Local News - Victoria

Enjoying a meal – and raising a glass

The Age has gone to some lengths during the difficult lockdown months to celebrate our local chefs’ creativeness in adapting to the circumstances we all find ourselves in. I will be rushing to support them and embrace any dining experience that Melbourne can manage as summer comes in. I believe our restaurants will be more than happy to welcome us back, even if they have to compromise a little on the ‘‘flavours and textures’’ they bring out to us as we happily sit under the umbrellas and raise a glass to each other.
Josephine Ben-Tovim, Carlton

Many cities have embraced the casual dining trend

Stephen Downes may not have realised it but the dining scene has changed substantially in recent years. Casual is king at the moment. The number of ‘‘fine dining’’ establishments that went bankrupt before COVID-19 is clear evidence of this. His quip about coq au vin would have had anyone under 50 Googling it to find out what it was.

His query, ‘‘Moreover, where is the space?’’ has no credibility. New York, Paris and Rome have large populations and colder winters than Melbourne or Victoria. Closed roads or inclement weather have not stopped their outdoor restaurants. The future is here now, Dr Downes.
Kevin Ward, Preston

Sharing fine food with family and friends once again

Many of our most notable chefs have international backgrounds and experience in innovative European and Asian cuisine in an extraordinary range of contexts. Tastes that originated in provincial kitchens enjoyed traditionally in outdoor settings of terraced tables under pergolas, using organic produce of the highest quality, are the basis of fine dining.

We look forward to the enhanced experience of dining in a dynamic new CBD and rural Victoria, showcasing picturesque, open spaces flowing out onto roads that are closed off to vehicles, with free parking along nearby streets. In these globally challenging times, our economy will be opening up ready for the long haul. COVID-safe environments will free us to get back to a happy, healthy balance of seeing family and friends, and sharing the enjoyment of fine dining for special occasions.
Marianne Hale, East Malvern

Will all restaurants have a COVID-safe plan?

A restaurateur says ‘‘restaurants are more than capable of perfecting a COVID-safe plan for opening indoors and outdoors and keeping our customers safe’’ (Epicure, 15/9). My experience of indoor dining, back in June, leaves me with health concerns.

One cafe did not bother to record our names and phone numbers. A restaurant sat us adjacent to, and less than 1.5 metres from, two other diners even though there were other empty tables available. We arrived at 8pm. The other two diners arrived at the 6pm session and should have left by 8pm but were there until 8.30pm. Menus were hand-delivered and the hand sanitiser was not near the front door. (We had to ask where it was). Until you dine in a restaurant, you will not know what COVID-safe practices will be enforced. Diners beware.
Gloria Bower, Mitcham

People are voting with their feet: they love al fresco

If Stephen Downes has never ‘‘judged’’ a restaurant outdoors, how is he qualified to arrive at the pretentious conclusion that it is a ‘‘stupid’’ option for the rest of us? As long as the weather is OK, alfresco is a terrific way to eat, and drink, which is why it is very common all over Australia and Europe. It is also why backyard and parkland barbecues are so popular, but maybe he has never been to one of those either.
Ron Reed, Caulfield South


A protective measure

Dining outdoors is an appropriate public health response to a pandemic. There is increasing evidence that indoor environments are more hazardous, especially when crowded, and with everyone talking and where ventilation is poor, the risk of aerosol transmission increases. Large groups of people in small spaces have long been known to facilitate the spread of infectious diseases.
The principles being applied to restaurants could be applied more broadly. Gyms should have windows open, school classes could be held outdoors when feasible or, if indoors, at least with the door open. Physical education classes should be outdoors. And Melburnians should let fresh air into their homes.
Dr Anita White, Kew

An act of aggression

Surely when police are requested to assist with a person who is known to have been waiting 19 hours for treatment for a mental health condition – ‘‘Watchdog to investigate police over use of force’’ (The Age, 16/9) – they would approach the situation with that in mind: anticipate irrational and difficult behaviour and use strategies to diffuse the chaos rather than employ deliberate acts of aggression. This fails the ‘‘reasonableness’’ test; it is a dereliction of duty.
Maxine Hardinge, Clunes

