The McDonalds come to Melbourne

Jenni Mitchell


'Are we going to get there and back in one piece?' Alan McDonald asked aloud.
Three brothers, Kevin, (64), Ron, (58) and Alan, (55), are in the sky for the first time.
They live and work together - running a sheep and cattle farm as well as a timber mill on their 1,300-acre Victorian property in Digby, 400 kilometres from Melbourne. They are on a flight from Portland to Melbourne.
Kevin, Ron and Alan have never been in an aeroplane, or more surprisingly, to Melbourne.
Rarely do they take holidays; other than when their mother was alive; each year on Mother's Day they would drive her to a nearby coastal town such as Port Campbell, Nelson or Beachport in South Australia.They have not ridden an electric train, a tram, lift or an escalator. They drink sweet black tea and have never drunk a cappuccino; never eaten a pizza baked in a restaurant, never tasted gelati ice cream.They have not married and do not have a room of their own to sleep in. The McDonald brothers do not use bad language; they are truly old-world gentlemen.
Digby is less than 400 kilometres from Melbourne and several hours by car. There are few people in country Victorian towns that have not made the trip to their capital at sometime.
Many commute regularly for business, visiting friends or for shopping. If necessary Digbyites have been known to make the return journey to Melbourne in the same day.
Like their parents, the brothers were born in Hamilton. Their father worked as a charcoal burner, and a timber cutter. In 1947, he bought 100 acres of forested land outside the small town of Digby, 45 kilometres west of Hamilton. The family lived in a one-roomed cottage. Slowly, they cleared the land for grazing and sold the timber for firewood and milling.
Kevin, the eldest was 11 years of age when the family moved to Digby. He began school at the nearby town of Hotspur. Not staying there long; he said of the students,'they were that mad - they took to the teacher. They were a wild lot - so I never stopped there. I went to Digby school after that. You either walked or rode a pushbike the four miles to school'. The brothers stayed at school only as long as they had to. 'You left when you were allowed, when you could - about 14.'
After their school years, the brothers worked with their father on the farm and in the forest cutting timber and splitting fence posts.
Today, the 1,300-acre farm runs 330 head of cattle 3,000 sheep, and a timber mill that is operated solely by the brothers. Three cattle dogs have the run of the place. The fourth dog, the eldest was deaf and recently, came to a sad end while sleeping behind the back wheel of a tractor. Ron didn't see her when he started the tractor...There was an old cat, but it died.
The milling process has changed little since their father began cutting timber for the farm about 50 years ago. Eventually, the brothers took it on and built a roof over the machinery and have been milling commercially now for more than 30 years.
Kevin is a shy, slightly stooped man. The effects of the years of heavy manual labour are evident. His clean-shaven face is weathered; his eyes are heavy and look tired. He moves slowly, as if protecting his body from pain.He travelled to Ballarat once - 'Can't quite remember it' he says. 'Must have been about two or three at the time. My grandparents were living there and mum and dad were visiting them. Was before my brothers were born.'
Ron appears to be content with the world and does not ask much from it, other than his pouch of tobacco from which he rolls his cigarettes. He is even trying to give up the few he smokes each day. His brothers gave up some time ago. They know smoking is not good for your health - and it makes you cough.
Alan, the youngest brother is more outgoing and talkative. His many interests include:music - he has a collection of over 1,000 CDs, mostly country, classical and old time songs from the 1940s -1960s, including; Seekers, Rick & Fel Carey, Slim Dusty, Buddy Williams, Chad Morgan, Foster & Alan and Daniel O'Donnell. Alan is 'Not real wrapped in modern music, it's not really singing,' he says, 'More or less yelling, these days, I reckon it is'. He has an enviable library of videos, which includes, mostly music videos, wildlife, old Australian films, documentaries and country and western movies. He particularly likes the video he has about the Tamworth music festival, and would like to go there himself one day. Some of the videos have not been played. Alan collects novelty clocks with unusual sounds; he has one that makes the noise like a truck horn and one that sounds like a train; he has a singing fish and a singing crayfish that play recorded country music. Most purchases are made through mail order catalogues. The McDonalds don't use a computer or have access to the Internet for shopping, although as Alan says,'It sounds interesting, have seen it on television.' Alan is proud of his garden; particularly the dahlias, irises and orchids, many of which have also been collected from specialist nurseries through the mail.
