Sunday, 16 June 2013

Presenting my Antipodean 'stepmother'...

There are many places throughout the world that I would classify as 'favourites'.
Equally, there are many places that, given the right circumstances, I would like to live in; but I have to say that the place I want to live in most of all is Victoria, in Australia.

Victoria is my adopted mother country.  My 'stepmother country'.  
For a long, long time, after my family moved there from England, I disliked this Antipodean stepmother of mine.  
I resented everything about her.
I averted my eyes.  
I grew sullen when she was mentioned.  
I longed to 'escape' her presence.
I ran away at least three times in our first few years there.
I constantly tempted my poor parents to return 'home'.
But as the years passed and I did indeed escape - on many occasions and for long periods of time - I found that in fact, I missed her.  Was it a case of absence makes the heart grow fonder?  Maybe.  Maybe it was she had crept in to my heart.

These days I feel as much at home in Victoria as I do in England; in parts of France; here in Kaiserswerth,  and other such places.

I was once told that people who moved countries in their childhood, become restless.  They feel that they do not belong anywhere.  There is no place that they could say is their 'home'.
I think that I am living proof of this.
When asked what my nationality is I can say that I am a U.K. citizen.  Thanks to dual nationality I am also an Australian citizen.  But when it comes down to it I do not feel as if I 'belong' to any nation.  So I guess I should say that I am a world citizen.

Having said that though, I do like Victoria.  A lot.  Especially the countryside and the rural towns and villages.  In my travels I see many places that remind me of the Victorian landscape: Provence in particular. 
Maybe that is why I like Victoria so much: Because she reminds me of other places...

Of course, Victoria is no Saint.  She has her 'moments':  The extreme heat of February and early March. The periods of drought.  The bushfires.  Corrugated Iron.  Those horrible poisonous snakes and spiders(!) The suburban sprawl...  
But I am 'okay' with that.  I don't mind.  When you love someone you love them with their imperfections as well as with their beauty.

So I decided that I would post some photographs of Victoria for you to see for yourself.  I hope you enjoy them!

This is Melbourne from the Railway Station at Camberwell.  You can see the city skyline in the distance:
The city of Melbourne is like any other really: a mix of old and new.  The new dwarfing the old:
Inner Melbourne is littered with remnants of her Victorian era splendour:

A recognised 'culinary capital', one can eat dishes from almost any part of the world, while in Melbourne.  Here is a selection of Polish food from the restaurant 'Borscht, Vodka, and Tears':

But once you leave Melbourne and its suburbs behind you enter another realm:
Country Victoria is full of little towns and villages:
This is the town of Beechworth on a Winter's afternoon:

. . . and here is her Italianate Post Office:

Here is Clunes Town Hall:

The Public Library at Alexandra:

And the town hall at Heathcote:

This is the façade of the long gone old Beechworth Hospital:

There are old houses:

Old churches:

Not-so-old Churches:

And then there is the country itself.  The spaces in-between all the towns, villages and hamlets:

I have decided that I don't mind her coastal regions as much as I used to:

I don't find her native trees to be as 'boring' as I did in my teens:

... and I have grown to like the native flowers:
This is the Australian Sarsaparilla plant:
This is a form of Corea:

Here is a red-flowering gum:

. . . and the wildlife such as these Crimson Rosellas:


There are many more pleasures awaiting those who visit or live in this relatively small state.  In future posts I will try to show some of them, but for the time being I hope you enjoyed this small plate of Victorian hors-d'oeuvres...


  1. Amazing photos, Kirk! The architecture in Inner Melbourne is so interesting. Love those facades above the store fronts!

    1. Me too MW. I could quite happily convert one in to a house! The first one looks very palatial.

  2. Dear Kirk - I enjoyed this post on several levels. Firstly I like the way you have composed it, and secondly it was lovely to see the architecture and plant life of Australia.
    I was also interested in your observations about children who live in various countries not actually feeling rooted and maybe forever restless. Two of my granddaughters began life in Scotland, then lived in Paris, and now live in Norway. My son was anxious for them to return back to Britain so that they could get some feeling for their origins - the youngest thinks she is French and the eldest thinks she is Norwegian. They were returning to Scotland this summer, but now he learns he is being sent him back to Paris. It looks as if they will be even more confused about their roots.

    1. Dear Rosemary,
      Thank you for your kind comments.
      These days there are groups of children who live in many different countries by the time they finish their schooling. They are often termed 'Third Culture Kids' and there are some excellent books out there to help understand it all. We have a very god one in our library and tomorrow I will get the name of it for you.

  3. Hello Kirk

    I love your tour of Melbourne and Victoria. I lived in Sydney for a few years and only a whirlwind tour to Melbourne. It is such a huge country, one needs a lifetime to discover all. Your comment about being a citizen of the world is one I wholeheartedly agree upon.

    Looking forward to future reads on Victoria

    Helen xx

    1. Thank you Helen,
      You lived in Sydney? I went there a few times. A very different city to Melbourne. There is that historic rivalry between the two. Melbourne was always seen as the more gentrified whereas Sydney had the longer history. These days they are much of a muchness really although Melbourne's grid pattern streets are easily to navigate.
      The 'enormity' of the country is something I find amazing: To fly for a few hours and still be in the same country. . .
      Bye for now


  4. Dear Kirk,

    Thanks for the tour — you've given us a great taste of Victoria's charm. I especially like the houses with gingerbread trim.

    As an Army brat, I lived in seven U. S. states and two foreign countries, and went to eight lower and high schools. So I can attest to having been restless, even when I was finally on my own! But I'm settled now.

