Categories: Wunderkammer

Picture of Margaret Clement of Tullaree wading through the swamp with her dog, Dingo.

Waaaaay back in May 2012, after listening to a fascinating and creepy story from a friend with a house at Venus Bay, I wrote a post called Gippsland Gothic, about two eccentric women who lived Misses-Havisham style in a crumbling homestead in marshland. One died, the other disappeared, and the mystery continues.

I’m not really fussed about blog stats – this isn’t a commercial blog after all – but I noticed something interesting after that: Not a day has gone by without someone hitting that post or using search strings on Tullaree, Margaret Clement and other keywords relating to the story. There really is a lot of interest out there about that story.

Commenter Jane-Louise Hobson has written a play called Tale of Tullaree about Margaret Clement. There’s a reading on at the Wonthaggi Theatre Group next weekend, with matinees both days and one evening show. Details are here.

I’m going with the friend who first told me the story, and we’ll stay the night down at Venus Bay, where Margaret’s bones were found.

Or the bones, that is, which might have been hers, and which have also disappeared.

Le Chien qui Fume – A Smokey Life. from Liz Burke on Vimeo.

If you were a reader or writer at Larvatus Prodeo you’ll remember Fine – with the adorable whippet avatar. Blow me down but Fine isn’t a whippet at all but a filmmaker. This Pozible page is raising funds to make a feature film, Le Chien Qui Fume (The Smoking Dog).

We’re raising finance to produce a preview/trailer for this feature film. We’ll then use that preview/trailer to showcase all the elements of the film and approach financiers, to raise the money for the feature.

We know we need to produce a high standard trailer to convince potential funding partners that our concept will work. The money raised will go into minimal cast and crew costs, location and catering fees, art department and post-production. We can make a great preview/trailer for this money. So, please come along for the ride.

Follow the link above for more info on Fin… er Liz Burke, Donna Rae and Michael Vale. Here’s the Facebook page. And please, kick a few dollars in for the Smoking Dog.

And, blow me down again (and I’d only just got up again and dusted myself off) when I watched the little promo vid, who should pop up but that ubiquitous and brilliant pair Dave Graney and Clare Moore, who I’d just been to see play at the Newport Substation, where they blew us all away. They’re doing the music for the movie. Quelle Coincidence!

4 Aug 2012, Comments (2)

Charlie Watts!

Author: Helen

Charlie Watts rockin a sharp suit!!


No, he hasn’t died. I just point that out because you’re increasingly accustomed to seeing the older music idols trending in twitter or appearing in the news as they drop off, so seeing that post title may have given you a nasty moment.

No, as a friend of mine used to say, he looks like he just stepped out of the pages of Gentleman’s Quarterly. As indeed he has.

28 Jul 2012, Comments (3)

Grans Lock On

Author: Helen
Two 60+ year old women sitting under a huge piece of machinery, locked on to defend logging coupes near Toolangi. Photo from RegnansTree FB group

Photo from Regnans Tree Facebook group

VicForests has been clearfelling coupes near Toolangi (Mt St Leonard) in the Central Highlands of Victoria. This cool temperate rainforest is part of the tiny remnant which remains to us in this, the most cleared State in Australia. It’s the habitat of the increasingly rare Leadbeater’s Possum, our State emblem – evidently the Victorian Government would like to join Tasmania in having an extinct species as a faunal emblem.

These forests survived the 2009 Black Saturday fires. The residents of Toolangi and Castella fear for what will happen when they are surrounded by spindly young commercial regrowth instead of wet forest.

A group of grandmothers has locked onto machinery in truly terrible winter weather. Their spirit and determination absolutely blows me away.

Toolangi resident Bernie Mace says the works are destroying the environment and it will take specialised equipment to remove the women.
“Well they’ve used some pretty elaborate apparatus which is going to require police search and rescue to remove them from this equipment,” he said.
“Well the desperation is just palpable, no matter what we do the trees just keep coming down.
“It’s a very serious matter as far as the community is concerned.”
VicForest us urging the protesters to undertake “more constructive dialogue.”

