Dayna's Blog

Holidays, walks and who knows what


The Doctor Blake Mysteries Costume Exhibition, Ballarat – June 2014

The Doctor Blake Mysteries is an Australian period drama TV series that is simply brilliant. Sorry – I meant BRILLIANT!

Stephen poses with Craig McLachlan as Doctor Blake

Stephen poses with Craig McLachlan as Doctor Blake

Following hard on the heels of Miss Fishers Murder Mysteries – which is light, bright, fun and glamorously over the top, as it’s set Melbourne in the 1920’s – one of my first thoughts when the show started was, ‘Why would the ABC be running another Australian period murder mystery series right after a fantastic one just ended?’

But instead of trying to out sass Phryne (I’m not sure anyone can do that – but give him a pair of fishnets and I bet Craig McLachlan (who plays Dr Lucien Blake in this series) would give it a go!), The Doctor Blake Mysteries are set in the bleak post war period of 1950’s Ballarat. Fans like Stephen and myself have been drawn in by the haunting music of the opening titles composed by Dale Cornelius (see more on his YouTube page), the sublime casting, wonderful plots and character threads, and great production of this award-winning series. The deliberate fading of colour in post production does take a bit of getting used to, but it’s done to reinforce the post war feeling of the era (I think).

The best news recently is that season three is going to be shot by the end of 2014 and – somewhat amazingly – the show’s official Facebook page was even saying that it could be airing by February 2015! Woohoo!!

Doctor Blake Mysteries - Facebook Page update on Series 3 posted 08.08.2014

But onto the costume exhibition…

From 1 May to 9 June this year, M.A.D.E. (Museum of Australian Democracy at Eureka) in Ballarat hosted The Doctor Blake Mysteries costume exhibition. Since Ballarat is only a 1.5hr drive (these days! It would have been much longer for Dr Blake) from Melbourne, and Ballarat is a great place to visit, we thought it was definitely worth going, especially since we hadn’t visited MADE before.

First port of call was The Design Exchange market in the glorious old Mining Exchange building on Lydiard Street. Definitely worth a stop if you’re visiting on a Sunday. The only downside for Stephen was that there wasn’t much in the way of menswear to browse, whilst I on the other hand, managed to pick up two items of clothing. Not bad for someone who doesn’t usually like clothes shopping! There’s also plenty of funky handmade craft items to browse.

We stopped for lunch a door or two along at the cafe attached to the Art Gallery of Ballarat. Also worth spending some time there if you haven’t been before… (You can find out whether Dr Blake’s mother’s painting hangs in there or not!)

Art Gallery of Ballarat - photo from March 2012

Art Gallery of Ballarat – photo from March 2012

Admire the cinema as you cross Lydiard Street in front of the Art Gallery, and not just because it was featured in definitely one Doctor Blake episode (Series 2 episode 5 “Crossing the Line” – but possibly more, in general street-scape shots. The tourist information shop is also across the street. You can pick up this Doctor Blake Walking Tour brochure from them if you don’t want to print it out for yourself. Pity there doesn’t seem to be any organised guided tours of Doctor Blake filming locations with insider (or at least local) information to impart…

Regent Theatre, Lydiard Street, Ballarat

Regent Theatre, Lydiard Street, Ballarat

After a quick drive around Lake Wendouree – no trip to Ballarat is complete without a drive around the lake to check the water level, see the birds, and admire some of the houses, old and new, but all with great views – we headed off to M.A.D.E.!

People enjoying Lake Wendouree, March 2012

People enjoying Lake Wendouree, March 2012

Located just outside the centre of town at the physical site of the Eureka Stockade, M.A.D.E. uses the history of the site to encourage visitors to explore concepts of democracy. As it opened fairly recently (May 2013) there’s no excuse for children and adults alike to visit and learn something new. I thought the lecture theatre was also very comfortable and inviting.

Yes, I’m getting to the photos of costumes…

It didn’t feel like there was as extensive a collection as was set out in the Rippon Lea mansion for the Miss Fisher exhibition (see here), but it could be that there just aren’t as many costume changes in Doctor Blake as in Miss Fisher. Gorgeous furs and ostrich feathers went out the window in these lean post-WWII times, and synthetics were now in – although there are still a lot of cotton items in the collection, and the suits are wool, of course. The exhibition space was also unrelated to the series – maybe if it was being displayed in the house they use as Dr Blake’s residence in the show there would have been more opportunity for costume and prop displays. But it’s possible that someone may actually live there – I don’t know.

Before taking photos I did check for any signs indicating that photography, even on my phone (which, incidentally, was what I was using) was not allowed, but saw nothing. No mention was made at the front desk about photography (or its prohibition) when we enquired about the exhibition, so I don’t think I’m breaking any rules in sharing this with you.