The McDonalds timber mill is a piece of colonial past. When the brother's stop running it, a bit more of Australia's history will have gone.They say they cannot afford to employ or train anyone. 'The insurance is as high as it gets, costs too much for the premium because of the risk of accident on the machinery. We know what we are doing, to train someone new - and what if they did have an accident - it would be awful.'
If you want to buy timber from the McDonald brothers, you must not be in a hurry. The McDonald's clients know this timber is the best and worth waiting for. Orders may take days, weeks or months to fill; depending on the time of the year. The McDonalds are the calmest and most unfazed of men.
These days, the McDonald can only take timber from private property.'That's going back to the mills that used to be around here; they've all closed down now.' Alan explains - 'Those bigger corporate mills bought all the logging rights, they got the first say of the logs in the state forests, and there was none left for the small mills, we don't have access to the forests now.' Trees the brothers fell are by permit and arrangement with the owners of the private land.
Before felling a tree, the McDonalds look for indicators that show whether it is suitable for milling. Messmate or stringy bark is the common local hardwood. They look for a healthy crown and if the girth is a useable width. Kevin will hit the tree with the back of an axe and listen to the ring. 'If its solid you can cut timber out of him, if it's one that is a bit iffy, you don't get much out of him - you may get only fence droppers out of it, that's all.'
Once the tree is selected it is felled using a chain saw.The tree is docked off - topped and tailed - and cut into lengths that can be placed by front-end loader onto the truck and transported to the mill. It is slow work, and if the weather is bad, burdensome digging trucks out of a bog.
The McDonald fell trees once a year; when the weather is suitable. Milling begins when enough logs have been collected. They don't take too much.As Kevin explains,' It's a waste, if not milled quickly, the logs will split and be unusable.Then it is only good for firewood.'
The mill machinery is old and the work slow. The brothers work together as if part of the machinery, automatic and skilful. There is no need for conversation, they know what they are doing, as if in a trance; the rhythm is hypnotic. The three dogs know the routine and know when to step out of the way, seemingly unperturbed by the screeching sound and spray of sawdust and wood chip fragments as they fly from the unguarded circular tungsten tipped steel blade.
Kevin is the benchman, and usually, the benchman is boss. He keeps a record of the orders, and sets the machine to the required gauge. Ron and Allen sort the lengths at the other end of the bench as Kevin passes them through.
As well as the mill, there is the farm to manage, and recently, newborn spring calves and lambs to hand rear. The McDonalds young are nurtured for longer than necessary.
'You gotta spoil something!' Said Kevin affectionately.'Its hard to sell the ones you rear, sometimes, you don't let them go to market'.
Some things have changed on the farm - the original timber cottage has been pulled down and a new house built on the site. The fireplace from the old house stands in the garden; now used as a barbecue. The new home is a simple construction, and surprisingly, not built from the mills hardwood.The brothers still sleep in one large space that is big enough to be three rooms. They have always slept in one room and didn't see the need in changing the arrangements when building a new house. They share easily and do not need to fight over personal space.
The builders had advised them to use pine and hardiplank for ease of construction and cost.The décor is a blend of old and new. A large sepia photograph of their mother hangs in the kitchen. There is a kookaburra porcelain electric kettle, a wood stove, soft white and grey Laminex bench tops, polished cork floors, an air-conditioner, microwave, television and a cuckoo clock. The large old cedar kitchen table with the turned legs been resurfaced with a Laminex top to match the benches. A Coonara wood heater keeps the house warm. Two large colour photographs of the brothers at a cattle market hang on the wall beside two aerial photographs of the farm.
With a farm to run and timber to cut, there has not been time for gallivanting around the country - or marriage.
'Too busy for that' chuckles Kevin.'I've been as far as Ballarat - years ago - but can't quite remember it'. They had no plans to travel far, 'only around the district.' Kevin says that they have been, 'As far as Beachport in SA. We've been to the Twelve Apostles, up to Mortlake, Warrnambool and Dimboola'. With relatives living at Dimboola, they have managed that journey three times. Once a year, on mothers' day, they would take their mother for a drive. 'That's how we got to Beachport, Port Campbell and those places.'
*** (Angus - note: These details are repeated earlier)***
The brothers each have a licence; but these days, Alan does most of the driving when they go to town to shop onTuesdays. They drive the newish air-conditioned green four-wheel-drive Ford Raider to Casterton or Hamilton.There is a Ford Maverick Ute for general farm use as well as the logging vehicle and the ride on mower.
