On the literary road … in Melbourne and thereabouts

Once again we are visiting our first-born in Melbourne and taking the opportunity to visit places we haven’t yet explored in this city and state. I’ve managed on this trip to tick off a few more “bucket list” items.

Captain Cook’s cottage in Fitzroy Gardens.

IMG_0554I first learnt of this cottage in my childhood when my siblings and I would collect Golden Fleece service station swap cards on road trips. These cards introduced me to all sorts of sights around Australia but three particularly took my fancy – Jenolan Caves with those amazing formations; the John Flynn Memorial in central Australia, because of the HUGE rock on top of it; and Captain Cook’s cottage because, yes I admit it, it was cute. The picture showed it with ivy growing over the walls, and for someone living in outback Queensland, that was romantic. I’ve seen the first two sights long ago, but for some reason had not seen the cottage – until now. It’s as cute as I expected, and a wonderful example of preserving the home of a significant person – albeit thousands of miles from where it was built.

And, it has a literary reference because upstairs was a display of a selection of the sorts of books people read in the 18th century – and there wasn’t a novel amongst them as the sign confirmed! This reminded me of Jane Austen’s famous defence of the novel in Northanger Abbey in which she argues that novels convey a “thorough knowledge of human nature” in the best language.

Harold Holt Memorial at Cheviot Beach.

Cheviot Beach

Cheviot Beach

Harold Holt was prime minister of Australia in December 1967 when he disappeared at Cheviot Beach while swimming. He was never found, leading, of course, to all sorts of conspiracy theories.

This is not particularly literary, except that the event did spawn much writing – journalistic, historical and biographical – including My Life and Harry written the year after his death by his flamboyant wife, Dame Zara Holt.

Immigration Museum, in the old Customs Building.

A more recent wishlist item, but a significant one, is Melbourne’s Immigration Museum. It tells the story of migration, primarily in Victoria, and so starts from around 1830s. I liked that it paralleled this story with that of the original inhabitants discussing how migration and migrants impacted them and their lives. This aspect of the story could be stronger, but I guess the main focus is the immigrants. I liked the way the museum incorporated historical/political facts, through a timeline and other displays, with personal stories of immigrants told in text, voice and visuals.

IMG_0552The extra treat for me here though was a little serendipitous find. Recently, I had a discussion, in some online forum or other, with the Resident Judge about different styles of museums. She talked about liking museums where you can discover little things for yourself. I was reminded of this discussion when, out of the blue, in a display about identity, I came across a statement by novelist Ouyang Yu. Born in China, he now lives primarily in Australia where he established his literary career. At least, I assume the statement is by the novelist as his identity wasn’t divulged. I rather liked discovering him in this place, but did wonder why he wasn’t further identified.

17 thoughts on “On the literary road … in Melbourne and thereabouts

  1. I really appreciate posts like this one, as I’m hoping to make it to Melbourne next time I’m “over there”. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Just one tiny correction – Harold Holt was swimming, not scuba diving, when he disappeared… Sorry to be pedantic but I think the conspiracy theorists would have an even bigger field day if he had scuba equipment with him (he swam off to a Chinese submarine etc.)…

  3. Liked the post, btw, will have to check out Captain Cook’s cottage (I am a Melbournite) and, shame to say, haven’t been to the Immigration Museum either… Did swim at a beach near Cheviot and got pounded by some seriously scarey surf so not at all with the conspiracy theorists – sadly I think he just drowned.

    • Are you the author of The heaven I swallowed, Rachel? If so, that was an enjoyable book. I’ve just discovered, when I went to look for it, that I’d missed listing it in my List of Authors page. It happens every now and then. Anyhow, apologies. It’s fixed now. And if you’re not that Rachel, I appreciate your name jogging my memory!

    • Haha, thanks Stefanie. Yes, we did.

      I didn’t have my full computer capabilities so only put photos in the post that I’d taken with my iPad. I did photograph the cottage but those photos are still on my camera!

  4. Hi Sue, glad to hear you were able to visit some wonderful Melbourne places. On your next visit I suggest you visit the Heide Museum. The home of John and Sunday Reed. So much history in the house and art; and walking around the gardens is very relaxing.

    • Thanks Meg … great idea, but we’ve actually been to that one. It was one of the first places I told my son I wanted to visit when he moved down there. We all loved it and I’ve been thinking it’s time for a second visit. I hear Shane Bennett runs the cafe there. That’s a bit of a drawcard too! But I’d better save my pennies first.

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