“Constructive dialogue”? Like when My Environment took them to court and won, so now they’re seeking to move the goalposts (i.e. water down the Flora and Fauna Guarantee act) to prevent that happening? Like when they obfuscate and mangle the language to try to convince others that what they’re doing is “sustainable” and “harvesting” and not at all damaging to the environment we’re all supposed to protect for future generations? Right.

Googling the womens’ courageous action today, the reponse from our mainstream media appears to be…crickets chirping. They did report this, which throws their bravery into even sharper relief.

You can make a donation to the campaign here, if you have any dollars to spare.
Crossposted at Hoyden About Town

24 Jun 2012, Comments (1)

Trip Envy

Author: Helen

My brother and his lovely companion are travelling up North using a combination of hire cars and the Ghan, using this site to blog about their trip. Stuck at home on the Queen’s Birthday, when it was quite sunny and the current floods/earthquakes/hail/plagues of frogs hadn’t yet started, I was siezed by Trip Envy. If I couldn’t take the Ghan up to Alice, by golly, I could take the bike along the Federation Trail!

My aim was to start in Yarraville and ride halfway to Werribee. Yes, I know, ambitious. I started off at Williamstown Road where a new section of the trail is meant to link Yarraville to Altona.

Thanks to the Baillieu Government’s abrupt discontinuation of bicycle infrastructure funds, this discontinued abruptly. They didn’t even have the money to fix this front-wheel-devouring drain in the first section.


1 May 2012, Comments (23)

Gippsland Gothic

Author: Helen

OK, so I get obsessed sometimes. Now that the internet has turned my dining room table (the kids own the desk) into the equivalent of the British Museum Reading room, I can go on endless wiki-walks when something pings my attention.

When some friends and I drove to South Gippsland to indulge two of my obsessions, Joe Pug and Henry Wagons, we drove south to Venus Bay to stay with an artist friend who has a house in the bush there. To get to Venus Bay, you drive south through Tarwin and Tarwin Lower. There, closer to the sea, the lush farmland becomes flat reclaimed swamp. In some lights and moods it can be a mournful country. At Venus Bay, over cold beers on the balcony, our friend told us a tale whose lightest word would harrow up our souls and freeze our not-so-young blood…

Recently, I was back there in search of Tullaree.

Tullaree Homestead

Tullaree Homestead - Heritage Victoria

Someone asked me the other day if I’d watched the latest remake of Great Expectations. I replied that rather than watching Gillian Anderson as Miss Havisham I’d rather spend my time reading up about Victoria’s real Miss Havisham. Well, there were two Miss Havishams, and then there were one. Then she disappeared in mysterious circumstances.

11 Apr 2012, Comments (3)

Goodbye, Larvatus Prodeo

Author: Helen

If you’re not a reader of Larvatus Prodeo, it’s a group blog where I (sometimes) contributed as a writer, more often hung out and commented. No day would go by without checking in at LP unless I was away from the city and/or an internet connection. From 2005 to 2012 we laughed, snarked, stoushed and pondered our way through the problems of the day.

But everything comes to an end. And as everyone’s favourite commenter, Nabs, says, “If you love something, set it free. Then it’ll shit on your head, fly aimlessly around in circles for a a while and then nest on your roof blocking the gutters.” I think there’s something in that for all of us.

Goodbye, purple blog. Thanks to Mark, Brian, Kim, Tigtog, Anna, Mercurius, Paul, Phil, Robert and many other writers with whom I had the honour to share writing credits, although my output certainly wasn’t equal to theirs. Thanks for having me, and thanks for the great conversations we’ve had over the years.

More tributes to LP from Liam at Orange Juice and Ryvita and Tigtog at Hoyden about Town.

