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This was a bit of a spare day and gave me a chance to prepare for the travels to Bendigo for Christmas. My task was to prepare supper for the Christmas eve meal (certainly felt like home with that task!) Susie and I wandered down to Fairfield high street to buy the ingredients. The usual Italian butcher was so busy that we were forced over the road to its competitors – Susie was not amused that we had to visit the alternative! We purchased 2kg mince beef to make a lasagne. The butchers were attached to a fruit and veg market where we were able to pick up all of the other items we needed.

In the searing heat of 28 degrees I cooked up a large pot of mince and a lot of white sauce before constructing a large 4 layer lasagne which contained beautiful mozzarella, gruyère and an Australian cheddar. Somewhere in the region of a kilogram of cheese made up the monstrosity.

Having made the supper I took myself off into the centre of Melbourne to wander around and leisurly visit the areas I had seen earlier in the visit. Taking the train – as usual – from Fairfield to Flinders Street station before walking into the city’s lane-ways and through the shopping centre. I stumbled upon another, newer and larger T2 store (a brand which I had enjoyed a few days earlier!) after some time enjoying the free samples and looking at many of the products I left the hustle and bustle of the shopping centre and made my way down to Degraves lane and happened to pass a barbers shop. My hair was getting rather long and uncontrollable so I decided to stop in and was asked to return 30 minutes later.

This left me with quite a tough decision, what to do with myself for 30 minutes near some amazing little boutique tea shops. Such a hard choice! I selected one at the foot of Degraves lane which did fantastic miniature cupcakes (I enjoyed a selection of tiny Belgian Chocolate, white chocolate & raspberry and a redvelvet cupcakes) they had a wide selection of flavoured teas and green teas but only one suitable black tea, it was still very pleasant. I spent the next 30 minutes sitting and enjoying an Australian book – Tomorrow When the War Began.

The barbers shop was a tiny little narrow space which went back for much further than it was wide and had clearly just opened as there was little or no decoration. Sarah cut my hair and amused me by asking me to “move through to the back” to have my hair washed (this involved shuffling one chair to the right) and when done being told that she would “meet me out front” (which involved standing up from the chair and turning round!)

From Degraves lane I wandered down over Princes Bridge and through to the Botanic Gardens, at first I was rather disappointed as it was just an area of grass and trees which seemed distinctly normal. I then arrived at the Sidney Myer music bowl, a large outdoor venue with a tent like the orchestra summer concerts bubble. A large ‘Carols in the Park’ concert was taking place wit a variety of performers, there were plenty of TV cameras around and it seemed like a very large concert. I had certainly heard it over the bustle of the city since walking over the bridge.

After passing the concert I realised that the Botanic Gardens hadn’t actually started and were now starting to appear in front of me. After going through the entrance gateway the noise of the surrounding area seemed to evaporate around me and the sounds of the gardens were amplified. I had been advised to visit Guilfoyles volcano, a recently renovated mound which contained a 19th century reservoir. It was now home to a variety of Aloës, bottle trees, cacti and other dry environment plants. At the top was a new pond with floating planters which had roots which dangled into the pond to remove excess nutrients from the water. The volcano was at the very far end of the garden and as I walked there I noticed a large selection of different trees which had information about who had planted them. Mostly they were planted by British Monarchs or Dukes. Quite interesting to see trees planted by the Dukes of York, Windsor and Cornwall from the late 19th century and early 20th century as well as Queen Elizabeth II (who planted an English Box) pass by. It was particularly interesting to see how much they had grown and what they looked like now and to rack my brains about which duke had become which Monarch or not.

Finding myself still in t-shirt and shorts at 7pm was quite a shock and with the temperature dropping I started heading back. The walk to the station involved wandering through the top end of the gardens with some good views to the city before walking along the banks of the Yarra and over swan street bridge, past the Tennis arenas and the MCG which was clearly prepared for the Boxing Day Test between Australia and India.

Arriving back at Fairfield dinner had just been put on the table, Luciano had cooked up the remaining mince and made spaghetti Bolognese. Thankfully it tasted delicious and the alternative butcher had not ended in disaster!

Later in the evening there was a documentary on cyclone Tracey which had obliterated Darwin exactly 40 years earlier. The documentary went back quite far and included a brief history of the aboriginal land issues of the time. An elder had stated that a large storm would bring vengeance on the area after aboriginals had been forced out and their land had been removed.

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