Friday, 21 December 2012

Fremantle Doctor suffers from cruiselag, still on blogging break

I’ll come clean. I’ve been suffering from a severe bout of cruiselag since returning to the real world, which has severely curtailed my blogging.

My wife thinks it's a made-up affliction but even she couldn’t explain my sleep walking the other night. She found me in our kitchen at the sink knawing on a cooking utensil that I was convinced was a tasty delight from the buffet of our cruise ship. When she interrupted me, I turned around and asked for some more iced tea. I’ve also taken to doodling the name of our head waiter in solitary moments, which I haven’t told my wife about.

All of this means that I’ll be taking a slightly longer than expected break from blogging. I expect to be back up and blogging in the New Year.

Notwithstanding my debilitating bout of cruiselag, I thought that I’d share a somewhat embarrassing holiday related story with Fremantle Doctor Blog readers before my wife creates her own blog titled ‘Fat Arse Husbands’ or something to that effect. I’ll give Fremantle Doctor Blog readers the endpoint of this particular story and they can pick the path that I took to get there. 

Let’s get started.

During our stay in Melbourne after our cruise, how did a fire extinguisher accidently go off in a very small and hip noodle bar in South Yarra?

a)    I decide to secretly use the cruise to build on my already scarily awesome basketball skills. That way I could return and hand out a serious dose of kick ass to my archrival on the basketball court, Chris ‘Hammer Time’ Hammond. Perfecting my skyhook and shooting hoops all day meant that my body, with its decidedly unimpressive man-cleavage, was transformed into a svelte, toned basketball machine. So it didn’t come as a surprise when my wife and I strolled into the very small and hip noodle bar in South Yarra and the ever alert waitress used the fire extinguisher to cool me down because I was so hot.

b)      After attending an ‘art of noodle making’ class and following it up with the ‘noodle making for experts’ masterclass on the cruise, and upon entering the modern, hip and small noodle bar I took the opportunity to shoot the breeze with the chef about all things noodle making. Unfortunately I distracted him to the point that a part of his chef uniform was set alight and his attentive assistant chef rushed to use the fire extinguisher to put the small fire out.

c)      Strolling into the small, hip noodle bar in South Yarra, my wife and I were directed to a seat in the corner of the room. As I sat down on a stool at our table, there was a large bang, followed closely by a cloud of white dust. My wife jumped back, initially worried that I had broken the chair. The lady enjoying her noodles at the next table jumped back too, as the cloud of dense white dust continued to grow and fill the room like a malevolent fog. The waiter returned at high speed. I backed away, realising that as I had tried to fit into the tight space, my pertly rounded behind had inadvertently set off the fire extinguisher mounted on the wall behind my stool.

Before I reveal the answer, I thought that I’d share a couple of other cool things from the internet that I have enjoyed this past week.

Awesome Obama photos

Click here to check out these awesome photos of President Obama. My favourites include Obama pretending to be caught in the web of a child in a spiderman costume, Obama and his vice president Joe Biden sharing a laugh and Obama secretly standing on the scale behind one of his staff.

Titus’s Top 12 NCAA power rankings

Skip to the end if you’re not a fan of American college basketball. But if you enjoy a bit of the old college bball check out this highly amusing and enteraining weekly column documenting the best twelve college basketball teams.

(This column provides the inspiration for the fire extinguisher game above.)

Kick ass photos of Paris at night

Paris is one of my favourite cities. So I couldn’t miss an opportunity to link to these awesome photos of Paris at night. Click here.

I want to thank Fremantle Doctor Blog readers for reading my blog. I also want to throw out a massive shout out to my wife. I really appreciate all of her patience and editing. I hope you all have a safe and enjoyable Christmas.

For all those people still reading, the answer was c). The waiter handled the fire extinguisher emergency with aplomb. No one asphixiated. My wife could be heard remarking to fellow patrons that she'd never seen that guy before in her life, while I coolly and calmly made my way outside and sat down at a table ready to chow down on some tasty noodles. The waiter later thanked me for setting of the extinguisher as he now had an excuse to use the rest of it up before replacing it with a new one.

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Freo Doctor on holiday

For the past couple of weeks, I've had a bit of the old writers bloc hence no new posts for a while. I think that it has been a case of lots of interesting topics and issues to write about. It's good timing as my wife and I are off to sail the high seas for the best part of a month. 

Yep, I pity the poor cruise company that is going to let me loose on their ship. Look out 24 hour room service that's all I can say. My wife will be rolling me off the ship when we dock in Sydney. So I'm thinking that I'll give Freo Doctor Blog readers a heads up that I won't be blogging during November. I'm looking forward to returning to blogging in December with a post along the lines of "If Freo was a cruise ship which one would it be?"

In the meantime, below are a couple of very short comments visa vie some of the goings on around Freo:

Skateplaza at the Esplanade [Placemaking power salute] 

I reckon it is a great initiative by Council. For me it ticks a lot of boxes and sends the right message. The current skatepark near Munchies just isn't good enough. I'd like to see Council keep its options open about where to locate the skateplaza. I'm comfortable with parts of the carpark being used. One thing though: Do it properly! Another thing: Review the Esplanade Masterplan as part of the process.

Geelong did a great thing when it located its new skateplaza on its waterfront. Yep, you read that correctly. They located their awesome skateplaza on the waterfront. It is a great facility. Check out more info about it here, here and here.

I plan on writing a more detailed post about this topic when I get back.

Seafood Festival [Cup of hot fat]

I've been known to knock back my fair share of BBQ Seafood platters at Sandrino's and have recently discovered that I'm not allergic to oysters (it's a long story), so I rocked up to the Seafood Festival on Sunday with high hopes.