Our mental health crisis

I feel empathy with the family of the man suffering from a mental illness who, due to the lack of beds at the mental health unit at the Northern Hospital, ran off and was harshly treated by the police. My son has waited in emergency at several hospitals for up to 24 hours, hoping for a vacant bed in the mental health unit and has run off. Fortunately he had caring policemen who caught up with him. There is a terrible crisis in the mental health system which needs to be addressed immediately.
Name withheld, Doncaster East

Fruit picking option 1

School leavers who spend a gap year picking fruit could get a discount on their university loans under a plan from a bipartisan parliamentary inquiry (The Age, 16/9). What a great idea, but what about the unemployed? My son has not found a job since he finished year 12 in 2018. When he searches ‘‘fruit picking’’, he finds he needs experience or the ability to drive a tractor. He has no licence and no chance of getting one at the moment. If farmers truly need fruit pickers this summer, and the government is truly interested in helping, it should find a way to get the unemployed without licences from the city to the fruit-picking jobs.
Heather Murtagh, Croydon Hills

Fruit picking option 2

If there is a shortage of people to pick fruit, why don’t we invite those refugees who are currently being detained to do the work, with the offer of full citizenship at the end of the picking season? It would be a win-win for all, and would break the current stalemate.
Robert Preston, McKinnon

Wacko, we’re free at last

The day after playgrounds open, Fawkner Park, South Yarra. I cannot believe the irreverence shown by parents now that they have been granted this long-awaited freedom. Takeaway coffee cups are everywhere, sipped by maskless folk (approximately 50) who are standing and sitting in groups closer than the safe, requested distance, with no regards to the coronavirus, while children clamber on the freshly sanitised play equipment. Come on, do the right thing and stay safe.
Ant Straker, South Yarra

Melburnians on the loose

So a ‘‘ring of steel’’ and hefty fines await Melburnians who try to slip out into regional areas (Editorial, 16/9). I am sorry to burst your bubble but they have already slipped out over the past few weeks. Just ask any local along the Surf Coast, Ocean Grove, etc.
Serge Bobbera, Curlewis

Explain the difference

Why does Daniel Andrews think that visits between friends are more dangerous than those between intimate partners? Is there any medical evidence for the more stringent conditions placed on single households? To take this to its ludicrously logical extreme, would two friends who want to visit one another become less of a risk as soon as they sleep together? I would have thought it would be marginally the other way round.
Mary Jones, Mornington

Mixed views on our rights

Why are people who object to regulations restricting their freedom of movement and compelling them to wear masks not outraged at speed limits (for example) that outlaw driving at 100km/h on a 20km/h street? Or, come to think of it, perhaps they are — and do. Are not both equally limits on their democratic rights?
Joe Rich, Carlton North

So some crowds are OK?

When people cannot protest outdoors, safely distanced from each other, but are free to congregate en masse to purchase groceries at supermarkets, we have slipped ever so precariously past the limits of democracy.
Lara Blamey, Mount Eliza

Take a break, Daniel

Julie Tullberg (Comment, 16/9) is right. The Premier would show us a stronger government if he disappeared for a week and let his deputy do the talking.
Rodney Wetherell, Murrumbeena

A very easy scapegoat

Since Victoria’s second virus wave, there have been even bigger second waves in the United Kingdom, France, India, Indonesia and elsewhere. All obviously Daniel Andrews’ fault. Just ask an ‘‘expert’’ such as Victorian Opposition Leader Michael O’Brien.
Graham Dunkley, Gladysdale

The beauty of hindsight

For years, the gospel has been that the private sector can deliver services better and more cheaply than a government enterprise. It is fascinating that the state opposition and the usual shock jocks are now criticising the engagement of a security firm instead of the military to monitor Melbourne’s quarantine locations.