    1. I like those houses as well. The 19th Century can be criticised for many things but not the architecture. Love it or hate it, it is hardly never dull.
      I think that eventually we all settle down to some degree but don't you find your mind, if not your body, restless for new things and new experiences?

  5. Hello Kirk, As you amply demonstrate, the charm is there if you know where to look for it and how to appreciate it. I sometimes find myself in a similar position with Cleveland, a city that is ridiculed a lot, but that actually is quite nice.
    --Road to Parnassus

    1. Dear Jim,
      I think I have travelled and seen more of Victoria, since moving here, than I ever did beforehand. I think that a further impetus is the link that I have to land through AGA some of whose ancestors moved to Melbourne a few years after it was founded. Learning about them has added a layer to my life there that I didn't have previously.

  6. Kirk,
    interesting post!
    My friends live in suburb of Melbourne and I've seen there nice old houses on their photos. Your pictures are lovely.
    I see you love Victoria very much and wait continuation..

    1. Thankyou Nadezda,
      Melbourne is made up of people from all over the world. I think that that is one of the things that makes it so interesting.
      In what suburb do your friends live?

  7. Good morning Kirk!

    First of all, I was out all day, or else I would have ran over here immediately to see that your new post had come up!

    Secondly, thank you for coming to visit me and having a virtual cup of tea from my silver pot; I am a lover of all tea pots, most of all of the silver kind!

    NOW FOR THIS POST. I too know the challenges of moving from one culture to another, just in the United States. I was born and raised in Los Angeles, California, then moved to Boston, Massachusetts to go to school, and now live in Minneapolis, Minnesota (where the winters are insanely cold). I would imagine that for YOU, moving out of England to a place like Australia would be, for a young man, very shocking! I've never been to Australia, but your great descriptions and photos allow me to even SMELL the differences; I seem to get a sense of a totally different flora and fauna, a different feeling in the air...that alone would require getting use to. The birds are so darling; I have to laugh as the one photo of the bird with his claw up in the air almost looks as if he is as we say here, "giving you the bird!" teehehehehhehehe

    You have traveled much and seen so many lovely things; I hope that wherever you are, you have love with you, with those that you care about; it makes all the difference, doesn't it?

    LOVE YOUR BLOG, and looking forward already to your next post! Anita

    1. Dear Anita,
      There is so much that is different and so much the same. It is odd in a way. It wasn't until my late twenties that I realised that the reason I thought Melbourne was ordinary was because it was very European. That moment was an epiphany and from then on my views began to change.
      I am lucky to have been constantly surrounded by love as I have travelled and found my way in the world - even when I was a moody young man!

  8. dear Kirk, I got quite a frisson seeing Vic through your lens! When I finished uni I could barely wait to get away from Australia and go to Europe. 12 years later, with English husband and 2 English children I came back to live in Melbourne, and formed a deep attachment to the Australian landscape. My son married a Burmese refugee so we now have close links with Myanmar. I regard myself as a citizen of the world too.

    1. I think that being a World citizen is an important aspect of growing up - it took me until my early thirties to realise this fact. My father always called himself that. I am a follower of Animals Australia. They often post things on the Internet, receiving comments and encouragement from people all over the place and it makes me realise that the world grows 'smaller' every day and we are becoming World Citizens in spite of ourselves.
      Myanmar - now that would be an interesting country to visit!

  9. Hi Kirk,

    English by birth, Australian by heart :-)! I know what you mean by being a world citizen. Although I haven't moved that much in my life, living in Rotterdam, a big city with lots of different cultures and nationalities, makes me feel like one as well.

    I enjoyed your photo's of Victoria. It looks like a beautiful old town. The surrounding countryside is amazing!

    Have a great week. Hope you are feeling better?!

    Madelief x

    1. I am feeling better thank you Madelief, and looking forward to some sun and some holidays! The parents of one of my brothers-in-law come from Rotterdam. Like me, they moved to Victoria when they were children, met, married, and had a family. They occasionally returned to the Netherlands for holidays . . .

      We are told it will be 35 and raining on Tuesday - I do not like the sound of that!

  10. Hi Kirk, unfortunately I have never visited Australia so far, but would love to change that. I find your photos pretty appealing and the country seems to be quite diverse. I imagine that there is still plenty of land available and I like fast countries quite a bit. Looking forward to your up-comimg posts about Victoria.

    1. Dear Christina,
      Thank you for stopping by. Victoria is a very nice place. And as for Australia as a whole - it is so diverse!
      I hope that when one day you get to visit.

  11. You should be president of the tourist bureau. I REALLY want to go there now!

    1. Save your pennies and high tail it over there pronto!
      As for me I am preparing to head south and sample some Iberian hospitality for a few days - to Barcelona. I hope it is nice and sunny so that I can sit outside and enjoy my tapas.

  12. Hi, Kirk -
    I'm enjoying this post again for the second time. I had read it, and left a note but it didn't post :( We are back from Sweden and Denmark, and I guess I'm still jet lagged. I can relate to what you've written as I grew up in Asia, live in America and travel frequently to Europe. Your photos are fabulous! Thank you for the town and country tour of Victoria. When I do visit, I shall email you for suggestions.

    1. Hi Loi,
      Asia America and Europe - a nice combination for your CV!
      I think you will love visiting Victoria - there are so many nice things to see and do!

      I think that there are all sorts of little problems in Blogger on occasions. Your first comment didn't reach me - but I have had the same thing happen to me too.