I'm sorry Fremantle Festival organisers but a stage with someone cooking seafood with three accompanying stalls selling chilli, fudge and something else not related to seafood is not a Seafood Festival.

Councillor Hume [Really, really, really big cup of hot fat]

Councillor and wannabe Labor candidate David Hume has joined the pity party, with a smug, sarcastic and contemptuous email sent to a committee member of community group FICRA in response to a perfectly reasonable request for information.

This was followed by a phone diatribe that, fortunately for Hume's re-election prospects, remains without transcript.

Fremantle Business Improvement District Board [Placemaking power salute]

Congratulations and all the best to the new Fremantle Business Improvement District Board members. It's a great initiative and I'm looking forward to seeing it be a great success.

Market Street outside Sandrino's and Portorosa [Placemaking power salute]

The other night my wife and enjoyed a tasty meal with the poor soul who'll be looking after our weiro's while we're away. We dined at Sandrino's and I reckon the newly upgraded portion of Market Street outside Sandrino's and Portorosa looks great. It's a great initiative and gives the City some flexibility in the future to hold festival related activities and events in this portion of Market Street. I wonder if Gino's will extend its alfresco around the corner?

I think that about sums things up for the moment (my wife isn't editing this post and I've already taken some liberties with this one so I should be careful). Take it easy.

Friday, 19 October 2012

Some lessons for Freo from the Show

My last post about my nephew's first visit to the Royal Show got me thinking about whether or not there were any lessons that could be gleaned for Freo. After thinking about it for a couple of days I've come up with a few, which I thought that I'd share with Freo Doctor Blog readers.

Lesson 1: Seeing Freo through the eyes of a child

The single best thing about hanging out with Byron at the Show was being able to get an appreciation of the world through his eyes.

I think that this is a great lesson for Freo. Happy and engaged kids means happy parents, which means memorable experiences. If families are having them in Freo then they're going to keep coming back. Lately my wife and I have noticed this very thing happening at the Fremantle Markets. Petting zoos, pianos, people walking around on stilts in costumes, entertainers making balloon shapes... They all have one thing in common. They invite kids (and adults) to engage and have a bit of fun.

The other weekend my wife and I accompanied Byron to a pirate themed 5 year old birthday party. It was a hoot. All of the kids bar none all loved the bubble making toys that they received at the end of a treasure hunt. It got me thinking how cool it would be if word got out that there was some kind of bubble making device at Kings Square or the Esplanade or Bathers Beach.

Speaking of introducing fun, check out this cool website. I particularly like the world's deepest bin and the piano staircase ideas.

Lesson 2: Signage gives people an excuse to go to a destination

One thing that I did notice about the Show is that the signage could have been better. It probably meant that we missed out on certain activities and interesting places to visit.

It is a good thing that the City is launching Rea series of precinct focused signage. It'll also be important to think about a more micro approach as well. For example, little signs letting people know that the Round House is only a 2 minute walk in that direction. We are regularly approached by tourists looking for the Maritime Museum.

I like this approach that was sneakily tried in Raleigh, North Carolina.

Micro wayfinding at Raleigh via
I feel it gives people an excuse to check out a destination knowing that it isn't that far away.

Lesson 3: Food trucks

It's been a while since I last went to the Show and I'd forgotten the bevy of food options that were available. Freo Doctor Blog readers will appreciate that I enjoy my food. They'll also appreciate that food is probably the most crucial aspect of attracting people to an area. A classic example is how Gypsy Tapas has transformed its little part of Freo. All of the food vans at the Show got me thinking about how food trucks have become really popular around the United States.

Food trucks offer a great opportunity for Freo to expand on its array of food options. One of the benefits of Freo becoming food truck friendly is that they provide an opportunity for emerging food entrepreneurs to test themselves before committing to a more permanent arrangement.

A food truck in Sydney via
As well as providing an entry point into someone owning their business, Freo gets to maximise its awesomeness by creating a virtuous cycle. Foot traffic: tick. Active, festive streets: tick, tick. Economic vitality: Boom tick.

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

The Adventures of Byron: First time at the Royal Show

Last week I rocked up to the Royal Show with my wife and my four year old nephew Byron. I've never been massively into the Show and, now that I'm an old fart, I certainly wasn't expecting too much. I certainly didn't expect that our day at the Show would be so awesome.

Byron's nervous excitement

The day began with the standard Byron phone call to let us know that he was on his way. A bout of the nervous hiccups, coupled with Byron's belief that speaking faster would mean arriving faster, meant the conversation was less intelligible than usual, but my wife eventually established they were ten minutes away and went outside to greet him. Upon arrival, Byron bounded out of the car and, with a barely perfunctory goodbye to his mum, immediately set off briskly in the direction of Wesley Church. My wife, slightly perplexed, dashed after him and asked where he was going. "To the train station, Aunty Ness". He said, with a look that suggested it should have been self-evident. Byron was a little man on a very important mission: going to the Show for the first time.

Thirty minutes later we were all on the train on our way to the Show. Byron had force-fed me my cereal and skulled my cup of tea for me to speed things up, before proceeding to laugh heartedly at my man boobs as he handed me my clothes for the day. As Byron gave me my electric toothbrush, I thought that I could happily live with a mini-butler, besides having to suffer the ignominy of a four year old mistaking my chest for the female version.

Byron got us both to line up at the door with him three stations early, such was his anxiety that we would miss our stop. As the train rolled into the Showgrounds train station, Byron began to tremble with excitement. I began to appreciate what the day really did mean to him.