One can only wonder what the opposition would have done had it been the one to make the decision back in those uncertain first days. Hindsight is a marvellous thing, of course. Or is this a sign that the ‘‘small government’’ enthusiasts are having second thoughts?
Ray Brindle, Malmsbury

The brilliant ‘wisdom’…

When the President of the United States says ‘‘I don’t think science knows actually’’ when discussing the role of climate change in bushfires (World, 16/9), I do not know whether to laugh, cry or be absolutely terrified. Is all science ‘‘fake news’’ when Donald Trump does not like what it reveals?
Kim Alexander, Richmond

…and ‘genius’ of Trump

Who is better qualified to say ‘‘I don’t think science knows’’ and the planet ‘‘will start getting cooler’’ than the man who discovered the cure for COVID-19?
Henry Herzog, St Kilda East

The very high cost of gas

Affordable gas, Angus Taylor (Opinion, 16/9)? I have just paid my latest gas bill and it took all of my fortnightly part-aged pension to do so. But, more important, are the concerns of environmental bodies as we face a future energy plan for Australia dependant on methane-emitting, gas-fired power stations.
Pat Anderson, Airport West

A bipartisan disgrace

The only thing more mind-bogglingly idiotic than Scott Morrison’s proposal for a ‘‘gas-led recovery’’ is Labor’s tacit agreement. Not only do we desperately need a new government, we desperately need a new opposition.
Charles Shepherd, Brighton

Expensive fossil fuel

Can somebody please tell Scott Morrison and the Coalition that gas is a fossil fuel and that it is a more expensive source of power than wind or solar. If they listened to the scientists, not the fossil fuel lobby, they would know that.
Des O’Shea, Wyndham Vale

We need to find the gas

Gas-powered electricity and/or hydro generation is currently critical as a component in Australia’s major electricity grids. The reason: to provide instantaneous, large-scale electricity supply backup to grids being increasingly supplied by the variable power generation of renewables, photovoltaics and wind. And this situation will be the case until technology and/or massive-scale electricity storage facilities provide a solution.

So, as the federal government and many experts say, in the foreseeable future there will be a need for probably a small number of carefully sized and located, major gas-powered electricity generators to stabilise and make reliable our major electricity grids.
David Wright, Albert Park

Our city is paying the price

Melbourne’s long run of apparent prosperity has depended heavily on migrants and students, casual workers and their exploitation, and the subversion of our regulators and standards in international education, technical training, construction, environment, public agencies, gambling, town planning, aged care and foreign investment. In sum, we have been living a false economy. We are now paying up in billions, with billions more to be paid by the next generations.
Don Townsend, St Kilda

Voting by mail, again

Laurie Vaughan from Bairnsdale asks: ‘‘With many local papers now closed, how do we know when the local elections are to be held?’’ (Letters, 16/9). Our local paper, The Bairnsdale Advertiser (such as it is) still operates. Council elections will be held by post, as they have for the 10-plus years I have lived here.
Heather Butler, Bairnsdale

Unequal ‘Melburnians’

If the Mornington Peninsula is part of metropolitan Melbourne (The Age, 16/9), why is my local fire brigade an all-volunteer CFA unit? And why, on my rates, am I paying the country fire services levy, which is higher than the metropolitan levy?
Paul Wilcock, Blairgowrie


Credit:Illustration: Matt Golding


I suppose Morrison will enter parliament holding a gas cylinder instead of a lump of coal.
Merilyn Tabor, Point Lonsdale

Transitioning power generation from coal to gas: one step forward and two steps back.
Francis Bainbridge, Fitzroy North

Someone should whisper to Trump: California’s nine national parks are controlled by the federal Department of the Interior.
Gary Bryfman, Brighton


Five months on, the silence as to when families can visit residents in aged care facilities is deafening.
Ruth Farr, Blackburn South

With its incompetence and lying, Labor got us into this mess. It needs to get us out of it. Quickly.
Brian Harris, Mount Eliza

