Very Sore Legs; or, What I Did On My Weekend

It wasn’t the best weather in the world, in terms of predicatbility, but it’s Melbourne. You carry layers and extras and brolly (and sunglasses), and you assume that you’ll get to hone this quick change skills. Frequently.

That said, it was a wonderful weekend.

Friday night, I went to the final of this winter’s Docklands Winter Fireworks series. Which was okay, as fireworkds go, but rather repetitive in terms of the types and styles of fireworks they used. Later on, I saw another fireworks display from my backyard, which was smaller but much more varied.

Saturday morning I got up bright and early for this year’s Open House Melbourne. This was my second year volunteering, regarding which, more in a little while.

So I started by checking out the JA Substation in Little Bourke St (which was where I’d volunteered at, but not toured, last year). It was a very educational tour, and I now know more about the way electricity is supplied to Melbourne than I ever dreamed that I’d want to. More for the serious electricity geek than the idly curious, but well worth the time.

From there, I went on to the Myer Mural Hall, which I remembered visiting once as a child, and always wanted to see again. In fact, I’d been worried that they’d demolished it in their recent refit, but no, there it was, just as stunning (and as suprising to find) as I recalled it. Well worth checking out, if you ever get the opportunity.

Next stop was The Royal Australian & New Zealand College of Obstetricians & Gynaecologists – not somewhere I’d ever have chosen to go by myself, but the friend I was with was volunteering there, so we went there so they could start their shift. It was an absolutely beautiful building, and far more interesting in itself, its history and its contents than I would ever have guessed. Highly recommended, if they have it again next year.

From there, I went down to St Kilda to check out the paired attractions of the Esplanade (the road, not the pub): the Esplanade Vaults and the Palais Theatre. I was very curious about the former, and only really went to the latter because after travelling to St Kilda, I wanted to see as much as I could there. The Vaults were a little disappointing – the actual building is fascinating, but the photos and text there only provided a frustratingly small glimpse into their history – but the Palais was my surprise hit of the weekend. Sometimes I forget how much I love old theatres, but after this weekend, I won’t be making that mistake for a while.

Then I raced back into town, and took in the Capitol Theatre and the Athanaeum, but alas, too close to closing time to do either justice. I’m pretty sure that the Athanaeum does tours at other times as well – I will have to go to one if they do.

Sunday, I got up and started over, although given that my own volunteer shift was on Sunday afternoon, I didn’t have much time for it. Still, the stuff I saw was great.

I started with the Royal Melbourne Hospital Tunnels and Towers tour, and that was fascinating. As much as anything else, the sheer terrifying volume of all sorts of things that they go through on a weekly or annual basis is awe-inspiring all by itself. Plus, the view from the helipad was terrific, and the basements were an incredible display of planning for every possible contingency.

From there, I went to the wonderfully-named Melbourne Brain Centre, where alas I didn’t have time to go on the tour, but did check out the fantastic works on display in the Dax Gallery. I was particularly taken with the embroidered jacket – I won’t say more, but go to the gallery and see it if you can (if you work or study at/near Melbourne Uni, the gallery would make an excellent lunchtime activity).

Fibally, I went to the venue where I was volunteering: the Fitzroy High School, which I almost didn’t recognise – it’s changed more than a little since I used to play basketball here back in the Nineties. The major part of the tour there (which I went on, of course – I’ve learned something from last year) was in the new wing of the school, which was an incredible fusion of design, art, sustainability and pedagogy. It’s not hard at all to see why it won awards. The tour there was particularly good, because in addition to the employees of the school (most venues have employees running the tours), there was also a member of the architextural team that designed it, so we got to hear more about the goals of the design and the process of reaching them than we would have otherwise.

So, all in all, a great weekend, and aside from my very sore legs, I can’t wait for next year’s one.