Vale Uncle Frank

In the past week, I’ve flown to Brisbane and back twice.

My Uncle Frank got very sick. My sister, my cousin and I are his closest relatives, and we all live interstate. Thankfully we were able to go and see him.

He passed away on Sunday morning. It was peaceful in the end, but it was still a shock.

After helping to organise things, I flew home, then back for the funeral, which was on Friday: a service at the Funeral Director’s chapel.

After the service was a burial in the family plot at Lutwyche Cemetery, then we had a meal at a nearby restaurant to chat with relatives, neighbours and friends, to reminisce. It was good.

To the end, Frank was sharp and loved to chat. In the past few years I’d ring him up and he’d love to talk about politics, family, and especially family history, which he knew I was interested in.

And transport sometimes came up as a topic, interwoven into our conversations.

He told me he’d done national service in 1951. He used to go to army training on the tram… carrying his rifle… with a bayonet. He reckoned you probably couldn’t do it nowadays!

Uncle Ken passed away in 1996. Dad in 2010. Frank was the last of that generation in that part of my family.

Sometimes when you’re living a long way away from your relatives as you grow up, you can end up a little unaware of some of the things that make you the person you are. Chats on the phone with Frank helped to fill some of those gaps for me.

RIP Uncle Frank, 1933-2019. Sadly missed.

The fuzz!!

From my sister’s “Best of British” birthday party in October. I used to love The Bill (before it went all soapie), so I thought I’d go for it. I didn’t know until we were had all arrived that my cousin Justin and his girlfriend Valerie had the same idea.

Officers Daniel and Justin

We’ve had the toy helmet sitting around for years. The top was a $7 safety vest I decorated with a home-made stencil and spray paint. The truncheon (actually a bubble blower) and handcuffs were Valerie’s!

The train network from a new user’s perspective

My cousin Justin’s move to Melbourne gives me an opportunity to see the public transport network from the perspective of a brand new user. He’s pretty well travelled, having spent extensive time in Europe recently, mostly based in London, but with plenty of travel to other cities. So he’s used PT systems in many other cities.

Welcome to Myki

On my prompting Justin got a Myki card, topped it up fine, but had problems touching-on the first time. Why? For a start the Metcard readers had sensors that looked like they should accept Myki, but don’t. (They’re the original Metcard X-Press touch-card sensors, rarely used. As an aside, this is why the old Metcard gates know to say “CSC PASS” when a Myki is presented — CSC stands for Contactless SmartCard.)

Secondly, at Moorabbin, where he was boarding, for some reason the Metcard validators are at the top of the ramp, but the Myki readers are at the bottom.

Elsternwick station - validated ticket area starts at top of the ramp, but Myki readers at the bottom

I noticed this is also the case at Elsternwick, where there are signs declaring the ramp to be within the paid ticket area: “Penalties apply for entering beyond this point without a valid ticket.” So are Myki users fare-evading for entering the ramp area, unable to touch-on until reaching the bottom?

Eventually, with the help of a staff member, Justin sorted out where to touch-on.

He reckons Myki is slower at touching than Oyster in London (which he used recently; he didn’t offer an opinion on Perth’s Smartrider.) I’m not surprised to hear that, given I thought Brisbane’s Go Card (which uses the same technology as Oyster) also seemed faster than Myki.

Other than that, and some confusion over whether he needs to touch-off on trams, and precisely how the fares work, it seems to have been pretty smooth sailing.


He’s working across town and was initially staying with my sister, and needed to change from the Frankston line to the Sydenham line. The question arose as to where he should change.

In the mornings coming in on the Frankston line, he might end up on a Loop train, or a direct train. The conclusion was if a Loop train, change at Southern Cross, since in the morning Sydenham trains run via there. If a direct train into Flinders Street, he could change there. Okay.

In the evenings, it’s a LOT more difficult. Thanks to the super-confusing Frankston timetable that operates on weekdays between 4 and 5pm, and also between 6 and 7pm, at times it’s best to go to Flinders Street, but sometimes it’s better to go to Southern Cross.

It’s all got a lot easier now he’s moved onto the Epping South Morang/Hurstbridge lines. In the mornings, since those trains run clockwise via the Loop all day on weekdays, it’ll be easiest to change at Flinders Street. In the evenings it’ll be quickest to change at Southern Cross.

Being on two lines (eg south of Clifton Hill) also means there’s little need for a timetable, since trains are pretty frequent all day everyday (though due to express running, there are some significant gaps around 7pm on weekdays outbound). He’s also close to a tram and the Hoddle Street Smartbuses.


Justin’s noted that it can be quite confusing at times because some trains on the Frankston line don’t go all the way to Frankston. They are listed on the screens as trains to Mordialloc or Carrum, for instance. This is a serious issue, particularly at stations which don’t have screens listing all the stations served.

In many cities the lines have a name that is independent from the terminii (think of London’s Piccadilly line, which terminates at Heathrow or Uxbridge in the west, and Cockfosters in the north/east, or the numbered lines used in cities such as Rome or Paris) — this is both a good and a bad thing. It relates to the readability of the rail map. Perhaps at the very least, the screens need to identify the Frankston line name even if the train doesn’t go all the way there. At least the screens on central station concourses do so.


Overall he said it was all going well until last Friday, when his morning commute was interrupted by a disruption at Sunshine. He said there was no information provided to passengers on the outbound train. He only knew something was up when a lot of people boarded, apparently believing the train had been diverted to run back into the city.

Eventually he discovered everybody was being kicked off the train, and he managed to find a bus that would take him the rest of the way to work.

Conclusion: much of the time, if you can navigate the train network, it runs pretty well. But there are pitfalls for new users, and it can fall apart pretty rapidly when there’s a major disruption.

My cousin’s in town (and a proverb updated for the 21st century)

I can’t tell you what a pleasure it is to have my cousin Justin in town. He grew up in Brisbane, then Newcastle, before moving to Perth, so we barely saw him when growing up.

He moved to Melbourne a couple of weeks ago, and is now settling into his new flat and job here.

The Age Cheap EatsHeading over to the flat on Saturday to help him take a fridge delivery and do an Ikea run for essentials got me thinking about a possible housewarming present.

Problem is I didn’t know what he already had, or what he’d want.

Two ideas presented themselves: a nice packet of ANZAC biscuits spotted at a shop we frequent.

Or a copy of The Age Cheap Eats, to help him navigate Melbourne’s burgeoning numbers of restaurants.

In the end I settled on the latter.


Well it’s like the old proverb says: Give a man a packet of biscuits, you feed him for a day. Give him a copy of Cheap Eats, and you feed him for a lifetime.