Following on from my highlights, here are my Freo lowlights from 2011. Bathers Beach debacle “It is difficult to design a space that will not attract people. What is remarkable is how often this has been accomplished.” - William H. Whyte I think this quote pretty much sums up the remarkable failure that is the Bathers Beach upgrade. No Design Guidelines for SA49 and the East End (Queen Victoria Street) Almost two years ago Council initiated its scheme amendment to facilitate redevelopment along Queen Victoria Street without a set of design guidelines. During the consultation process design guidelines were promised. A year after the amendment was finalised there still aren't any design guidelines in place, and the clock continues to tick. Last year SA49 was also initiated by Council without an accompanying set of design guidelines in place. Sound eerily familiar? Yep, you guessed it, promises have again been made that accompanying design guidelines will be prepared at a later date. Why not have them ready as part of the consultation for the amendment? Ten day turnaround policy at City of Fremantle It's policy at the CoF that phone calls and emails must be responded to within ten days. To me, this kind of turnaround is just too long to be acceptable, and the fact that it's officially sanctioned seems to indicate a deeper lack of regard for ratepayers. Time to change the policy. More city centre vacancies and earlier closing times for New Edition When we moved to Cantonment Street in 2008, I don't recall any vacancies along High Street and New Edition was open to 10pm on weekdays. Unfortunately things have changed, and one of my lowlights was seeing the increasing number of vacancies in the city centre along with earlier closing times for my favourite bookshop. Alfresco decking at Moore & Moore cafe To paraphrase Winston Churchill, I believe that a city trying to encourage innovation in an environment rife with unreasonable red tape is like a man standing in a bucket and trying to lift himself up by the handle. Last year we all got to see the City literally stand in the bucket and try to lift itself up by the handle in its farcical approach to approving the alfresco decking at Moore and Moore cafe. They got there in the end, but not before providing a useful example of why this year the City should be embarking on a red tape reduction drive. Dishonourable mention ISAF letdown, working groups, Local Government elections (shortage of candidates, low voter turnout and not enough votes for yours truly!), Fremantle Festival, no Memorandum of Understanding with Notre Dame.
Here are my Freo highlights from 2011. Too Good To Be True $22 Tuesday This is my sleeper hit of 2011. The brainchild of FICRA and Ivan Dzeba (Benny's owner), Too Good To Be True $22 Tuesday debuted in November. It is based on tempting locals to venture out into the city centre on a Tuesday evening for a meal plus a drink for the bargain price of $22. Participating restaurants include Benny's, Maya, Gino's, Sandrino, Portorosa, Kaza Bianca and SoHo Burgers. The cards are available free from FICRA. The benefits are obvious: more activity on a quiet weekday evening and restauranteurs getting the opportunity to expand their local base. Given the success of the Wigan Plus initiative in England the opportunities for this initiative seem endless. For more information on the initiative check out FICRA's blog: http://ficra.freospace.com.au/?p=603 Projections on High A close second for 2011 was VJzoo's Projections on High. This event was a part of the Fremantle Festival for the first time and was a smashing success. During the evening, people strolling along High Street were treated to series of enchanting images being projected onto the facades of twenty West End buildings all the way down to the Round House. Here's hoping we get a second round of these wonderful projections in 2012. For more information about Projections on High check out: http://ProjectionsOnHigh.com/ Kelp Bar @ Kidogo On those balmy early summer evenings during ISAF, the Kidogo Arthouse was transformed into the Kelp Bar @ Kidogo. The bar was an instant hit, combining ocean views and beautiful sunsets with drinks, food and live music. I'm certainly hoping that the arrangement will become permanent. Christmas lights at Kings Square The new Christmas lights at Kings Square are the next in my top five Freo highlights in 2011. For a month leading up to Christmas the look and feel of Kings Square took on a dramatic change for the better. It became a place to visit and linger for a little while, taking in the magic of the lights as the big day got closer and closer. Ferris wheel and bungee trampoline at the Esplanade Wrapping up my top five Freo highlights in 2011 are the ferris wheel and bungee trampoline at the Esplanade. These attractions added a new dimension to the park. Bubba, my four year old nephew, can personally attest to their awesomeness, having put them through their paces on a number of different occasions. Each visit ending in the firm declaration "my do that next time!". Honourable mention Hidden Treasures music sessions, alfresco decking at Moore & Moore, the Freo blogging scene (I'm a little biased but I think it's quite good), Cappuccino Strip events including the Coffee Festival and the Cappuccino Strip Street Club, and lastly the two new small bars Who's Your Mumma and the Corner Room.