While we waited in line to buy our tickets, I began to get an inkling that I was in for a special day. There was something refreshing about seeing my little nephew so genuinely excited about the prospect of going to the Show for the first time. I even began to get sucked into his world and started to show tell tale signs of excitement myself. I didn't start hiccupping nervously but there was plenty of high fiving and power saluting going on between me and Byron. It was probably at this point that my wife began asking herself what she was getting herself into: babysitting two boys at the Show for the day.

Keeping my cereal down on the rides

After a short wait we entered the Show. Byron jumped around and did one of his spontaneous celebratory jigs when we pushed through the turnstile, before the scale of the place overtook him.  So many people, so many rides, so many things to look at.

As we walked around, Byron gradually came to his senses, and by the time we reached Kiddieland he had collected himself. An executive decision was made and five minutes later I was sitting next to him on one of those awesome looking spinning rides - the type that makes your stomach lurch and turns your brain into mush. While I was concentrating on not projectile vomiting my cereal onto one of the 5 year olds sitting across from me, I could discern Byron's voice yelling "faster, faster!". Much to Byron's chagrin, the ride eventually came to an end. Chock full of adrenalin he jumped out of his seat and skipped down the steps, while I tried to collect myself and settle the contents of my stomach. I looked up to see him sprinting off to the spinning tug ride, which if anything looked worse. I got up and followed him, still not entirely certain that my cereal wasn't going to make an appearance.

Byron enjoying a ride without worrying
whether or not I was going to vomit on him

Freo Doctor Blog readers will be relieved, as were our fellow riders, that I managed to avoid vomiting. It must have been first ride jitters as, after a pep talk from my wife ("There were children still in nappies on that ride, you sissy"), I was soon in gear. Immediately after each ride finished, Byron would leap off and issue a round of high fives. I can see that power saluting is strong in this one.

Time really does fly when you're having fun. After giving each of the rides and a game a try, we decided to grab a bite to eat before checking out the show bags.

Byron's first show bag

In the lead up to going to the Show, my wife had been telling Byron all about the show bags. He always responded with the kind of polite interest that suggested he didn't see what the fuss was about. So, I'm glad to report that Byron's first ever show bag more than exceeded his expectations.

He had seen the occasional person wandering around with an out-sized Spongebob Squarepants twill bag slung over their shoulder, and very quickly decided that was the bag for him. When Byron, who is very rarely lost for words, was asked by the lady at the showbag stall which colour hat he wanted in his bag (bright pink or bright yellow), he just stood there with his mouth agape, not able to form a response. It was a moment to savour. For the rest of the day, he dragged that show bag around like a badge of honour.

The massive hat from Byron's first show bag

Wrapping up

A couple of hours later we were back at our apartment and Byron was still exuding the glow of an awesome day at the Show. We were putting on a reenactment of the acrobat show we'd seen for his Mum. The rest of the day was interspersed with wrestling (four year old boys really enjoy wrestling), bumper car and haunted house rides, a visit to the dairy hall and to the baby animals, two chairlift rides (where his uncle was a bit of a scaredy cat) and of course, the fireworks.

On the way home after the fireworks

It was a great day. My wife and I were both chuffed when Byron declared to his Mum as we were taking him down to his car that the Show had definitely lived up to his expectations. Pretty cool. It would have been interesting to know what he dreamt about that night. Me, I went to bed having enjoyed the very rare pleasure of spending the day seeing the world through the eyes of a child again.

Friday, 12 October 2012

Freo Quick Shot: A welcoming place at Monsi's in Claremont

I'm sneaking a couple of short posts past my wife today. Here is the last one for the day.

I'm on record as pointing out that at times customer service in Perth isn't the greatest, especially when compared to Europe. So I'm always chuffed when I come across examples of great, thoughtful customer service when I'm out and about.

This post recognises the people who run Monsi's in Claremont. I've been going to Monsi's on and off for some time now. It wasn't until my last visit that I noticed the red blankets that they put out for their alfresco customers to keep them nice and cosy during those particularly cold Perth mornings.

A nice gesture to their alfresco customers provided by Monsi's
The blankets are a nice gesture and send a welcoming message to regular and potential customers.

Freo Quick Shot: Placemaking power salute to Djurra Day Spa

Quick Disclaimer:

My wife has been distracted today, so I'm taking the opportunity to slide a couple of short posts past the gatekeeper. I take full responsiblity for dodgy spelling mistakes, lame 'old man' jokes etc.

Back to the power salute

A couple of months ago, I issued a placemaking power salute to the good folk at Moore & Moore Cafe. This time it is the turn of Djurra Day Spa, located in the West End section of High Street. My aversion to haircuts and personal grooming in general is well known, so I generally put my head down and skedaddle past places like Djurra.

Last night on the way to the Fremantle Future Forum being hosted by the University of Notre Dame, Djurra managed to capture my attention. Firstly they were open, which was pretty cool. But most importantly they had placed some greenery in front of their shopfront. It looked really good, so good that I stopped and admired their efforts.

Below is a bad photo which doesn't do justice to their awesome placemaking initiative.

A placemaking power salute to Djurra Day Spa for introducing a little greenery to High Street

The photo ended up being serendipitous as an idea presented by one of the Notre Dame students at the forum related to introducing more greenery into Freo. I think that it is a great idea.

Shaming our weiro Spiro

Today I was looking forward to beginning a rollicking journey with Freo Doctor Blog readers into the exciting world of the principles of a better way to zone (a minimum of at least five posts would be needed).

Having published two lengthy posts about Notre Dame this week, my wife put a swift end to that plan. I won't go into too much detail but an image of a lioness bringing down her rather tubby and slow (but very tender and full of flavour) prey springs to mind.

