Monday 19 October 2020




'Bats in the Belfry'

A Light-heatred Look At Coping With Covid in Melbourne 

After months of lock-down in Melbourne under the rule of a somewhat Woke, Progressive and illogical and dysfunctional local government where our world was within a five-kilometre radius of the prison that we called home, our sphere was widened to an equally irrational 25 kilometres on October 19, 2020. As one who has travelled freely for many years, a restricted life was not one that was desired or recommended for one’s sanity and well-being acutely aware that the clock is ticking and sitting on one’s derriere doing little of inspiration or interest was not they way life should be. On many occasions having watched the various government officials repeating the daily numbers of Covid 19 cases and sadly the many deaths and continually repeating, “I do not know” a simple old sole might question their management and decision making skills and sometimes whether they had “bats in the belfry’’, a quaint old English expression of some one not too right up top. With the exciting news that restrictions were partially eased we went walking, masked and ''hairy'' fearful of those around us should they be carriers. Perhaps a scene from "The Walking Dead”’ adequately describes their mood and furtive eyes and experionless faces hidden behind dubious masks of varying quality and effectiveness.


How wonderful, the chance to go beyond the water in Port Phillip Bay to  the bleakest reaches of suburbia. exciting places such as Frankston or Wantirna or even Brunswick but not as far as Williamstown as that exceeded the magical Covid safe 25-kilometre limit. Natural rugged Australian bush was our aim but large areas of it are rare in Melbourne, a city with many manicured parks. Yarra Bend Park on the edge of the plague ravished city of Melbourne, once the most liveable place in the world with its vibrant cafes and culture, buzzing with activity and a fun place was identified for our biggest adventure in 2020, so far. Not the deserts and Madrassas and Minarets of Khiva or Samarkand in Uzbekistan, the gritty Portuguese Colonial streets of Salvador Brazil, the back streets of Namdaemun of Seoul Korea, Chinatown in Nagasaki Japan and the Kunchi Festival,the thermal pools and beauty of Iceland, the Pyramids of Mont Alban in Oaxaca Mexico,the dusky streets of Kathmandu Nepal, Ancienr ruins in Butrink Albania, or the beautiful coastline of Corfu Greece, the Saguaro cactu filled Sonoran Desert of Arizona, Rainbow Bridge in Lake Powell Utah,  the palaces of Vienna or the tapas bars in San Sebastian Spain so loved a year earlier and pined for.  

Salvador Brazil
Khiva Uzbekistan

Kunchi Festival Nagsaki Japan
Kathmandu Nepal
Mont Alban Oaxaca Mexico
The Coastline In Corfu Greece
Ancient Ruins In Butrink Albania

Thermal Pool In Iceland-Freezing in Mid-summer

Rainbow Bridge Lake Powell Utah
Sonoran Desert Arizona
Red Rocks Of Sedona Arizona

Vienna Austria

No, just the  good old ever so humble and brown Yarra River that winds its way through Melbourne and particularly so in the large park creativel called Yarra  Bend..


The Yarra River Flowing Through Yarra Bend Park

Now it did not go unnoticed and perhaps mindful of our mental state that the Yarra Bend Park was once the home of the Yarra Bend Lunatic Asylum that dated back to 1848 and closed in 1925, perhaps not because of the lack of demand but the need for more modern facilities. It was also close to another institution to help the mentally unwell upstairs called Kew Asylum. The oddly named Bellbird Park was the home for many flying rodents (rats with wings)  known as the Grey-Headed Flying Fox or for the less informed just plain ‘bats.’ The were no belfries in sight in this peaceful patch of the Yarra River but the furtive looks of those masked walkers as they steered away as you approached might suggest there could be things floating around on the loose upstairs often quaintly described as ‘bats in the belfry’. There was a common thread to our visit to Yarra Bend which might signal an issue.


Bats Sleeping Over The Yarra

The Yarra Bend Park, as its name implies is an area through which the beautiful and pristine 240 kilometer Yarra River winds its way through lush Australian bush and under the concrete structure known as Eastern Freeway that cuts the park in two. The Yarra Bend Park and the neighbouring Studley Park was reserved in 1877 and were brought together as one park in 1929 by those in authority with far more apparent wisdom that those in power today and our thanks that this area has been retained as natural bush go out to them. In the 1930’s they added sporting fields, toilets and a public golf course where I am proud to say many years back, I achieved my lowest score on a nine-hole golf course; 75 as I recall thanks to a hot summer, essentially no grass and super-fast greens. Sadly, those golf clubs have found better use as tomato stakes.