Dan battles the naysayers and case numbers daily, with uwavering strength. My superhero.
Betty Alexander, Caulfield

Andrews won’t make available for checking and debate the modelling underpinning his road map. A case of Dan’s facts?
Stephen Minns, South Yarra

Can I blame Dan for my COVID-19 hip span and clothes shrinkage?
Kerry Bergin, Abbotsford

Conservatives are upset with the Victorian government because it’s being too … conservative.
Ian Abbey, Park Orchards


Sent a parcel from Sorrento, 11.30am on Monday. Arrived at Beecroft, NSW at 11am on Tuesday. Where is the problem?
Susan Leeming, Portsea

Spot on, Cathy Wilcox (Letters, 16/9) – a perceptive and compelling cartoon.
Wendy Logan, Croydon North

“But no matter how far or how wide I roam, I still call Australia home’’. Bring them home, Qantas.
Peter FitzGibbon, Inverloch

Australians returning from overseas could be quarantined at ADF bases.
Andrew Gemmell, Glenroy

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Experts’ tips on surviving – even enjoying – life under lockdown | Life and style

Cocktail hour

Henry Porter, novelist and Vanity Fair editor
One of the nastier aspects of the pandemic is that it turns your friends and all that you do to show them affection – hug and kiss; share meals and drinks – into a deadly threat. And yet, in this appalling moment, we need our friends more than ever, and it is probably true that our immune systems do, too. Isolation is bad for a species addicted to social intercourse.

My solution has been to start a cocktail hour on a video conferencing site, sending one or two friends every day an invitation to drinks in front of their laptop (or phone) at a time when we might normally meet in a pub or at each other’s homes. It’s surprising what a difference it can make to a day of isolation, and to your spirits in general, to see your friends’ faces in the evening and hear them talk and laugh.

Henry Porter enjoying cocktail hour with glass of wine, a laptop and a few friends.

Henry Porter enjoying cocktail hour with a few friends. Photograph: Liz Elliot

The scale of Covid-19 and what it’s doing to us is very worrying, but an hour with different friends every evening really helps reduce anxiety, and of course you can make much more effort than I do – dress up, light candles, provide nibbles (crisps make too much noise). Whatever joy is released when you see your pals in the flesh is also present in these video cocktails, and the beautiful thing is that for a small charge the host gets unlimited conference calls (I pay £110 annually for BlueJeans) and guests pay nothing.

Clearly, this can be expanded to talking to neighbours you may not know very well, or people you believe are really suffering from enforced isolation and loneliness. It may even be a good way of meeting people. Each participant might invite a person no one else knows. It’s certainly great for new mothers, book clubs, football supporters – anyone who is missing out on regular contact.

Despite the remoteness of the interaction and the occasional annoyances of the technology, I find that people really talk in the video cocktail hour. Maybe that has something to do with the ambiguity of the interaction – you are neither alone nor really in company. You are half-way between the two and perhaps that makes you more candid.

Sites I have used include Zoom, BlueJeans and Whypay? And my daughter has just introduced me to the Houseparty app.

Grow herbs

Alice Vincent on her south London balcony.

Alice Vincent on her south London balcony.

Alice Vincent, urban gardening columnist and author
I genuinely think gardening is what will keep us sane through this. It connects us with the outdoors and the gentle satisfaction of watching things grow brings a unique positivity. If you’ve no garden, there are plenty of ways to grow indoors.

You’ll need a sunny windowsill, inside or out. I always advise beginners to grow herbs. They’re easy and delicious – and when supermarket supplies are low they become increasingly worthwhile. The plastic trays that tomatoes and mushrooms come in will do – just make some holes in the bottom for drainage.

Fill with, ideally, peat-free multipurpose compost (most nurseries deliver and will be grateful for the custom). Parsley and basil rub along happily next to one another, but mint’s a bit of a thug and better in its own pot. You can also chuck in some salad leaf seeds: pea shoots, rocket and nasturtiums germinate quickly and are tasty at any point in their growing cycle. Sow according to packet instructions: you’ll need a fraction of what’s in the packet.