To give readers a break from a tough week of trawling through my Notre Dame posts, below is a shaming photo of our boy weiro Spiro. Over the past couple of years he (and his sister Pearl) have provided their fair share of placemaking lessons. In this instance, Spiro has outdone himself in providing a lesson in place management.

Spiro posing for his shaming photo without any makeup 

Not much else to be said other than appropriate place management procedures have been put into place.

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Evaluating Notre Dame's place in Freo (Part II)

My last post looked at the great Freo town-gown trade-off. In today's concluding post, I''ll shoot the breeze about what we can expect from Notre Dame and how the recently adopted MOU stacks up.


What can we expect from Notre Dame?

I'll come clean. I feel there's a tad too much emphasis on the City attempting to elicit a financial commitment from Notre Dame in the Memorandum of Understanding.

Yep, I've flipped my thinking on this one. I just don't think that it is the City's place to attempt to force Notre Dame into this kind of financial arrangement. Firstly, the City does not have the power to compel Notre Dame to do so. Secondly, I can imagine that it would be difficult for the City to have any credibility with Notre Dame if it isn't doing the same thing with other large not-for-profit organisations in Fremantle.

Rather than focusing on a dollars and cents contribution, I now believe that the opportunity presented by the Memorandum of Understanding is to focus on:

- mitigating what we're trading;

- maximising what we're gaining; and

- identifying what we should be gaining but not currently receiving.

Setting aside the diminished rates base for reasons I've already mentioned, it seems logical that the Memorandum of Understanding focuses on activating the West End, and how Notre Dame can help with managing the demand for parking. It also feels reasonable that the City and Notre Dame agree on maximising the benefits of economic development and heritage restoration.

Finally, something that I feel Freo should be gaining, but that Notre Dame isn't providing as well as it could be, is community development.

How does the MOU stack up?

Armed with a tasty mug of freshly brewed Yorkshire Gold tea, I decided to tackle the City's website in an attempt to download the MOU. After my fifteenth mug, I eventually discovered that only the old MOU could be downloaded. Not to be outdone and because I was over-stimulated, I made like the spy in Len Deighton's 'The Ipcress File' and deduced that, as Council had made the decision to adopt the new MOU, the document would have been included as an attachment as part of a Council Agenda. So after another series of clicks, I excitedly found the new MOU document.

(Maybe somebody at the City could update the website so that finding and downloading the new MOU doesn't require experience working for MI6? In the meantime, I won't link to the City's website.)

Now back to the MOU.

I finished reading the document and immediately concluded that 'encourage' must have been trendy at the time of its drafting.

My second reading left me thinking that this MOU is all about getting Notre Dame to figure out that street activation is a good thing. Great in theory... but I will be awarding a big cup of hot fat to both parties for agreeing to the two year timeframe for starting a street activation strategy.

A positive aspect of the document is that Notre Dame will look at expanding its academic activities to locations throughout the city centre. This'll free up space in the West End, which will allow for its activation, and reinforces the importance of the Stan Reilly site.

If you're looking for money don't expect too much. Notre Dame has agreed that it will contribute up to $75,000 per calendar year. Remembering that they don't have to pay anything, and that they will be expected to continue their heritage restoration and building upgrade programmes, I'm cool with this aspect of the MOU.

Economic development gets a guernsey. Freo businesses are expected to be Notre Dame's first port of call. It'll be interesting to see if this does in fact happen.

Two aspects that could have been given more attention are Notre Dame's community development, and its role in providing movement options for its students and employees. This neglect probably also deserves a cup of hot fat as well.

Another detail that is missing is any word on how the MOU will be implemented. Who will be responsible on the City's end, and who will be the point of contact at Notre Dame? How will groups like FICRA, the West End Traders Association and the Fremantle BID be involved?

Not withstanding the questionable implementation plan, I'm surprised to report that all in all the MOU gets a pass mark from me. ("I'm sure they'll be breathing huge sighs of relief in the Chancellor's office." - my wife.) Now it is down to implementation.

Now for some ideas

1. State Government subsidy to City of Freo for being so awesome?

Notre Dame, Fremantle Port, Fremantle Hospital are all subsidised by us taxpayers. They also all provide benefits to the wider Perth metropolitan region, let alone Freo. So why is it left to Fremantle ratepayers to bare a cost through losses in rates revenue?

I'd like to see the City of Fremantle, along with all of Fremantle's representatives in state parliament, advocating for the State Government to award the City a one off yearly subsidy. It happened in Connecticut - why can't it happen here?

2. Get cracking on the street activation strategy

This is a no brainer. There is no reason why the community must wait two years for work on preparing this document to begin.

3. Community development

I really like how the University of Western Australia provides its Extension Courses to the public. I'd like to see Notre Dame do something similar with a distinct Freo focus.

4. Heritage interpretation

Notre Dame does heritage restoration really well, but does it interpret the buildings well enough? I feel that there is room for improvement.

5. Courtyards open on weekends?

Notre Dame's courtyards are kick ass. Why can't they be open on weekends for the public to enjoy?

6. Reduce parking demand

What is Notre Dame doing to reduce the demand for parking by its employees and students? Does it offer public transport incentives to employees and students? Are enough bicycle racks being provided? Is it participating in any TravelSmart initiatives?

That's about it for Notre Dame.

I'm chuffed that Freo is a university town. I believe that there are a lot of benefits, which in many cases outweigh the costs. I think the MOU has the right focus - getting street activation, and I'm looking forward to seeing it implemented.

And for all those who made it to the end...

