Once again with Summer in full swing it’s time for the Mirboo North Italian Festa. And swing is about the right word as the temperatures have been going up and down from mild to searing hot on a daily basis (20C differences from one day to the next). Now in its fourth official year, the Mirboo North Italian Festa has grown from an uncertain but promising start, into an anticipated feature at the beginning of each New Year; the biggest event in Mirboo North today. People travel from far and wide to attend and, as the event has matured, the rough edges are beginning to be smoothed out and it’s become quite an event to behold. The theme is the same, but as interest has grown, additional activities have been brought in to expand on the Italian culture that the Festa represents.
Last year VicRoads decided to start using South Gippsland as a proving ground for some ridiculous ideas that could potentially be expanded to the rest of rural Victoria if they proved successful, which no doubt they would, given that no one would be able to dispute the findings. What happened is that the speed limits on several of our roads were reduced from 100kmh to 80kmh and what’s bizarre about the change is that the decision was supposedly based on statistics dating back to the 1990s suggesting that these roads had an unacceptably serious accident rate (I lost the link to this reference and I think it’s now been carefully removed, but I saved a PDF copy). The thing is, the statistics that I found revealed nothing of the sort. Additionally, long-term residents who have lived 20 and more years along these very roads have no recollection of such accidents. In a relatively small community, that’s generally a far better indicator of reality (which I’ll cover later). But from much anecdotal evidence, this change has nothing to do with accident rates.
No, not circadian rhythms, but the rhythm of Cicadas. While enjoying a pre-Christmas camping break, Cicadas were emerging from their long-time underground domains to transform into short-lived flying insects. Some areas where we went to collect wood had already experienced a burst of new arrivals and the sound was very loud in places as male Cicadas tried to attract females before their short lives ended and the cycle began once more. Our campsite was, thankfully, not yet inundated with noisy Cicadas, but they were slowly emerging and looking for any place to climb and begin their moulting process. So it was that we spotted one such Cicada and I’d always wanted to record the full process as it happened and this day I had the opportunity to do so. And having a new video camera to do this with made it even more satisfying.
Having missed last year’s event, as I was away at the time, I was glad to be able to cover it once again and this year the weather was also much better than what I remember it being last year. I can’t quite remember where I was last year, but I suspect that it was on another High Country Cruise. I was also under the impression, earlier in the year, that the event had been cancelled for some reason, but that rumour turned out to be untrue. I’m not sure where that rumour came from, but when I did some checking it was clearly just a rumour. And just so that I didn’t forget, I made sure that it was entered in my calendar as a reminder. It’s not the first time that I’ve forgotten something, only to remember at the last moment, or not.
Throughout the year we get all manner of wildlife in our backyard and while it’s mainly birdlife, we also get the odd possum and of course our regular Echidnas. But one creature we haven’t seen previously is a Koala. So it was the last thing I expected to see when I came out to chastise our two hounds that were barking at something. It wasn’t the usual manic barking that indicates an Echidna is about, so I thought it must have been someone passing by and walking a dog. As always, I go outside and chastise them if they keep up too much of a ruckus, as I don’t want them barking at things without purpose. So as the two hounds were running back and forth along our fence, I assumed that it must have been an Echidna afterall and that it had disappeared into the neighbour’s bushes as they often do and so the barking stopped.
I can’t believe how quickly the Blessing of the Bikes has come around once again. With Winter now a distant memory and Spring almost two thirds of the way over, the 2018 Blessing of the Bikes was a welcome lead-in to Summer that’s waiting just around the corner. I didn’t get to catch up with Marcel and Sabine after our visit to their new Inline 4 Cafe, but I’m certain they once again pulled out all stops to make this the sort of event that is catching everyone’s attention. And clearly the Bass Shire had done similarly. This year I decided to do things a little differently, as I’ve really been into learning about video production, and so wanted to record the entire event with my new video gear. This was the first such event that I wanted to tackle from a movie making point of view but, unfortunately, it turned out to be a bust for various reasons.
I don’t usually dedicate a story specifically on an individual cafe, other than in my Life Behind Bars series, but in this case I’m making an exception, given the nature of this particular cafe and how it has cemented a major event into our local history. Most motorcycle riders and many other travellers that have passed through Mirboo North over the years will know of the Inline 4 Cafe, which was almost a mandatory stopover for riders. They may also be aware that in 2014 the owners Marcel and Sabine started the Blessing of the Bikes, which has now grown to become a major Victorian motorcycle event that precedes the Victorian Moto GP at Philip Island. That said, things weren’t always smooth riding as I’ve previously written, especially as the Blessing of the Bikes continued to grow, so there came a time when the event had to find a new home. That new home became San Remo, where the first Blessing of the Bikes in 2017 was a resounding success; however, that wasn’t the end of things, as Marcel and Sabine wanted to continue with the Inline 4 Cafe and that too has now found a new home.
When economic times aren’t at their best, it’s often small towns that suffer the most as businesses close and employment opportunities fall, which in turn tends to create a snowball effect on other businesses. So you generally find that small towns will embrace anyone that is prepared to open a business that will, even if only in a small way, add to the growth and potential of the township and its community. And if someone looks to start something significant in or near the town and genuinely add to the economic growth of the area, most towns will do everything in their power to make sure that the business is welcomed and supported by the community, as well as encouraging the local council to make the development as painless as possible. Sadly, based on recent experience, that doesn’t seem to be the case when it involves Mirboo North and, as much as some would like to believe fairy tales and the like, we are not Hobbiton and those that want to start businesses in town are not Orcs.
When we moved to our rural abode, one of the first things I enquired about from the local CFA was bushfire emergency planning, prevention and action recommendations applicable to our township. Being a bush traveller for decades, I’m well aware of the risks and safety precautions necessary even in Winter time when camping in the High Country and, while much the same applies in a township, I wanted to make sure whether there were any specifics I needed to be aware of so that I had all bases covered. Additionally, at the beginning of each Summer the CFA issues a number warnings and preparatory information for residents as a reminder that they need to be ever vigilant in the hotter months of the year, as well as having evacuation plans in place should the need ever arise. Having experienced and fought High Country bushfires and all too many times travelled through what remains of the bushfires, I was very cognisant of the potential dangers.
It’s now the beginning of Winter and the cold weather has kicked in with a vengeance. After quite a mild spell during the last days of Autumn, the first days of Winter have been bitterly cold, with mornings in our yard down to 2C and elsewhere below zero. Having all these gum trees in our yard gives us a small amount of protection from the clear cold nights and mornings, but a few degrees difference is neither here nor there, it’s still damn cold. It especially feels so much colder because of the warm(ish) weather we’ve experienced over Autumn and less than a week or so ago. So much for global warming, we seem to be missing out on it big time and even our wood-fired heater seems to be feeling the cold, requiring a lot more nurturing to bring out the heat and warm the house.