Sunday, May 6, 2012

Clunes glee

My visit to Clunes yesterday for the Booktown Festival was chock-full of glee. So many books, so many old signs, so many grand gold-rush era buildings, so much...rusticity. (I think I made that word up.)

We made a quick stop in Ballarat on the way to see Lake Wendouree with water in it again. The last time I was there (on my Wagons West Birthday Extravaganza in July 2009) it was empty, and had been for several years because of the drought. It was quite a sorry sight. But thanks to the wonders of water pumps and the end of the drought, Lake Wendouree is a proper lake again, complete with ducks. 

This was a fluke photo. I like to think it was smiling for 
the camera. I can't help chuckling when I look at this. 

It was rather chilly (nothing new for Ballarat) and we had places to go and books to look at, so we took a few photos and then set off for Clunes. I spotted this excellent old two-in-one sign from the moving car, but  managed to get a quick shot when we stopped briefly at a roundabout.

The top line says Carriers Arms Hotel and below that 
Melbourne Bitter, but you can see remnants 
of another old sign beneath 

The first thing that caught my eye in Clunes was another old sign. 

Power Bros

A closer view...

From what I can make out in the painted over bit at the bottom, I'm fairly sure it's a sign advertising Velvet Soap. I've posted a photo of a quite well preserved sign like this that I took  in Collingwood before, but I can't find where exactly.

And then to the books...pretty much every building in the centre of Clunes that was open and wasn't selling food had tables loaded with books and old magazines on every topic. Even one of the old garages had been turned into a makeshift bookshop - it seemed fitting to browse its tables of military and aviation books with the smell of grease tickling your olfactory. 

I can't believe I'm about to say this, but I actually tired of browsing books fairly quickly. I did find some books I wanted to buy (kids books, mostly), but of course everything I liked was rare and priced at more than I was willing to pay (and there were so many people and I'm not patient in crowds). Even so, I did enjoy the wafts of old book smell and reading inscriptions in old-fashioned cursive in the front of books that had been given as gifts. 

The only thing I bought (apart from lunch) was a jar of homemade fig jam, which I haven't had since I was a kid and my aunt made some. Normally I have a fold up shopping bag in my handbag when I go out to avoid accumulating bags, but I didn't take one yesterday. The shop owner asked if I wanted a bag for my jam and I had to say yes, thinking he'd give me a plastic one. But then he pulled this out of a drawer:

What a great way to re-use old newspapers. It was reinforced with light cardboard around the top to keep the jute handles from tearing the paper and had cardboard on the inside bottom, but even so, it was still surprisingly sturdy. At one stage I had my heavy jar of jam and a can of drink in it and it was well up to the task.

But back to the jam...I opened it earlier today and felt a little ripple of nostalgia when I saw it had a disc of wax in the top to keep the jar airtight - just like my mum used to make when I was a kid. Oh, and the jam is yummy. Figs are underrated, I think. I had a salad a little while back with roasted figs in it and they were delicious. 

I think the reason I lost interest in looking at all the books was because I was itching to explore the town and take photos, which was always part of the attraction for me. And I wasn't disappointed. If you look up 'rustic' in the dictionary, there will be a picture of Clunes. Like many other Victorian towns, it has several grand civic buildings erected during the boom years of the gold rush, but also plenty of more modest buildings that have seen better days.  

The wide main street (with hay bale maze for the kiddies)

Not sure what the old signs say, but I like it. 

Pegasus atop Central Garage. This is an old sign in itself
 - the winged horse symbol for Mobil Oil.

The back of the garage

A side window of the garage-cum-bookshop
I only noticed when I uploaded this photo 
that there's a fragment of old sign on it

I'm not sure how old/authentic some of the old shop signs are, but I know the Boot Palace dates back to at least 1925 because we saw an old photo of the street in one of the shops.

The Boot Palace front window. I love these old 
signs painted on glass

 Leonard Paperhanger and House Decoration

Stupid car ruining my photo

The people from Dumbo Feather had set up an awesome retro caravan out the front of the town hall, which I thought quite a coincidence given I only discovered the existence of the magazine last Sunday. 

Nearby was a fantastically gaudy 'Grand Concert Street Organ' playing songs almost guaranteed to become earworms, like the Mickey Mouse Club theme and the Aeroplane Jelly jingle.  Aaaargh! 

What I liked the most were the statues of two women on pedestals either side of the organ pipes. They're holding real bells which they 'tinged' at appropriate points in the songs. Look at her expression! And her not very life-like bosom! Haha.  

Holy crap! I'm not dreaming! I really am 
half-naked in public dinging a bell!  

With 'I like Aeroplane Jelleeee' ringing in our ears we ventured into the town hall which was nice and warm and - who'da thought? - full of books. I spied a woman browsing the books with a bag from The Strand bookshop in New York over her shoulder. I went there when I was in New York and bought myself a similar book bag. I was going to comment on hers, but didn't because I'm shy sometimes.  If only I'd taken mine with me...

The ceiling of the Town Hall

Before heading home we visited the Clunes cemetery to take some photos (thank you for alerting me to its location). Did you know there's actually a word for people who cemeteries? Taphophiles. Yep, I have taphophilia.

I don't just take photos though - I do read the headstones and sometimes the epitaphs are quite lovely, like this one for Peter and Mary Kempson, a husband and wife who were both born in Birmingham and died two days apart in 1894 at the age of 70. Their epitaph reads in part: 

Then we hit the road back to Melbourne.  

Off in the distance is a hill which has one little tree right on top. It's called Cattle Station Hill, but it was being grazed by a flock of sheep. 

It rained a little and there was a partial rainbow when the sun broke through a gap in the clouds. 


Andrew said...

Grand day out. The festival was heavily promoted by ABC Melbourne on Saturday morning, but maybe the festival did not need any extra promotion.

piggywhistles said...

Love the photos. You should produce a book of all your old signs. Thanks for introducing me to Dumbo Feather.

Tayla Miles said...

Incase you were still wondering, the old signage on the Central Garage in Clunes reads H.Miles Central Garage going back to the 1920's at a guess