Last week I almost vomited on a group of toddlers during a Kiddieland ride at the Royal Show. After a long break and a bratwurst I regained my composure, but my nephew still refused to sit next to me on any rides more lively than the chair lift.

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Evaluating Notre Dame's place in Freo (Part I)

My wife/editor told me that my next two posts were so dry (actually, she used a more colourful phrase that I won't repeat here), that I should share a piece of embarrassing personal information at the end as a kind of reward to anyone who finishes it still conscious. So if you make it to the end, there's a treat waiting. (No cheating.)

A couple of months ago now, Council adopted a new Memorandum of Understanding with Notre Dame University. Now that the dust has settled, I thought I'd evaluate the document, and Notre Dame's place in Freo.

Freo is not unique in having a university or college in its city centre, and that brings with it a set of inherent benefits and costs. The trick, of course, is to maximise the benefits and to mitigate, as best as possible, the costs.

I believe it's important to keep in mind that some of the most pleasant and liveable towns around the world are those with a university in their limits. Making the partnership work is clearly not impossible, or even all that difficult.

What is Freo currently gaining from Notre Dame?

1. Economic development

Notre Dame contributes significantly to Freo's economy. It is one Freo's largest employers and most consistent and biggest attractors. All those employees and students provide a solid base for sustaining local businesses in Freo's city centre. And if there was more affordable accomodation for students available in the city centre, the benefits would probably increase even more.

It would be great if somebody had managed to quantify the contribution that Notre Dame makes to Freo's local economy, but to date there are no figures available.

2. Parking revenue (either from paid parking or parking fines)

Again, there are no exact figures, but I'd imagine that during semester all those students also help to fill the City's coffers.

3. Heritage restoration plus tourism

Walking around the West End wouldn't be quite so enjoyable without the awesome heritage buildings, many of which have been restored by Notre Dame. These beautifully restored buildings represent a long-term benefit to all of Freo and attract tourists to the West End in droves.

During my research, I wondered out loud if private developers would have delivered the same outcome? I turned around to hear the sounds of my wife choking on her tofu. She clearly didn't think so and neither do I.

Now that I've covered what we're gaining, its time to think about what we're trading by having Notre Dame?

What is Freo currently trading by having Notre Dame?

1. Less revenue from rates

As a not-for-profit organisation, it is enshrined in legislation that Notre Dame, like other universities, does not pay rates. This also applies to the land occupied by Fremantle Port, Fremantle Hospital, St Patrick's Primary School, CBC Fremantle and other not-for-profit organisations littered around Freo's city centre.

It dawned on me that Freo's traditional role as Perth's second city has meant that it has naturally hosted important institutions. Notre Dame's presence in the West End reinforces Freo's second city tradition, but it also exacerbates the problem of sacrificing rateable land.

The problem is that local ratepayers (I'll get to taxpayers in my next post) are effectively subsidising, in part, the presence of these organisations.

2. The West End

The West End is becoming dominated by a single use. The issues of inactive ground floor frontages and the closure of many of the West End pubs have been well documented. Suffice to say the lack of diversity, especially in night time activities, subtracts from the precinct's vibrancy.

A lesson that can be learnt from this experiment is that in such a small area as the West End, the implications of allowing one single dominant land use can be severe. This lesson is something to keep in mind when it comes to thinking about the much ballyhooed Arthurs Head Art Precinct.

3. Parking bays

Local retailers will feel a tad aggrieved that students (and maybe Notre Dame employees) tend to take up a lot of parking bays. Having said that, most parking in the West End is managed so that people do not get to hog a bay for 3, 4, or 5 plus hours without paying for that option.


The interesting thing about Freo's town-gown trade-off is that you can't get the benefits of economic development that Notre Dame brings without acknowledging that there will be less revenue from rates. For me, the key relates to extracting maximum value. Ensuring that the benefits outweigh the costs.

I think I'll leave it at this point and give Freo Doctor Blog readers a breather. I'll be back tomorrow with a post that focuses on what we can expect from Notre Dame and my assessment of how the MOU stacks up.

Friday, 5 October 2012

Early morning on High Street mall

The other day, I had an early morning meeting in Freo. I like early morning meetings in Freo. They're a good excuse to enjoy the excellent eggs benedict and a tasty banana smoothie at the Mill Bakehouse on Norfolk.

I had a little bit of time to spare before my meeting and decided to relax on a bench in the High Street mall, with tree leaves rustling above me and the hustle and bustle of people starting the new day all around.

My particular bench faced Culleys. It was one of those 1980s era orangey benches. The kind that put your bum to sleep after about five minutes, no matter what gymnast-style contortions you employ.

Culleys was already doing a roaring trade at 8.30am... in pies? Yep, I sat and watched a middle aged couple chow down on a pair of Freo classics. Two other people were having a natter on a nearby bench, and a minute later a pair in their mid-50s cycled past and greeted some friends sitting with their dog underneath a tree. It was very pleasant, like a scene from a 1950's movie. There was only one slightly deranged and whiffy person (there's always at least one - I think it's a by-law) who walked past swearing at us as he made his way to Kings Square.

It was a good feeling, not being sweared at, but enjoying the early morning noises going on around me. I'd descended into a happy torpor when the sound of sweeping roused me from reading the match reviews of the grand final on my iPad.

It was the shopkeeper next door to Culleys, from Creations Jewellery and Designers, sweeping the area in front of his shop. I watched him for a couple of minutes. I was impressed at the old school sense of pride that he was showing. He swept for a couple of minutes before walking back into his shop to help his assistants set up for the day.

