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This day in 1985 … I was celebrating Australia Day actually in Australia. There was local free entertainment. The evening was supposed to finish with fire works, but it was a total fire ban day, so no fireworks.

In hindsight, I spent too long in Melbourne, but I enjoyed it at the time. I was on holiday, comfortable staying with friends, getting a feel of Australian life and culture, meeting lots of friends of friends, welcomed into their homes.

I liked the city and spent days walking, exploring, Toorak, South Yarra, St Kilda, Royal Botanical Gardens, Kings Domain, Shrine of Remembrance, National Gallery, the Old Gaol. I enjoyed the architecture, buildings, art and history.

We visited local nature reserves, bush walks. I went to free concerts at the Myer Music Bowl.

We had a lot of barbecues, we cooked outside and ate outside. We didn’t do that in the UK back then. 

As a long-standing speedway and motorbike track racing fan, I went to a speedway meeting at the Melbourne Showgrounds. I wrote that it was a brilliant evening, the smell of the bikes, the excitement of the races, the novelty of sidecar races and the result of UK beating Aus / NZ teams.

Random comments that I wrote during these early weeks in Melbourne… 

Shops closed at lunch time on Saturdays. Only milk bars and 7 eleven stay open. (what about grog shops?) Some supermarkets stayed open until 9pm on Thursday and Friday nights. This was back in the day when there was no Sunday trading. 

There were some driving rules I was not used to. When turning left, if someone was coming from the opposite direction and turning right, you had to give way to them. You couldn’t park on the opposite of the road, facing oncoming traffic. Intersections in the city were different again, where you turned right from the left hand lane. You let all through traffic go first then turned. It sounds odd but it worked and kept the tram lines clear. This is unique for Melbourne city I think. In 1985, my UK driving licence was valid until I was seventy years old, without any renewal, but a Victoria licence cost A$30 for three years, while in Queensland a licence was only $5 for five years. 

The transport system was very good and tickets covered all forms, train bus, tram. Way ahead of London ticketing in the 80’s.

Houses were generally brick veneer, i.e. plasterboard houses with just brick on the outside. Sound travelled between rooms and to hang a picture you had to find an upright joist. There were some wooden houses too. 

As the kids prepared to got back to a new school year, after their long summer holidays, I packed up to go to New Zealand for four weeks. Return air fare from Melbourne to Auckland was A$ 440.

Exchange rates at the time 
£1 = A$ 1.4 
£1 = NZ$ 2.43

Happy Australia Day.

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