Keep the soil moist – an old spray bottle is perfect for this – before and after shoots appear. If youharvest no more than a third of the plant at a time, all should bounce back.


Woman stretching on piano bench

Photograph: Getty Images

Justin Jacobs, manager, Equinox fitness clubs
We are creatures of habit in what we eat, when we work, what TV shows we watch. Right now, all those habits have been shoved out of the window. There’s a lot of confusion, but this is an opportunity to create new habits. So what to try? What’s your new routine? It may be fluid and can change, but what do you want to try?

There’s lots of great online content available. Equinox’s Furthermore platform offers a variety of workouts, but search the web to find a trainer or teacher you like and trust. John Berardi, a nutritionist I work with, is often asked, “What’s the best vegetable to eat?” His answer is that it’s the vegetable you like and will eat regularly. Exercise is the same.

There is a run on home gym equipment right now, but dumbbells, ropes and other useful products are still available online. Choose what’s right for your space. I’ve just ordered some competition kettlebells because they’re something I really enjoy.

There’s copious anecdotal and scientific evidence showing how important fitness is for mental health: so during this very stressful time, it’s even more important. It also boosts the immune system.

But exercise isn’t just about health – it’s often a social activity, too. I’m using FaceTime more than ever before because I’m not having regular social contact. Work out with a friend on FaceTime or have an online dance party with your family. Last night I watched a band I like called Sofi Tukker DJ live on Instagram. That was a new experience. Find something like that and dance for half an hour and your cardio will be done.


Jack Monroe with pie in kitchen.

Jack Monroe in her kitchen. Photograph: Shutterstock

Jack Monroe, food writer and activist
In times of food scarcity and uncertainty, we have to make do with what we have. I haven’t been so much panic-buying – not having a car limits that – but I have been guiltily hoovering up scraps from the reduced cabinet late in the day, to save them being discarded. This week’s haul included three boxes of chestnut mushrooms, a withered bunch of wild garlic and a pile of French purple garlic, a little battered around the edges.

I will dry the mushrooms, peel and pickle the garlic cloves, and knock the wild garlic with some nuts into a sauce aillade. This will keep for a month past the sell-by date that consigned it to the bargain bin in the first place. Preserving food is not going get us too far in a pandemic, admittedly, but pickling what we have now is an investment in future dinners. I am also pickling a slow cooker’s worth of dried white beans in oil and vinegar, to use until tinned ones come back into stock.

Sweet-sour cannellini beans
Makes a large jar

400g dried cannellini beans
½ a small onion
100g frozen peppers
80ml vinegar – red, white or cider
1 tbsp white sugar
100ml oil (any)

Drain and rinse your beans, then pop them in a pan of cold water. Bring to the boil, then reduce to a simmer. Simmer for 15 minutes then drain thoroughly then return to the pan.

Add the onions and peppers, along with the vinegar, sugar and oil. Thoroughly clean and sterilise a large jar and its lid. Bring the pan to the boil very carefully. Do not take your eyes off it for a moment as you are dealing with hot oil, which poses a fire risk if unattended. As soon as bubbles start to form, remove it from the heat immediately.

Allow to cool for a minute, stirring well, then pour into the sterilised jar, filling it as full as possible. Turn the jar upside down and allow to cool completely before placing in the fridge. Resist sampling them for at least seven days, as the flavour will develop in this time.

In a clean and sterile jar, these can keep for a few months unopened. Once opened, use within a week.

Jack Monroe’s latest book is Tin Can Cook (Bluebird, £6.99)


couple trying out paint colours

Trying out paint colours. Photograph: Alamy

Laura de Barra, ‘She’-I-Y expert and author
If you want to use this time it to zhuzh up your home, start with paint. Consider the space and think about what mood you want works best. If you want your kitchen to give you a little lift each morning, go for light, bright tones. Avoid mistakes: that shade that looks gorgeous on the tin (or on Instagram), can look less appealing on walls with less natural light or in a different-sized room, so swatching is key.