The Harbour After tiring of the E Shed markets, the harbour presented itself as the next place to continue our adventure. We found ourselves sitting at the harbour's edge with our legs dangling over the side, admiring the big ships and looking at the deep blue water in peaceful contemplation. The peaceful contemplation bit was mainly reserved for Bubba. My wife was shifting her neck and shoulders uncomfortably as the shock of giving Bubba a shoulder ride for the first time in ten months kicked in, and I was thinking about air conditioning. As he supped on his ice cream sundae, Bubba kept a keen watch for sea monsters, which my wife had assured him regularly surfaced to dine on juicy little boys. Unfortunately the only thing floating past was a succession of plastic bags and bottles, and I had to spend some time explaining to the ever-conscientious Bubba why it wasn't a good idea for his uncle to jump into the harbour and retrieve them for safe disposal. Luckily, we soon spotted a school of little fish, which Bubba found momentarily enchanting. He then returned to the topic of his uncle having a dip and I began to get the suspicion that Bubba would like nothing more than to see yours truly taking a dive...so I removed my phone and wallet just in case. You can never be too sure around a four year old set on an elaborate mission. Cycling to Cantonment Street Recognising that he wasn't going to get me into the harbour anytime soon, Bubba was soon ready for a spot of cycling. Fans of the Wind in the Willows will be able to picture the mad glint Bubba develops around any kind of machinery with wheels, and as he pulled out his green bicycle from his parents' car, I empathised profoundly with Ratty and Mole when Toad embarked on his frenzied car phase. There's a great paved area on the train station side of the E Shed, which was protected from traffic and big enough for Uncle Woney to really be put through his paces. However, after a while the oldies enthusiasm for this paled and things eventually reached the point when home was mentioned. When this happened, Bubba was most unimpressed. He disembarked from his bicycle and, with all the logic of a philosopher from Ancient Greece, presented his argument for staying a bit longer. This gave me some time to catch my breath and I watched whilst his parents and grandparents engaged in negotiations with Bubba. Things weren't looking good for him and his transformation from Socratic philosopher to raging Genghis Khan (cue lying down on his back wailing) was almost upon us, when Bubba was struck by a brainwave. Accurately assessing all the adults present as either too old, too recently pregnant or too flaked out to be able to pursue him with any conviction, Bubba clambered onto his speed machine and started pedalling in the direction of our apartment, calling behind him as a sort of caveat against a possible scolding "my have to say goodbye to the birds," (referring to our pet weiros, whom he'd always treated with complete indifference up until that moment). He got away with it, of course. There's not much you can do in the face of such audacity but capitulate, and although my mother-in-law helpfully 'discovered' she'd left her car keys at the apartment and therefore needed to go back anyway, I'm convinced this was a face-saving exercise more than anything. Bubba traversed the relatively short trip from the E Shed markets to our apartment in Cantonment Street with ease. He managed to avoid oncoming pedestrians (admittedly mostly because of some fast footwork on their part), enjoyed the adventure of crossing the train tracks and the mystery and power of stopping a bus in its tracks at the pedestrian crossing by the train station. A diversion up High Street also provided a great opportunity for practicing weaving in between poles - anyone with a child also fond of some good 'twisty-whisties' need look no further than the corner of Henry and High. Of course, all good things must come to an end, and after retrieving Nanna's keys and saying goodbye to the birds (a perfunctory wave), it was time to go. By this time Bubba was both over-tired and over-excited (ie, ready to go off like a bag of microwave popcorn and have one of those spectacular tantrums that are impossible not to laugh at) and it's best we gloss over the events that followed. Suffice it to say that no one was left in any doubt about Bubba's affection for Freo. Fortunately for all of us, his parents let themselves be persuaded to visit the next day, and in his inimitable fashion Bubba was able to test out Bathers Beach and the new upgrade (spoiler alert - it got a huge thumbs down), Little Creatures, the ferris wheel, the bungee trampoline and the Esplanade playground. But those are stories for other days.
I'm marking my return to regular blogging with a few stories about my four year old nephew Byron and his recent visits to Freo. These stories also document some of our favourite things to do in Freo with a four year old. As they say in the classics no animals were hurt during these adventures, but there were plenty of sore muscles and one seriously cool knee graze (mine, not Bubba's). The E Shed Markets It was about 1:00pm on Saturday. I'd just finished cleaning the apartment and was resting under the fan in a (fruitless) attempt to cool down when my mobile rang. "Hello Uncle Woney!" It was my four year old nephew, the self-styled 'Bubba', master of the withering stink eye and fan of the Town Hall clock. Getting a phone call directly from Bubba is a special honour, much like an American receiving a phone call from their own President, and just as likely to result in a summons for a physically demanding mission. "We're coming to Freo!" He said, and promptly hung up. (Bubba has mastered the art of succinct, clearly expressed phone calls.) Two and a half hours later, after readying ourselves with electrolyte supplements, my wife and I were galavanting around the E Shed Markets with Bubba whilst his parents and grandparents looked at electric bikes. The E Shed Markets, with its labyrinthine floor plan, tolerant traders and air conditioning, is a great spot for playing. I was on my way to losing a game of hide and seek when the young guy in the electric bike store ratted them out. "They went that way mate." He called, and pointed at the shop next door. I nodded my thanks and turned the corner. There they were, backs to me, Bubba wriggled snugly under an a-frame sign, both waiting to spring their ambush...perfect. I snuck up behind my wife, thumb and index finger poised for a swift pinch on the backside. After dodging her retaliatory slap, Jason Bourne style, I leant down behind the sign, grabbed Bubba's legs and roared. Victory was mine! I didn't appreciate it at the time, but Bubba was treating my wife and I to our best day for some time and in the process making us appreciate anew what a great place Freo can be, with just a little imagination and a strong back for shoulder rides.