It has been two years since their mother passed away at 86 years of age. 'Up until then, we did not do any cooking - mum did it all up to her death. I wonder now how she coped, by the time you do a few jobs, the day soon goes - she did a good job to keep up.'
Routine and order are important; each day Kevin prepares breakfast, Alan the midday lunches and Ron makes tea.'He is a good cook too,' Kevin and Alan tell me, 'cooks a good fish'.
Alan is the family history keeper. He files away pieces of family news and is a keen photographer. He laughs as he tells of his first camera and opening the back to see how the film winds on. He particularly likes to photograph the landscape. He produces a photograph of a five legged calf - 'It was born like that - it has a hoof and everything on it - only trouble, when it runs it sort of swings, and just about trips over. We still have it in the paddock.'
Kevin is good with figures - he handles the business side of the farm and has a board of complicated sums that he alone understands.
Portland airport terminal is a small building staffed by two men. There are no cafés or shops. Boarding passes are issued and the three brothers study them while they wait for their 19 seater Metro 23 turbo prop plane, to arrive from Mt. Gambier.
'Hope it's not that noisy inside,' Ron shouts over the thunderous roar of the aeroplane as it circles and begins its descent to Portland to collectthe passengers.'Can't imagine myself in the air in that thing'.
The compact plane has two rows of seats either side of the isle; allowing each passenger a window seat.The plane is too small for and short of a journey to warrant the services of hosts serving tea. This plane is more intimate - the pilot welcomes the passengers aboard. There is no door separating the cockpit from the passengers.
Alan and Ron grin nervously through tight mouths; they are held firmly in their seats as the plane accelerates down the runway.
The ground falls away and they are airborne - looking down at Portland's farmland and the sea.
Past the cloud and turbulence, the plane travels through a clear sunny sky. Below, appears as a white desert cotton wool landscape.
'Like the frost on the ground in the morning', says Alan, or as Kevin describes,'Ice caps in winter on the mountains'. 'And it seems as if we are not moving; it is alright', added Ron.
The Kendell plane lands at Tullamarine airport. It has taken approximately 55 minutes to fly from Portland to Melbourne. The brothers were impressed at the size of the other planes and the intensity and high pitch of the airport noise. Portland terminal was tiny. Tullamarine is a major international airport with concrete that reaches to the horizon. As the brothers pose for a photograph on the tarmac, they are asked to move quickly to the terminal, another plane is about to land, and they are in its path.
'I cannot believe we are in Melbourne,' Alan says a couple of times, 'its all unreal'.
It was a good walk from the Kendell Arrival gate to the Ansett baggage collection carousel.The brothers pass a flat moving escalator, which they decline to use, preferring the sureness of their own footsteps.
Taking the next escalator down one level is a new experience - none of the brothers had ever been on one before. Nervously, they step onto the moving staircase - stumble slightly and hang onto the rail, before gauging their moment to step off.
There is confusion at the baggage carousel. Ron watches passengers lift their bags from the conveyer belt, and with his natural country courtesy, removes not only his own suitcase, but is about to lift off some bags belonging to other passengers. He discovers from the glare of passengers that being helpful is not always appreciated! Grinning and embarrassed, he quickly steps back from the experience.
The first stop is for cups of sweet black tea and lamingtons at the airport café. With habitual synchronicity, the brothers stir their tea and tap the spoons on the edge of their cup.
They say they enjoyed their first flight - and survived. Ron and Kevin do not say much.
Alan repeats, 'I cannot believe we are in Melbourne'.
They look surprised, and stare at the young man with dreadlocks and body piercing as he walks by. They see some monks wearing coloured robes, and a group of Asian businessmen dressed in dark suits. Already, everything is different. Alan cannot decide if the lift is travelling up or down, when his stomach absorbs the movement. 'There is a lift at the Hamilton hospital, but not like this, it was much slower,' he says.
Crossing the roadway from the airport terminal to the underground car park, Kevin thinks they are already in the city. He says the airport is large enough to be a city. There is still another 20 kilometres by car to drive before reaching Melbourne.
The freeway is busy and the brothers begin to identify places they know from the television. They recognise the brightly painted sculptured sound barrier wall along the tollway, Melbourne skyscrapers and eventually, Westgate Bridge. They cannot believe how many bridges they pass under, or how many cars are on the road, or how long the traffic lights take to change.