I have titled the full-shot photos as per the display descriptions, and certainly tried to photograph everything on display. Due to guide ropes and glass cases keeping visitor from getting too close to the costumes and props (which is completely understandable), indoor lighting and not taking my proper camera, some of the photos are not quite as good as I’d hoped.

So there you have it. May season 3 be every bit as good as the past two seasons have been, and may there be plenty more Doctor Blake goodness to come!

: )




Rippon Lea House & Gardens – Oct 2013

Rippon Lea – another in the ‘Haven’t you been there yet?’ places now ticked off our to-do list!

Lawn side of the mansion

Lawn-side of Rippon Lea mansion

Frederick Sargood certainly left a fantastic mansion and beautifully designed grounds. The whole of the estate is currently managed by the National Trust.

The prompt for this visit was the current exhibition of some of the costumes used in Miss Fishers Murder Mysteries. The second of the TV series based on the books by Kerry Greenwood is currently being shown on ABC1 of a Friday night – the traditional who-dunnit time slot. Rippon Lea is used in a number of the television episodes as different locations, depending on which part view of the mansion is being filmed. Very clever. Also, I would say,  the reason, why the costumes are being exhibited there.

Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries

Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries on ABC TV – “Who says crime doesn’t play?”

We chose to visit on a Saturday, which meant we a) had a chance at parking within 1km of the entrance gate and b) were able to wander into the mansion to see the costumes when we arrived, instead of being allocated a set entry time. Had we gone the following day, when Kerry Greenwood was attending a high tea there, I can only imagine the nightmare that parking would have been and battling the crowds that came to flood the mansion and grounds to see her and the costumes – despite the prediction of showers through the day. I’m a fan of the books and TV series… but I’m quite averse to crowds.

Not unexpectedly, photography was not allowed inside the mansion, but believe me when I say the place is very grand. The photos on the website are better than mine would have been anyway. As for the costumes (mostly gowns and hats for the lead character, Miss Phryne Fisher), it was very interesting to see them up close. To really appreciate them as fashion though, watch the TV series!

Phryne Fisher

Essie Davis as Phryne Fisher

We re-emerged into a bright sunny (warm!) day to explore the grounds. I’d been told that Rippon Lea is a popular location for weddings and I have now seen exactly why.

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We wandered around, exploring the different areas of the grounds – the fernery, orchard, windmill, the ponds/lakes, and yet we didn’t see everything. I guess we’ll just have to go back again!

With a picnic next time!
: )


National Rhododendron Gardens – 21 Sep 2013

“Again?” I hear you ask. Yes, I’m afraid so. But stick with me; it’s a short post (which is how it’s jumped ahead of a couple of others) and it’ll be our last visit to the National Rhododendron Gardens for a while, I think. As beautiful and ever-changing as the gardens are, I think after this trip we can tick the box that says ‘Done’ for now.

We didn’t think we could tick that box off before for two reasons: 1) last trip we were too early for the cherry blossoms and 2) we also hadn’t seen the rhododendrons in flower!

Well, no more dear people! Feast you eyes upon these photos and sigh (possibly with relief) for there are cherry blossoms (though not nearly quite as many as we had imagined), rhododendrons (many more than we had imagined) and other flowers brightening the park with colour everywhere you care to look!

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Not previously being very familiar with rhododendrons, I was thinking to myself that a lot of them looked quite like azaleas. It turns out that azaleas are of the genus Rhododendron! That would explain it.

The promise of cherry blossoms and reasonable weather drew plenty of people to the park yesterday, and we (like many others) had to park down the side-road a way and walked back up to the entrance. (Note: if you go, wear sneakers at least. I saw more than one lady with shoes she probably didn’t plan to get mud over.) Today they’re expecting 4,000 visitors to the park! I wonder where they’re going to park their cars…

: )

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National Rhododendron Gardens – 1 September 2013

Melbourne has enjoyed a beautiful weekend! Winter was farewelled, and has been spring ushered in with sunny, warm days with temperatures in the low 20’s.

Royal Exhibition Building & Carlton Gardens

Royal Exhibition Building & Carlton Gardens

It won’t last, of course – it’s Melbourne! – so you’ve got to make the most of it while it does.

One of the things I love about Melbourne are the parks and the way people get out and use them.

People enjoying the Carlton Gardens on a beautiful afternoon

People enjoying the Carlton Gardens on a beautiful afternoon

Since spring has seemingly decided to arrive (or tease us) earlier than usual this year, we decided to go back up to the National Rhododendron Gardens, near Olinda on the Dandenong Ranges east of Melbourne. Having been earlier in the year to see the leaves change colour in autumn, we thought we’d go back to see the cherry blossoms in the Cherry Tree Grove.


Petals in the gutter outside our house & there are plenty more along the footpaths – surely we should go up to see the cherry tree blossoms before we miss out?

