Monday, 19 December 2011


I've spoken a lot about my daughter's impending arrival on this blog.  On Tuesday my wife and I finally met our beautiful little girl, Annabella.  She was absolutely perfect, with my wife's long fingers, my black hair, and beautiful lips all of her own, but died shortly before she was delivered.

Thank you to everyone who's offered their support over the last few difficult days.  It's meant a lot to me and my wife.

I'll be taking a hiatus from my blog for a little while.

Excerpt from Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman, for Annabella:

The spotted hawk swoops by and accuses me, he complains of my gab
and my loitering.

I too am not a bit tamed, I too am untranslatable,
I sound my barbaric yawp over the roofs of the world.

The last scud of day holds back for me,
It flings my likeness after the rest and true as any on the shadow'd wilds,
It coaxes me to the vapor and the dusk.

I depart as air, I shake my white locks at the runaway sun,
I effuse my flesh in eddies, and drift it in lacy jags.

I bequeath myself to the dirt to grow from the grass I love,
If you want me again look for me under your boot-soles.

You will hardly know who I am or what I mean,
But I shall be good health to you nevertheless,
And filter and fibre your blood.

Failing to fetch me at first keep encouraged,
Missing me one place search another,
I stop somewhere waiting for you.

Friday, 9 December 2011

Recommended reading: Do we (still) need Vancouver?

"It's time for true urbanism, a more three-dimensional urbanism where people connect at the street, and at the 3rd, 6th, and upper floors and back down to the street. The blocks will be more permeable, translucent, engaged. The street will be the entry, rather than the edge of the blocks and we will grow closer to the ground as we need less privatised security and more penetration into where people live, work and play."
This is what Howard Blackson concluded after evaluating whether or not Vancouver's urbanism has been a success. The article is published on the New Urban Network website and makes for interesting reading, especially given our recent consultation on proposed Scheme Amendment 49.

Make yourself a good cup of tea and check out his article at:

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Placemaking power salute to Wray Avenue residents for 'chalk on footpath'

I'm breaking out a placemaking power salute in honour of the organiser and those who participated in some chalk drawing on the footpath along Wray Avenue on a Saturday morning.

Invitation plus chalk equals a little bit of placemaking

The other day a friend of mine told me about a letter that their friends had received. In the letter to his/her neighbours the organiser encloses a piece of chalk and invites them to come out on a Saturday morning and draw a mural on the footpath outside their house.

What a great way to liven up an already great avenue plus create an opportunity for people to get to know their neighbours.


[Placemaking power salute]

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

A welcoming place (a Parisian bistro)

These hats appeared in this little traditional Parisian bistro that my wife and I were visiting regularly either before venturing out into the Latin Quarter or checking out our photos from a day out in Montmartre.

The hats appeared one day and it took us a little while to figure out that they were provided as an option for customers to wear if they wanted to sit out in the sun. Looking back on that day, I think that the hats are a pretty cool little gesture. To me it is these little things that add up to create a welcoming place.

It is good to know that revitalising Freo doesn't have to solely rely on grand projects but rather that the little things, like making people feel welcome can play their role as well. 

Monday, 5 December 2011

What cleaning our apartment got me thinking about Scheme Amendment 49

Recently, at the FICRA Christmas drinks, I was describing to Roel how it wouldn't be long before my daughter and I were going to be rocking his roof (an activity which was the closest thing we had to excitement during my childhood in Karratha, and involves throwing a handful of pebbles onto a tin roof in the middle of the night and running like crazy).  Our baby is due Christmas Day, and my wife assures me that the pokes and punches she's been receiving suggests the baby has inherited my throwing arm.

However, I realised last week that in my haste to add rock pouches to the baby carrier ready for boxing day, I had being happily ignoring the distinct possibility that my daughter could arrive early, and was way behind with the more necessary preparations...painting, cleaning, assembling IKEA furniture.  Really, I should have been in nesting mode a couple of weeks ago.

Fortunately, after a weekend I'm not going to forget in a hurry, everything is back on track.  This is because I'm lucky enough to have a wife happily prepared to give me a swift kick fair up the clacker, especially if it even looks remotely like my head is heading towards the sand again.

Now that I can sit down again, I got thinking about how my attitude appears to match that of Council's towards Scheme Amendment 49. Council is, quite rightly, excited about getting something happening in Freo after such a long time of not much happening at all. Council is also happily ignoring the distinct possibility that something might just surprise them before they're ready to deal with the consequences. And, like me, Council could potentially be in a situation where they were wishing they'd prepared better, by having a set of design guidelines completed along with the scheme amendment.

Unfortunately for Council my wife is preoccupied with something else at the moment, and not in a position to deliver any home truths via the pointy toe of Bett's latest. However, Council could benefit from my experience and do the work now on preparing a set of design guidelines before Scheme Amendment 49 proceeds. Otherwise, we may all find out that without the necessary preparation, developers may show Council that a kick up the clacker would have been the less painful option.

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Worth watching: The tragedy of suburbia

In this TED video, James Howard Kunstler discusses amongst other things, the importance of creating places that we care about - very relevant to Freo and definitely worth watching.

Make yourself a cup of tea, kick back and enjoy Kunstler's colourful turn of phrase when describing some buildings that wouldn't be out of place in the eastern end of Freo's city centre.