It made me realise that what we call little things, like that shopkeeper taking pride and care in his shopfront, are actually just as important as many of the so-called bigger things.

After finishing reading about the latest football trades gossip, I got up and began walking to my meeting with the odd gait of a man who has no feeling in his posterior. It made me happy to see, not fifteen metres further on, the barber from Norm Wrightson's Barber Shop sweeping the front of his shopfront.

It didn't escape me that they were both small, independent retailers. Both taking pride in their city.

Seeing as there is zero chance of me showing my gratitude with my patronage (a jeweller and a barber - I can't think of two places I am more unlikely to visit), I thought I'd mention them here instead.

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Shut up and Stop whining: A guide to being a better ratepayer

My wife has a curious fondness for trashy celebrity gossip magazines of the ilk of NW, whose journalistic calibre was exemplified in 2001 when it famously published a comprehensive article of a celebrity event, including quotes and photos, despite it having been cancelled at the last minute.

Why she reads these magazines is beyond me, because she seems to find every person within the pages exceptionally irritating. I know this because as she reads them she mutters to herself, along the lines of, "Oh Rachel McAdams, who told you you could pull off green satin?" and "Put it away, Tom. No one wants to see your annoying Scientologist face."

The thing that is most guaranteed to provoke a scornful laugh is a rich, entitled celebrity complaining about how difficult their life is now they're famous. Whether it's Kristen Stewart or Johnny Depp comparing being photographed to getting raped, or George Clooney moaning about how he might be forced to sell his huge castle in Lake Como because of a lack of privacy, nothing raises my wife's ire more.

"Here's a plan, Kristen/Johnny/George." She'll say. "If getting paid millions of dollars for doing hardly any work is that bad, let someone else have a go and become a nurse or a teacher instead. Problem solved."

A similar, muttered commentary, punctuated with the occasional snort, could be heard as she was skimming through last week's exceptionally whiny Thinking Allowed piece by Fremantle councillor Rachel Pemberton in the Herald.

"I love it when someone has a good whinge about how bad it is that everyone is always whinging, and they're not being ironic," was her neat summation upon finishing the article.
I told her the whole piece left me feeling a bit let down. It's not the first time a politician has levelled the blame at their public for the shortcomings of government, but it doesn't make it any nicer to read.

"You know what it sounds like, Swanman? A job for...Captain Translator!" She cried. At that instant, in a parallel dimension not far from our own, a handsome, mild-mannered blogger pricked up his ears. A second later he bounded up off the couch and ripped open his t-shirt, revealing a shiny red leotard and tights, washboard abs, and a cape that blew heroically in the wind.

"Wherever there is spin, I will be there! Whenever someone tries to shift the blame onto others, I will make it right! I am... CAPTAIN TRANSLATOR!"

(For the sake of brevity, the Captain didn't reproduce the original Thinking Allowed column in its entirety. If you haven't read the whole thing, you should. Click here to go to the Herald's electronic version and go to page 5 to read the actual piece. Only the bits below in italics are actual quotes; everything else is just the Captain's interpretation.)

1. You're damned if you do and you're damned if you don't.

Captain Translator: I'm heartily sick of putting up with idiot ratepayers who revolt like Russian peasants whenever Council "suggests" (ok, "approves") buildings over three storeys. (Actually we approved up to eleven, but rounding down, more like three.) And we did it soley for the community's own good, but of course they're too dumb to appreciate it. You can't get vibrancy without infill, morons!

If only ratepayers would just trust that I and everyone else on Council know much, much better than them about practically everything, it would make my life a lot easier.

2. A culture of negativity and whinging about the government.

Captain Translator: Tons of people think they are disillusioned with the government, but they're not really - they're just a bunch of dumbos who swallow whatever opinions the media and the blogosphere feed them without any kind of critical analysis. It's an epidemic, only the disease is being a whiny, annoying idiot.

Luckily I'm here to set everyone straight. If you feel disenfranchised, or find yourself being critical of something your government has done, it's just because you're too lazy to get involved in a more positive way.

Whaddya mean, I might be biased? Yeah, I work for a senator, and yeah I'm also a local councillor. I don't get your point.

Here's my advice: Instead of complaining about stuff, go and knit a colourful stocking for a street tree. No one wants to hear your opinions. Be part of the solution, whingers!

3. Talking Fremantle Down.

Captain Translator: (What do you mean, writing an article with the headline "Is Freo the new Dullsville?" is a tad hypocritical in the circumstances? Didn't you see the question mark at the end? Geez.)

I thought I'd show how bad it is to talk Freo down by talking, at great length, about all the ways in which people talk it down. You might not even have heard some of the things people have said about Freo, so I've helpfully listed all the ones I could remember for easy reference.

I'll start with locals saying that Freo is a disgrace.

Before you tell me that you're a local and have never told anyone that Freo's a disgrace, pay attention. You can be guilty of this in lots of different, subtle ways. The most obvious one is being mean about Council.

I bring this up not because I'm on Council and I take all criticism very, very personally, but because no one wants to visit a place where locals aren't constantly saying how great their Council is. It's the number one reason that influences people when they're deciding where to go shopping or eat out on the weekend.

And don't fool yourself that you're actually doing a good thing in discussing your concerns about local issues to raise awareness and to prompt your elected officials to take action. I mean, who's ever heard of that working? Politicians are never influenced by anything as sordid as public opinion.

3(a) I have struggled to deal with the somewhat unfounded public denigration of this council, which is actually achieving some significant results.

Captain Translator: When I got elected, I expected a constant stream of congratulations just for doing the job that I freely volunteered for. Yes, there's evidence all around me that being a politician by definition means working in an adversarial environment and copping a fair amount of robust criticism, but I naturally assumed I would be an exception.