A soft drizzle is falling - dampening their first view of Melbourne. Alan has given up the idea of one day driving his brothers to Melbourne. Earlier, when still at home, he talked about the 'next' trip to Melbourne and how he could take the car; once he knew the way.
The wind is strong as they drive over the crest of Westgate Bridge - the windsocks are bellowing at right angles to their poles.
The brothers' eyes are wide as the enormity of the city unfolds. They look across Port Phillip Bay to the ships at sea, the Western suburbs, beaches, the Dandenong, Kinglake and Macedon Ranges, the Yarra River and the height of the tallest city buildings.
After the return trip across the bridge, the McDonalds are driven along Beaconsfield Parade to St. Kilda for a late breakfast. Parking outside a McDonalds restaurant they walked across the road to Greasy Joes cafe.
'No,' says Alan, 'we have never been inside a McDonalds restaurant. There is one in Hamilton, never been in it.'
Greasy Joes is reputed to make the best hamburgers in Melbourne. Each brother orders a bacon and cheeseburger. It arrives stacked high with; a thick homemade burger, melted cheese, egg, bacon, lettuce and fresh tomato as well as a generous serve of crisp light brown oven baked potato wedges. Alan lifts the top of the bun and adds tomato sauce to his burger from the red plastic tomato shaped jar on the table - 'It's a bit dry without it,' he suggests hungrily.
This was a first time to experience a cappuccino. The brothers drink only tea and then, few cups a day. They are fascinated by the coffee's creaminess and enjoy the new taste sensation. 'It's all froth - better than ordinary instant coffee,' says Ron grinning with approval.
Moving through Acland Street, the brothers admire the artistically presented window displays of continental cakes and pastries.
'Couldn't eat anymore - not after that hamburger,' said Alan wistfully.
'Too many to choose from - wouldn't know which one to pick,' says Ron.
The brothers watch the moving throng of colourful and variously dressed, people in the street. They don't know where to look first: at the bare footed thin girl with blood red hair and blue tips, wearing tight black jeans, a colourful shirt and thick soled sandals; or at the young man with long untidy blond hair, no shirt and wide cheesecloth trousers, dirty with open tears that show his pale legs; or at the coloured tiles embedded decoratively into the pavement; the shabbily dressed grey haired man sitting on the footpath - asking for money, tea being handed out in small plastic cups to passers by, or the adult bookshop on the corner.
Strolling along the famous St. Kilda pier, the brothers examine the long fishing rods anglers had placed at intervals along its length.
'Food everywhere! Take a lot of food to feed all these people in the city.' Alan remarks when he sees yet another restaurant at the end of the pier.
Driving from St. Kilda to the Savoy Plaza Hotel, the McDonalds travel through Bay Street Port Melbourne, past Crown Casino and the sculpture - Vault or Yellow Peril that is erected in a small park near Flinders Street underpass.
'Made headline news that did!' Alan chuckles.'Better things to put in the garden than that.'
The atmosphere was relaxed stillness as Kevin, Ron and Alan glimpse Melbourne from the car. About the waterfall outside Crown Casio Kevin says,' It looks alright - like the falls near Coleraine'.
Stopped at red traffic lights, under Flinders Street Railway Bridge, the brothers looked nervously upwards as a train thunders noisily overhead.
The McDonalds are booked into the luxurious Savoy Park Plaza International Hotel, opposite Spencer Street Railway Station.
After signing the register, they are escorted to the lifts and given directions to their rooms. Alan's room is first; it is on the fifth floor. Together, the brothers find the room and Alan unlocks the door. Ron places the light brown board suitcase on the bed, like a travelling salesman from 1942. It's the only luggage the brothers have, besides the small camera bag that Alan carries; and all their clothes are inside. Kevin looks worried; he had just assumed they would be sharing the same room, as they do at home.The brothers stand in the centre of the spacious room; silently exploring the unfamiliar suite with their eyes - the TV hidden in a cabinet; the bar fridge, stocked with soft drinks, alcohol, chips and chocolate bars; the full mirrored marble bathroom with a bath as well as a shower, neatly folded white towels, shampoo, moisturiser and soap; the king-sized bed with the checked cover; wide shaded bedside and desk lamps; centrally controlled bedside switches, heavy ceiling to floor curtains, couch, lounge chair and the telephone by the bed. The view overlooks the Spencer Street Railway yards, Colonial Stadium, and Melbourne.