Unfortunately we were a little eager – the climate around the Dandenong Ranges is cooler than Melbourne, so even though the tree outside our house has almost lost its flowers and is looking like it’s got most of its leaves back again, the cherry trees up on the mountain are only just budding.

Although the cherry trees might be taking their time waking up from winter, other plants like magnolias, daffodils and azaleas have been busy putting forth their blooms.

There also seemed to be more native birds around than last time, too. It’s always a treat to spot and identify them, too, even if it’s ‘just’ a fairly common New Holland Honeyeater or Eastern Yellow Robin. All up, a lovely day out.

: )


Australian Sheep & Wool Show, Bendigo – 20 July 2013

We haven’t been out and about in a while (which is why I haven’t been blogging!), but we had decided a few weeks ago to check out the Australian Sheep & Wool Show on in Bendigo this weekend.

The weather could have been better. Melbourne this morning was cold and wet – not surprising for July you might say, but we did just have our warmest July day on record on Thursday – it reached 23.3oC in the city! But after two days of unseasonably warm weather we were back to cold. We knew Bendigo would not be warmer than Melbourne, and when I checked the weather app on my phone the forecast was rain, possible storms, and even chance of hail, with a maximum temperature of 10oC. Time to rug up!

The clouds parted as we arrived in Bendigo

The clouds parted as we arrived in Bendigo

I’m so glad the MINI is a warm and comfortable car. As we headed north west past Mt Macedon, Kyneton, Castlemaine, we watched the outside temperature drop steadily down to 3.5oC which had us wondering if we’d brought enough layers! Fortunately it picked up again from there and as we arrived in Bendigo, it was a cold, not freezing, 8oC. The car looked almost freshly washed due to the pelting rain on the way, too!

Bendigo Visitor Info Centre (L) & Shamrock Hotel (R)

Bendigo Visitor Info Centre (L) & Shamrock Hotel (R)

After we found our way to the Price of Wales showgrounds – we need to spend more time visiting and exploring Bendigo I think – and paid a modest sum to park in a muddy field (yes, the MINI was called on to pretend it’s a 4wd again), we paid our entrance fee and were free to explore the world of sheep and wool!

After exploring few sheds of woolcraft, we found an even larger shed of woolcraft, woolwear, wool-everything, basically. You could buy everything from fleeces straight from the sheep/goat/alpaca’s back to top done fleece in any colour you could possibly imagine; spun yarn; knitted & felted clothes (fashion, practical & technical), hats, booties/slippers, gloves, rugs/throws/blankets – to associated products such as spinning wheels, weaving machines, knitting & sewing patterns, buttons, accessories.

Yep. It was all there. And then we went on to the next shed – and found there was even more!

Emerging from the sheds with a break in the weather

People emerging from the sheds with a break in the weather

All things considered, I escaped pretty lightly from those two sheds with just one purchase, after being persuaded (although ‘instructed’ may be slightly more accurate) by Stephen to buy a hat.

My new hat

My new hat

The next shed had an unexpected surprise within – a shearing competition!

I don’t think I’ve ever seen a sheep being shorn – live, in front of me – before. Yes, we’ve all seen it done on TV, and yes, I’ve even sat a sheep down on it’s rump in front of me during a sheep prac at uni as the lecturer explained sheep handling techniques, but I’m pretty sure this is the first time I’ve seen shearing being performed in real life. What a city slicker!

To help warm up we thought we’d grab something hot to eat, so stopped at the Festival of Lamb tent. Guess what was on offer – lamb burgers! Mmmm, lamb. They were pretty good, and I don’t think it was just because we were hungry. No cooking demos while we were there unfortunately. I was impressed with the set up of the tent – someone had made an effort to make it nice; there were bunches of wattle flowers in colourful containers on the tables that were covered in a beige cloth, and there were eucalyptus branches in the hay bales around the edges of the tent. It felt pleasant instead of cheap and disposable, despite the plastic plates we were eating from. And as for the service! – I had barely handed over payment for our two lamb burgers and there they were on the counter. In fact, they were so fast I thought they must have been meant for a previous order!

Festival of Lamb

Festival of Lamb

Wandering out the back we found some more sheep. These ones weren’t being shorn though. I think they’re just stud animals on show. We ducked in as it started raining again and it’s hard to say whose breath was steaming more – theirs or ours.

The rain was still coming down in hard, intermittent showers as we headed back to the main arena. It’s a pity there weren’t stands around the oval. Given the weather I’m not sure too many people would have been out sitting on them today, but to properly appreciate the sheep dog trials I kind of felt I should have brought our binoculars. It’s the event we were most looking forward to, but we weren’t keen on standing in the rain. Unlike the participants and judge/adjudicator, we had a choice.

Sheep dog trial!

Sheep dog trial!

And the rain comes down!

And the rain comes down!