I'm a Gen Y, you know? It's how we roll.

But instead of accolades, I just get people giving me opinions that are different to my own and sometimes even outright criticism, or, as I like to call them, "swipes".

Council works hard, and has great intentions. That should be more than enough for any reasonable person. Sure, actual results might be thin on the ground, but if you managed your expectations better you'd be a lot more satisfied.

I mean, just look how Council transformed Bathers Beach. There's the boardwalk, the gazebo, and lots of other stuff that admittedly isn't 100% as aweseome, but seeing as we refuse to make any changes, you may as well learn to like it. There's even a moveable seat on railway tracks! Yeah, it broke after only a few days and we still haven't fixed it months later, but cut a person some slack! Look at all the people on the boardwalk!

And, of course, the new shower. I knew you'd bring that up. Yes, it had to be relocated immediately after being installed at needless expense, but it's local government, guys. These things happen. Like I said, manage those expectations.

3(b). Parking is not killing this town, attitudes are.
3(c). A city is only as interesting as its people (...).

Captain Translator: Parking is not the reason more people don't come to Freo, it's the locals being such whiny, boring, pains-in-the-backside who bitch and moan almost constantly.

A guy from another country came here for one afternoon and he told me Freo was fantastic, so that proves you're obviously all full of garbage.

And no, me saying that Freo is in the process of being killed is not talking it down or having a bad attitude. Nor is spending a whole Thinking Allowed piece musing about what's wrong with Freo locals. Don't be obtuse.

3(d). To all those people who think Freo is dull, I'm sorry.

Captain Translator: Yeah, sorry you're a bunch of lazy, negative whingers.

3(e). If you haven't found (how great Freo is) yet, that's ok. We'll welcome you when you do.

Captain Translator: When you're ready to become a worthwhile, positive person with all the right opinions like me, I promise my clique and I will welcome you into Freo. (I'm so nice like that.)

But until then, do me a favour: shut up and stay out.

3(f). Thanks to everyone who helps makes our city great. Now, time to put my head down and get back to work.

Captain Translator: I thought I'd include the penultimate sentence just in case anyone gets their nose put out of joint by me trash talking whiny Freo locals, in which case I can say, "Oh no, don't think I meant that you're one of the unconstructive whingers who's killing this town! I totally think you're one of the people who helps make Freo great, that I thanked at the end!".

Sneaky, eh?

And the last sentence is just to remind everyone that I'm super busy being important and making a difference and never (well, almost never) saying anything negative, even though none of you deserve me.

The Captain wiped his manly brow. Fremantle locals were no longer feeling like second-class citizens for making valid suggestions to their elected representatives about how grass at the beach might be nicer than tarmac and dust, or that overflowing bins perhaps weren't the best look for a city trying to attract visitors. His job, for now, was done.

Friday, 28 September 2012

Matthew Scarlett

My younger colleagues have recently become devoted to a game they call "making Michael feel really, really old". Tactics include asking me to reminisce about particular events or objects, such as when the GST was introduced, or cassette tapes, or car windows that you had to crank with a handle, before saying "you know I wasn't even born then?".

Well, the joke's on you, kids. Because I wouldn't swap the chance to grow up with an iPod and electric car windows if it meant missing out on the 1989 VFL Grand Final.

The greatest game of all time

I was twelve. My mum, my dad, my bro and I were driving home after a game of tee-ball, listening to the radio in our station wagon, when the opening bounce first hit the turf. Dad was doing his best Ayrton Senna impersonation. Mum was sitting in the front seat in her customary position of highly strung watchfulness (on the look out for police and pedestrians). As we sped home, the first quarter captured my imagination like no other football game had in my previous twelve years. Maybe it was the adrenalin produced by travelling at the speed of light, maybe it was all of the injuries being vividly described on the radio.

The first quarter was a twelve year old's delight. It felt like someone was getting knocked out every couple of minutes. Lots of spewing. There were descriptions of broken ribs straining against bruised skin, punctured lungs and bloodied noses. When we got home, I suggested to my sweetly unsuspecting younger brother that he play Dermot Brereton to my Mark Yeates. Unfortunately Mum must have seen me eyeing my brother with a gleam in my eye and quickly yanked him into the house before he could be enticed out into the backyard.

A classic image from the 1989 Grand Final - Hawthorn premiership hero Dermot Brereton after he got knocked out by Geelong's Mark Yeates

We arrived home in time to watch the dramatic last half as Gary Ablett singlehandedly put the game tantalisingly, but ultimately fruitlessly, within Geelong's grasp. It was the greatest game of all time. A combined forty two goals were kicked by both teams, with only six points separating them by the end of the game.

Afterwards, I resolved to make the most important decision a twelve year old boy can. I trudged into the kitchen and firmly declared to all and sundry (my mum) that the Geelong Cats were now my team. (I also delicately enquired as to whether or not Dad could pick me up from school from now on - I knew that a good getaway driver could come in handy.) And so began a long and winding journey, full of ups and downs.

Scarlett leading the way

Fast forward to 1997 when the player who arguably became responsible for the vast majority of those ups - Matthew Scarlett - was drafted by the Cats. That year was yet another in a long line (1991, 1992, 1994 and 1995) of seasons in which the Cats contrived to get frustratingly close to achieving premiership glory.  Ten years later, Scarlett led the Cats to the premiership. And not just any old premiership - the Cats' first in forty four years.