Kane's Bridge Over The Yarra

Not surprisingly the car parks were full of cars that had brought long-haired and grey sad-looking people ever wary (more furtive glances and no smiles one expected behind those germ-filled masks). The many dogs taking their friends for a romp in the park were free and happy enjoying life to the full, oblivious to the mental stability of their owners. A new culture has emerged where people walk apart and one says “thank you” like Moses parting the water in the Dead Sea. How good were the salty winds off the Dead Sea in Jordan or the majestic ruins of Petra or the bazaars and markets in Muscat Oman and the flaky pastries and Turkish Delight in Istanbul Turkey. One more glimpse of the boats gliding through the Panama Canal, the Pisco Sours in Cusco Peru at 11,000 feet, the blue train out of Macchu Puchu or even the solmen faces of the giant Moa's on the wind-swept slopes of Easter Island.Oh for the majestic Monument Valley in Arizona or the giant sand dunes of Dunhuang China, to say nothing of the 1950's feel of Havana Cuba, or the street art in George Town Malaysia


Muscat Oman

Maachu Pichu
Easter Island Moa's
Panama Canal

Cusco Peru
Dunhuang China

Monument Valley Arizona

George Town Malaysia
Havana Cuba
Dead Sea

Petra Jordan

The Market In Istanbul

Just down the hill from Kew Junction and beside the banks of the Yarra River, stands a building that seems as old as I felt. The Studley Park Boathouse in grand Edwardian manner since 1863 and not far along the old Kane’s Suspension Bridge, named after the Collingwood Councillor T J Kane, who provided access to the Asylum from Kew. It spans the mighty river and was built in 1927 and again in 1938 after it was swept away in a flood. Kane’s provided the opportunity to walk 2.2 kilometres down river to where the almost mighty Merri Creek enters the Yarra so small compared to the convergence of the Mississippi, Missouri and Illinois Rivers just north of St Louis Missouri and its magnificent yet claustrophobic Gateway Arch that soars 192 meters with a view to the west (and east).As you walk you are again reminded that this entire area was once an asylum for the crazy, which enjoyed vegetable gardens and large Elms and Moreton Bay Fig trees and perhaps some palms that I so miss from my visit to Miami and Noosa Heads and the hidden canyons of the Bungle Bungles in Western Australia, so close but out of reach.


Palms In The Bungle Bungles
The Yarra River From Kane's bridge
St Louis Gateway Arch & Mississippi River thanks to Chicago Tribune

The Boathouse

With the roar of traffic above from the Eastern freeway you cross the Merri Creek to find the magnificent Dights Falls, an obstacle in the river that prevented Australia being explored by boat. First identified by surveyor Charles Grimes in 1803 (from Sydney no less-a place of beauty and a harbour to die for but alas off-limits) it became Dights Falls and not Grimes Falls because of Mister Dight, a canny flour miller in 1836 building a weir across the river where it narrowed through ancient basalt lava-flow flooding back memories of Petrified  Forest in Northern Arizona and the falls a vivid recollection of Iguazu in Brazil only months earlier. The crystal-clear water found use to turn the machinery to mill the flour so vital for resident’s health and well-being back then.

Ancient Basalt Lava Formation At Dights

Petririfed Forest Northern Arizona

Dights Falls 

Iguazu-Oh well, it was a waterfall

Alarm bells ring as you recall the curfew that kept people at home at nights for so many months at the whim of the crazies that rule our lives and you return along the river, cross Kane’s Bridge, use the ancient facilities from the 1930’s and head back to reality ever careful to avoid human contact or awareness that others exit. For fun drive via Yarra Boulevard to Princess Street Kew and you can see another historical building in Kew , once the Kew Lunatic Asylum, one of the largest psychiatric hospital ever built in Australia between 1864 and 1872  ‘to house the growing number of lunatics, inebriates and idiots in the Colony" so the politicians said back then. As you cross Kane’s Bridge and look at the water below, the colour of coffee grounds and realise you mask has caused your glass's to fog, and as your eye-sight is failing you realise all is well except you mind does some calculus. Two asylums so close together on the Yarra River when Melbourne had a population of only 280,000 and 10% of the population locked away.


Saigon Vietnam

With careful planning you can travel via Victoria Street and relive Hanoi or Ho Chi Min City, pass through Collingwood that might be setting for the Zombies in Night Stalkers, but Woodbury or Savannah Georgia it is not. You battle the heavy traffic down Hoddle Street and Punt Road happy you are mask less in your humble Mercedes AMC 300 which looks more like a Toyota Yaris or a Hyunda , arrive home safe from the plague and turn on the TV and there they are saying over and over, ‘We do not remember or we do not know" but we all know that those in charge caused the debacle  that has destroyed the Victorian economy and done significant harm Australia wide. You partner turns to you and says, “Well it is not New Zealand where the Princess of Woke got rid of the plague.” Omitting the massive decline in economic activity across the ditch.

 You are thankful for being alive and well and reach for the chardonnay bottle and a large glass and wonder why we have been locked down. Maybe it is not the plague but with Melbourne’s population of about 5 million, and if the same percentage of crazies exist the lock-down might mean those in power know something we don’t and we are being restrained for reasons only those in power understand.

You look back on the photographs of the day, rejoice in the stimulus of escaping for a short time and plan for the next day and when life returns to normal knowing it may never happen, not the way it was, at least not until you can get a haircut. Yarra Bend is a lovely park and very much worthy of visit, but recognise that eye contact is forbidden as there is potentially 500,000 nut job’s walking free in Melbourne, but then you recalculate as your world is only 25 kilometres so the number is somewhat reduced world. I turned to my partner and wondered; are we actually in Woodbury Georgia. I turn to my partner and she has a blue hue and realize the brass bolt in her neck needs polishing and then I smile and laugh and shout. Everyone is mad except thee and me and you my dear are suspect.”  

As Edgar Alan Poe once said, “I became insane with long intervals of horrible sanity.”

Noosa River Noosa heads-Dream On! Do not let it get to you.

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