unlike the entertaining political barracking that occurs once a week in PMQs, here in Oz the politicians seemed strangely tongue tied for a nation not known for their quiet ways. (Think gentile village church committee AGM instead of jeering and foot stamping).

Just inside the entrance to the Parliament of Victoria - we weren't allowed to take photos in the actual chambers
We finished off the day with a trip down the Yarra, with some great bridges and view of the Rod Laver arena (of Australian Open fame).

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