By now we’d finally made our way around to the other side of the main arena to the Livestock Exhibition Centre. We went in and thought, “Aaah, so this is where they’re hiding!” – the maps dotted around the showgrounds being for the benefit of other people. People with plans or limited time. We had neither, which hopefully justifies our belated enlightenment.

Walking into this hall, you are struck by three things – firstly, the size of the place; secondly, that it’s full (of people and sheep); and thirdly, the smell of ruminants.

Some of these sheep are huge! Even accounting for the depth of wool on them, these are super-sized sheep. Seeing the very long line of merino rams being judged was another jaw-dropper. I didn’t count how many rams were lined up, but at a guess I’d say 70-80.

Unlike every other show we’ve been to or seen, there were no crowd barriers separating the competitors and judges from the spectators. It was very much an industry show. Being able to walk around the pens and see and touch the animals without the akward feeling you get at the bigger suburban shows, seemed to typify the difference between a country and a city show.

On the other side of the shed were boxes upon boxes of fleeces for judging. To my completely untrained eye, at that level a fleece is a fleece is a fleece. They’re all highly crimped and ‘fleecy’. (Can you tell I’m not getting a job as a fleece judge any time soon?)

We had one last big shed left to wander through – the New Livestock Exhibition Centre. ‘New’ livestock… did mean it was full of lambs? Or new breeds? It was a big shed… surely we’re not breeding that many new varieties each year?

As it turned out, it wasn’t a shed full of lambykins, nor crossbreds trying to gain recognition for new breed status. I’d have named this the “Alternate Breeds Exhibition Centre” or, if you want it more plainly still, the “Not-Merino Sheep Pavillion”.

There were some very interesting sheep here, and as you can see, a couple of cute Angora goats. The Angoras were from a school. I was informed that while they might be cute and like to be petted – keeping in mind that these ones are used to being handled reasonably frequently by school kids – they are renowned for their cheekiness and getting into trouble.

The Beersheba and the English Leicester were penned in the same area (maybe they were owned by the same people?) and have very distinctive, long coats. The Beersheba’s wool feels quite course though, whereas the English Leicester is so very soft!

And then I saw a sheep that could have been the one that played Ma in Babe! Cool! But across from it was a group called a different breed that looked like they could have been ‘Ma’ as well. I wandered on and saw more ‘Ma’-like sheep. Damn. So many varieties that look the same! Tricky British breeds.

With that we were pretty much done, and I have to say we were very pleased that we went.

I’ve been to one or two very small country shows, but nothing like this. I’ve been to the Royal Melbourne Show, and Brisbane’s Ekka – shows that were originally agricultural based – ‘where the city meets the country’ – but agriculture has been increasingly losing out to over-priced show bags, the lights and noise of sideshow alley, the dare-devils of motorcross, fireworks and fairy floss for many years.

Here there was a distinct lack of families with unruly kids in and/or hanging off prams complaining about everything and clogging up the isles between stands in the sheds. The children that we did notice at the show were almost invisible as they were mostly occupied with jobs – feeding & watering animals or helping show the animals – and were clearly associated with either their family’s or their school’s animals pens.

Another highlight was the vast majority of the stands in the woolcraft sheds really ‘belonged’ there. There were a couple of stalls that stood out because they didn’t seem to fit – the two different massage/posture seat sellers for instance – but on the whole, it was really uplifting to see so many people involved in so many ways with the Australian sheep and wool industry.

We’re definitely planning to go to the Bendigo and Ballarat Shows later this year.

There was one surprise left for the day. As we approached our car to leave, a bloke was letting dogs out of his dog trailer. 1, 2, 3… soon there were a lot of dogs running around! Nine to be precise. We were somewhat taken aback by all these dogs – all large apart from one Jack Russell. A motley crew of bitsers too, by the look of them.

By the time we’d put our stuff in the boot and sat in our seats ready to go, the dogs were running around a tree just below where we were parked. At first I thought it was just random play; 8 dogs playing chase me! But then we heard the man blow a whistle and saw the dogs change direction – he was either training them to be sheep dogs, or they were sheep dogs and he was just giving them structured exercise – or both!!

Running clockwise

Running clockwise

Running anticlockwise

Running anticlockwise

This went on for about 5min or so. Only the Jack Russell wasn’t tearing around the tree. He was standing next to the man while the others ran themselves out. Gosh they looked like they were having fun! There were two dogs who weren’t totally on message – maybe they were the newest trainees? Not sure. Practice ended with a different whistle. You could see it immediately. Like flicking a switch, the dogs’ body language changed from ‘Must run as fast as I can around this tree!’ to ‘Hey, I smell something over here,’ and ‘I’m going to check out the creek, come on!’. It was brilliant! And totally made up for not getting to see much of the sheep dog trials.

Maybe there should be a new competition next year… Sheep dog trials with lots of dogs – and no sheep. Just dogs having fun.

: )