Test multiple swatches on every wall. Paint dries to a different shade, so don’t be freaked out. Walk away and come back when it’s fully dry before considering how it looks. If you’ll need two coats, do two coats when you swatch. Pay attention to how the colour is affected by light at the times you use the room most.

When it comes to painting a wall, use a brush to “cut in” first. This means painting the corners and edges before anything else – it gives a better finish. Rollers are ideal for large areas and easier on the hands. Make sure you have the correct roller for the surface – check with your paint supplier.

I favour water-based paint – it doesn’t trap moisture, it’s kinder to the environment and the clean-up is easier. Also, while modern satin and sheen paint finishes are great, consider a matt paint in an older home: it won’t bounce light from any dents and imperfections. C’est bon!Laura de Barra is author of Gaff Goddess (Penguin, £14.99)


John-Paul Flintoff’s decorated shirt

John-Paul Flintoff’s decorated shirt.

John-Paul Flintoff, writer and crafter
Ten years ago, to be kinder to the planet, I took up mending clothes. I knee-patched jeans, darned jumpers and, before you could say “treadle-powered Singer sewing machine”, I had bought one and started making things from scratch. I shirted and trousered myself, and with knitting needles I socked and jumpered. I learned crochet so I could make Y-fronts using nettle fibre. (We’ll all be wearing nettle when the cotton stops, so plant it now. And relax: the fibre doesn’t sting.)

Did people laugh? Well, it was meant to be funny. But not only funny. Like any activity that involves applying your mind to the physical universe, sewing is meditative. It puts you in the here and now.

Gradually I set aside the angst that had got me started and started sewing for pleasure. Hoping others might follow, I let my repairs show themselves off, using thread of contrasting colours to edge holes in a jumper, and to stitch the slogan “Fresh Air Machine” on the back.

I published a book about all this, initially as a limited series of hand-bound books I stitched together, with bits of cereal box and old shirts for the cover. (Better than it sounds.) This, too, was meditative work.

If you want to have a go, try darning something. (Look at YouTube.) Cut something up and use it to patch something else. Learn different stitches (for different effects), and experiment by combining materials. Using embroidery, write your name on your shirt or give it a luxury brand logo: it will make you smile, and might give joy to others.

John-Paul Flintoff’s book is Sew Your Own (Profile Books, available on Kindle, £6.40)

Fun with kids

young girls with facemasks and cucumber on eyes

Let the kids play beauty salons – and try not to get too involved. Photograph: Rachel Warne

Dawn Isaac, garden designer and author
After three children and eight years of “screen-free family Sundays”, I have plenty of ideas for entertaining children at home. First, get comfortable with mess. Kids having fun do not keep things neat. Manage the chaos with a “tidy-up half-hour” for everyone before they go to bed. Also give the kids some control – they’re always more willing to throw themselves into things if they feel it was at least partly their idea. Let them lead: help them gather material for junk modelling, a fashion show or house construction, but resist getting too involved. Their imaginations are better than yours.

On day one of any long stretch with the kids, we make a “boredom buster”. Take a large jar and lots of squares of paper. On each, one, write an activity everyone can do – play a board game, make a milkshake. Whenever anyone says “I’m bored”, you pick an activity from the jar. The only rule is you all have to do it before you pick another.

To add an element of trepidation, slip some chores into the jar: clean your room, empty the dishwasher. That way, the jar won’t be empty by the end of day two, and the house might not look as if a bomb has hit it.

Anything out of the ordinary is always more fun. If it’s mealtime, why not have a picnic on the carpet rather than sitting at the table? If they want to run a cafe and serve the family lunch, or set up a library, let them have a go. Just don’t expect perfection – they’re still apprentices.

Dawn Isaac’s book, 101 Things for Kids to do Screen-Free (Octopus, £14.99), is published on 6 April

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