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.
The MAMIL, Middle-Aged Man (or Men) In Lycra, a sub-species of Treadlyagluteus Irresponsibilus* (yes, I made that up), is the bane of road users throughout Australia. Many are a law unto their own, especially when it comes to groups, as they take over streets and roads like the Mongol Hordes of old, ravaging everything in their path. Victoria’s Hell Ride being the most notorious gathering of MAMIL tribal warriors in Australia. Hell Riders have no mercy, razing everything in their path and woe betide anyone that gets in their way. Of course it’s always the fault of others and, as with any primitive tribe, the tribe comes together to support the tribal member. And in Gippsland, MAMILs, can appear at any time, anywhere, taking over the narrow and sometimes hazardous roads, spurning all others.
Possibly the most dangerous time of the day to be on the roads is weekdays between 8:00am – 9:00am and then between 3:00pm – 4:00pm, that’s when the family rally drivers are in their interminable rush to get their billy lids to school. Nothing is allowed to get in their way and speed limits are for suckers. So it is throughout Australia, whether it’s in the suburbs or out in rural areas such as where we live. Not only is it a dangerous time, it almost seems like insanity to be on the roads while these rally drivers are about, competing with other rally drivers that care not one iota for who or what is around them, driven only by the need to get their progeny to their various daycare centres (schools). It’s worse still if there is more than one stage to cover and they are running a few minutes late.
ANZAC Day has had many ups and downs over recent years, with some in urban areas even protesting ANZAC Day as being offensive. Yet despite this, and maybe because of these ‘unfortunates’ as I would call them, ANZAC Day has had somewhat of a resurgence and is attracting more people to the dawn services, especially young people. Maybe the loud protestations by irrelevant and ill-informed individuals has piqued their curiosity and desire to learn more about what the protestations are all about and, in doing so, revealed a piece of history that was in danger of fading from the national conscience in so many ways. And by learning about it, they have come to realise how important such days really are for our nation, or any nation for that matter.
Summer is now behind us though the warm weather is still lingering about, which is a good thing as last year we had the fire well and truly going by now. However, with bushfires burning nearby and warnings of hot and wild weather forthcoming, and then not as it got cold and heavy rain arrived, it’s interesting to sit on our veranda and watch the comings and goings of our feathered friends. Most have been fairly scarce during the Summer, so I haven’t had much reason to bring out my camera. But recently we’ve had an influx of a variety of birds that generally pay us a visit, so once again I’ve had a chance to take a few photographs of the characters that we call our friends. We might call them friends, but I suspect that to them we’re just odd ground dwellers that somehow have food.
Following on from the first Mirboo North Italian Festa back in 2016, this event has become quite a popular one in the annual calendar. Of course it wasn’t the first Italian Festa, but it was the first that brought the entire community, and those from further afield, together to experience this unique festive event. And as the event has grown and become more popular than ever, the organisers have become more experienced and aware of the effort needed each year. I understand that the South Gippsland Shire has also lent their support for the event, which no doubt helps immensely to sustain events that draw people from far and wide. And I might also note that Paula Calafiore, one of the volunteers that makes the Italian Festa possible, was recognised in this year’s South Gippsland Citizen of the Year awards for her extensive contributions to the community.