Thanks for the bonus sheet I discovered when I unfolded the thing for the first time last night.

A crumpled pair of pink satin knickers

The bonus satin knickers under the sheet, not so much.

I hired a DVD a couple of days ago, The Tunnel. It’s a new Australian horror movie in the style popularised by Blair Witch and Paranormal Activity, although better, we thought, than either; a faux-doco complete with jumpy camera and white-on-black text. It’s interesting in several ways. Visually, it manages the jumpy-grainy-camera style much more gracefully by the simple and inspired move of making the characters a professional TV news team. It’s also interesting in the way the film is made and funded, through the new concept 135K project. But what really grabbed and held me about this film was the location – a network of subterranean tunnels underneath Sydney, which are real, and of which I was completely ignorant.

Journalist Steve Dow has visited the tunnels and other secret places in Sydney.

In the inky darkness, we sweep torch lights side to side and slosh through sludgy earth in Sydney’s great unfinished eastern suburbs subway – which would never actually see a train, but instead become an air raid shelter.

Thin tree roots drape from the ceiling and glisten in the spotlights like spiders’ webs; thicker roots that long ago sprang through wall drainage holes twist across our path. Could these gnarly tendrils really belong to the old Moreton Bay figs guarding Hyde Park above?…

…(A)fter planners and politicians disagreed on the route, work on the eastern suburbs tunnels was abruptly halted close to the ANZAC Memorial. During World War II, the tunnels were converted into a public air raid shelter, which Sydneysiders thankfully never had to press into service. Brick dividing walls were added to create smaller bomb shelter chambers. Australian Imperial Forces officers stationed down here scrawled their messages that can still be seen, including their regiment number and the date, many in 1942.

We step into a rectangular chamber flooded in ankle-deep water, in which stands a rustic steel bell with a pointy top almost as tall as a person. One of our group whacks the bell with a plank of wood: the gong sound is deafening. Sydney sound-sculpture artist Nigel Helyer created and installed the work, known as An UnRequited Space, as part of ArtSpace Sydney’s Working in Public project in 1992, employing a wooden mallet “to sound out the midnight chime on ABC National for 21 consecutive days”, Helyer says. Memo to the ABC: your microphone cable missing for 16 years is still connected between the bell and wall down here.

The bell features in the movie and you can see it in the trailer. I had wondered if it was real. The room it’s in is dry in the film, probably because of the extended drought.

As we trek north, the air becomes more humid. We climb up a rickety metal ladder through a hole only half excavated and slip down a muddy embankment, meeting the edge of “Lake St James”: the drainage system of the city outer tunnel next door, the water stretches left and out of sight for a kilometre, 10 metres wide and about five metres deep.

The NSW Government says it aims to collect rainwater in tanks from the roofs of Parliament House, the State Library and Sydney Hospital, store the water in Lake St James, and recycle it back through the non-drinking system. Well, you certainly wouldn’t ingest this stuff, its fine film of brake dust floating on top.

The lake is home to an eel named Eric: “I’ve seen him, but no-one believes me,” one CityRail employee says. He spreads his palms a metre wide. “He’s about so big. An albino!”

The abandonment of the NSW government plan to use Lake St James as a water storage reservoir for Sydney is the real-life event on which The Tunnel hinges. In the film we see some of the old wartime air raid shelter rooms and hear the story of General Macarthur possibly having an emergency bunker down there. Unfortunately, my googling failed to find any regular organised tours of the tunnels.

This film is a must-see for anyone who likes to think of the strange, secret and eerie places which exist under our feet.

30 May 2011, Comments (5)

Easter Road Trip, Part 2

Author: Helen

The Grand Ridge Road only took two days, so there was still plenty of Easter/Anzac long weekend to check out the tourist attractions of East Gippy. Near Thorpdale, you can see this sign:

Road sign - "Site of World's Tallest Tree"

Road sign - "Site of World's Tallest Tree"