Thanks to Mary Del Casale for first letting me know about this video a couple of years ago.

Saturday, 3 December 2011

Kings Square lit up

Last night Kings Square was lit up by the brilliant new Christmas decorations. A job well done and I hope this becomes an annual event to kick off the festive season. 

It'll be great when we get to enjoy quality Christmas decorations along High Street and the Cappuccino Strip as well.

Three Freo places for finding your mum a Christmas present

With the arrival of our first baby just a few weeks away, my wife recently informed me that I'm going to be the one taking care of the Christmas presents this year.

No problem, I said, JB Hifi vouchers for all!  Of course, I should have been more reticent with the details.  My wife immediately put the kibosh on this idea, on the basis that the recipients would be able to quantify what a total cheapskate I am.

So, I've been given a list of shops to visit, together with rudely explicit instructions about what constitutes an appropriate minimum amount to spend.  In the interests of assisting any other retail-phobics with buying presents, here are my thoughts on the best places to buy presents this year.

Amaize, Fremantle Markets (opposite the Sail and Anchor)

At the risk of sounding like shopping for scented candle holders is something I enjoy, Amaize is actually a pretty good place for having a browse.  The interior is done up in a sort of 'French-chic' style and it has bits and pieces of everything, like cool office stuff, kitchen ware, handbags, novelty books, ornaments, and a good section of toys and activities for kids.

There's also a great range of funky jewellery, and it's decently priced (expect to pay something like $25 - $40 for a necklace).  Apparently woodland-creature motifs are in this season, if their selection was anything to go by. I really lucked out here by choosing an owl necklace for my mother-in-law, who my wife later informed me is going through an 'owl phase'.  My thoughtfulness in remembering this salient detail earned me lots of brownie points (I must have done a better job than I thought in not looking blank when she showered me with congratulations).

My nephew also scored here, with a book (complete with sound effects) on identifying farts, and a few wind-up toys for his stocking, and my mum got a colourful glass candle holder with cats on it.

My verdict: a great one-stop-shop for presents, especially for women, and not too pricey.

Remedy (High Street, opposite New Edition)

The interior of Remedy smells expensive, like organic body lotion manufactured in France, and it is - not exorbitant, but tending towards high quality / high priced items.  There's a eclectic range of jewellery, much of it from a small Melbourne brand, some old fashioned, wooden kids toys (which in my experience appeal more to the parent than the average 3 year old, who tends to prefer the noisy plastic variety), plus a wealth of arty, local, good quality homewares and decorations.

There's also a range of natural bath / beauty products, which, although kind of expensive (at a rough guess, $50 and up), at least have the virtue of looking it.  If I'm going to spend that much on soap, it had better scream class in every millimetre of its packaging.  I resisted actually testing the hand creams, etc, but a quick sniff confirmed that they were the source of Remedy's nice smell.

I got a very sleek carafe for my father-in-law here, which I know he'll like.

My verdict: good for show-off presents.

Corner Store (Market Street)

Corner Store is like Amaize's slightly richer, snootier cousin.  Also 'French-chic' in style, it's full of quirky kitchen ware, office trinkets and stationery, unusual toys, interesting perfumes and clothes - in essence, gifty type things.

I found a nifty note-holder for my brother here, and some perfume for my sister-in-law. The mums were also treated to a tea set each.

My verdict: another good one for the mums and sisters.

Thanks to these Freo shops, Christmas shopping for our mums can be a breeze.

Friday, 2 December 2011

Recommended reading: 'People are talking about placemaking'

Put your hand up if you're tired of being spoken down to by architects, urban designers, town planners, bureaucrats or councillors when being presented with a new scheme amendment or development proposal.
Keep your hand up if you're still none the wiser after their explanation of design quality versus design excellence and how it relates to allowing additional discretionary height.
If you kept your hand up, then I recommend reading this article by Fred Kent of Project for Public Spaces. In his article, Kent discusses the increasingly important role of placemaking and how it is having a positive impact on improving our places - very timely for Freo and our Council
Here is a nice quote that sums up, for me, where Council should be heading in its approach for authentically engaging the community:
“Instead we need an architecture that recognises that a community’s people are the true urban designers, and what happens where the building meets the street is critically important to the health of our neighbourhoods.”
To enjoy the rest of the article, here it is:
[Place making power salute]

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Chalk it up: New Christmas decorations in Kings Square this Friday

It's the beginning of the festive season and this year Council has invested in new Christmas decorations for Kings Square.
The decorations will make their debut tomorrow evening and feature lighting made up of hundreds of LED lights draped across the square’s iconic Moreton Bay fig tree and LED-lit ‘shooting star’ motifs on light poles.

The switching on ceremony will begin at 7pm, with the lights display being switched on at 7:30pm. The ceremony will include carollers from the St Patrick's and St John's church choirs as well as Father Christmas who will be available for photos. The Village Art markets will be operating with food, coffee and other items for sale.

After travelling through Paris, Venice and Lucca during the Christmas season a couple of years ago and being amazed at the Christmas lights in these cities, my wife and I returned to Freo itching to see the same happen here, so I'm a big supporter of this initiative by Council.

I'll be an even happier resident when we get some kick ass lights across the cappuccino strip and High Street!