The Cats' breaking of their premiership drought in '07 had implications far beyond making me extremely happy. The mid 2000s of the AFL represented the dark ages of the game in terms of playing styles. It was a time of mind numbing, watching-the-grass-grow type football. Teams that mastered the ability to lull their opposition into a long stupor would ultimately prevail. The nadir of this tactic was when a bedgraggled Richmond outfit managed to defeat a powerful Adelaide Crows unit by playing piggy in the middle in their own back line, for what seemed the entire game.

During 2007, I would watch game after game not quite believing what I was seeing. The Cats had somehow transformed into a gallant freeflowing attacking force of nature. Scarlett inevitably led the charge from his customary position in the backline. It seemed to me that in game after game he was everywhere, launching audacious forward charges at break neck pace, one after the other. Scarlett was the spiritual leader of one of the great teams of all time. He was at his counter-attacking best when the Cats pulverised the Power in the 2007 Grand Final. (That season, football, led by the all out attack of the Cats, once again became a great spectacle.)

Scarlett also appeared as if from nowhere during the final seconds of the 2009 Grand Final to famously save the day with his toe poke to Gary Ablett Junior.

Scarlett materialising as if from nowhere to toe poke the ball in the dying minutes of the 2009 Grand Final via
A close up view of Scarlett's toe poke via

I'll never forget the image of Scarlett escorting the little champ as he sprinted through the middle of the MCG before launching the kick that would eventually lead to Chapman kicking the winning goal. Scarlett has also been credited with backing the tweaks to the Cats playing style that eventually contributed to another premiership in 2011.

My three favourite things about Scarlett

Scarlett recently retired as the greatest fullback in history and an all-time great of the Geelong Football Club. Besides being a supremely awesome player, what made Scarlett stand apart from the average footy player of the last decade? For me it was three things: his loyalty, his curmugeonly streak, and the fact that he was not a media darling.

1. His loyalty

In 1999, the Cats were stuffed. Our coach left and so did our captain. It turned out that the club had been run like a small African country for the best part of the preceding decade. We were in a lot of debt - a lot of debt. I was sincerely worried about the club's future.

Scarlett hung around. Watching him on the field, I got the feeling that here was a person who had intense loyalty, if you earnt his trust. I liked that as Scarlett became a bigger and bigger star, he was never embroiled in protracted contract sagas with the club.

2. His curmugeonly streak

During the summer of 2006 the Cats embarked on an intensive leadership programme. A component of this programme included players sittng in the centre of a circle and facing some hard truths from their teammates. The exact wording doesn't spring immediately to mind, but I've read that Scarlett summed up his own experience being grilled by his teamates along these lines:

"It was tough being told by your teammates how much of a wanker I could be."

Scarlett sure appeared curmugeonly on the field. I liked that he was a real character. He probably didn't intend to be portrayed in that manner, although I doubt if he cared either way, but in an era of automatrons (both in politics and in sports) his curmugeonly streak was refreshing. Besides, you can't help but like a player who freely admits to intending to whack Hayden Ballantyne.

3. He was who he was

If Paul Keating could describe Peter Costello as "being all tip and no iceberg", then I would describe Matthew Scarlett as being all iceberg.

I found it refreshing that Scarlett was a footy player that played footy. Nothing else. He wasn't a media darling. He didn't go on footy shows to accept a good natured ribbing from commentators. He didn't go in for the latest, trendiest hair style.

Thinking about it, I liked the fact that I barely knew about him as a person. For me it portrayed a human being with substance.

From one person who feels like he shoud be retiring to another who actually is: I wish Scarlett all the best. He'll be missed.

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Misplaced shower at Bathers Beach

Some good news, not that it can be corroborated by anything published on the City’s website, but I hear that they’re moving the misplaced shower at Bathers Beach.

At hearing the news, my wife was saddened.

Upon initially seeing the shower, marooned on its sandy peninsula, she refused to believe that its location could be the result of indifference or stupidity. Instead she decided that it was evidence there was a secret anarchist working at the City, and that the shower was his or her small revolutionary act designed to catalyse the demise of local government.

"But Swaney, someone signed off on this! Someone looked at the little drawing of a shower at the beach sitting in the middle of a pile of sand, thought about it carefully, and then said ok!"

She still tries to protest whenever I suggest an alternative theory. Then she chuckles to herself, and concludes that the first degree abrasions on her ankles from rubbing off wet sand are well worth it for the knowledge that we live in a place where the bureaucrats are genuinely interesting.
Thanks to fellow Freo blogger Graham Morgan (at Freo Ramble) for letting me use his photo and also steal his great line for the caption - "Another classic, a shower on the sand."

Another classic, a shower on the sand via

Friday, 21 September 2012

Rooftop gardens

Second only to light rail, rooftop gardens rank high on my list of town planning obsessions. During my SimCity years, if there was an option to include rooftop gardens in my cities, I would have sourced the cheat code and run rampant.
A couple of years ago, I remember almost falling of my chair when I discovered that Vancouver had had the common sense to put a rooftop garden on their brand new convention centre. My wife wishes that I had never heard of Vancouver. Everytime I drive past our sorry excuse of a convention centre, I launch into an diatribe about how kick ass it would have been if they had put a rooftop garden on that darn building.
Vancouver Convention Centre rooftop garden via

Architizer recently published a slideshow of awesome rooftop gardens. Needless to say, I brewed myself a strong cup of tea and settled back to enjoy the greenery. I enjoyed myself so much I thought that Freo Doctor blog readers would also enjoy checking them out.
Click here to check out these deluctible rooftop gardens. Enjoy!
It would be great to see rooftop gardens feature as part of the Kings Square redevelopment and as part of redevelopment facilitated by Scheme Amendment 49.