The brothers find they are booked into separate rooms on separate floors. Kevin is on the seventh floor and Ron on the eighth. They are disoriented as they discover each floor of the Savoy is identical. In the hotel lift, they are confused as to whether they should go up or down, and which buttons to press. They don't think they can find each other's rooms on their own.
A short walk along Bourke Street and a lift ride to the top of the Rialto building was among the most memorial adventures the McDonalds have in Melbourne. Arriving at the 55th floor the brothers cannot believe how fast the lift is moving. At the top, they hold back from standing near the glass edge as they look at the panoramic view of Melbourne and the suburbs. As they gather confidence, they move to the glass edge and looked down to the city streets below. They were surprised to see rooftop gardens, carparks and tennis courts. From the outside wire cage, they listened to the sounds that drifted upwards. They hear sirens, the organic hum of Melbourne's heartbeat and whistles interspersed with the occasional shout from a person.
'Sounds like the ocean on a rough day, something roaring - does it go like this all night?' Kevin asks.
'The rail network looks like a toy train set, and look, there is the yellow peril down there. People look like ants,' - said Alan.
Kevin adds - 'It's bigger than Mt. Gambier.' His eyes were bright and a smile seemed permanently fixed to his face.
Alan wonders, 'That's not the MCG there is it?'
'Yes, it is.'
'Reckoned it was - looks big on TV; and so small from up here'.
Next, the brothers' take their first train ride. Richmond, and back, via the city loop to Parliament Station. Alan and Ron had once taken a ride in a special steam train in 1988, when the tall ships had sailed into Portland. This is their first ride in an electric train.'Makes the plane seem really smooth -this is much rougher!' Kevin observes that passengers are not required to wear seat belts on trains.
The brothers have an appointment to meet Dr. Denis Napthine, at Parliament House. He is the Member for Portland, and the McDonalds local State Liberal Member of Parliament.Denis is taking the brothers to tea in the Members dining room.
This was the last official sitting for the Victorian Parliament this year.
The brothers do not say much; rather they seemed to be absorbing the essence of the city. 'Never seen so many people, so much food, shops and haste.' Alan states slowly.
Inside the foyer of Parliament house, the brothers watch the passing of politicians as they move along the corridors; some recognised from television. Andre Harmeyer, Minister for Police and Corrective Services stops for a chat. The Premier, Steve Bracks walked purposely by, obviously on a mission.
Denis Napthine greeted the McDonalds with a charming smile. He is wearing a smart deep grey pinstripe suit, white shirt, and patterned tie. He leads the brothers through Queens Hall, into the Library and explains the history of the ornate rooms and exquisitely carved antique furniture. He points to a mezzanine floor, 'The newspaper library' - where he can, 'Read the local papers; The Portland Observer, The Hamilton Spectator and The Casterton News.' Where a politician can, 'Keep in touch with a community away from the electorate.'
Over tea and chocolate cake in the Members Dining Room, Denis discusses local issues. Of concern to the brother's is the recent expansion of the Blue Gum plantations. The brother's believe the development is a, 'Waste of good farmland - gone to Blue Gums'.
Denis explains that the industry is a way farmers can, 'Leave their land with dignity,' and that it is, 'A good source of jobs for young people'. He admits that he did not know if there would be long-term benefits, or not.
Denis took the McDonalds into the galleries where they watch the Legislative Assembly and the Legislative Council perform. Alan is disappointed to see so few politicians in the chambers, and that they are not, 'arguing the point - like they do on television.'
They are introduced to Bruce Chamberlain, another local member and Roger Hallam, whom, they tell him, is distantly related, through marriage.
Leaving Parliament House the brothers walk down Bourke Street, and experience the bewildering five-o-clock people rush. They kept tightly together, almost linking arms; disoriented and out of place in their bush hats, while trying to avoid bumping into the mostly darkly suited office working men and women.Strolling through David Jones department store, they stared disbelievingly at the abundance of glittering Christmas decorations, pine trees, perfumes and coloured reindeers. They stopped at the Myers Christmas window displays. Kevin turns from the crowded windows and searches for a breadth of clear space; he doesn't appear interested in the Christmas stories - for an instant, it becomes all too much.

Ron wants to buy a watch while in Melbourne. He doesn't have one. He looks for one in the shops along Little Bourke Streets Chinatown. None of the shops he goes into sell watches - although, the Asian stores are exciting with their different foodstuff, music reading material and smells.
The Myers store has a large section of glass cabinets overflowing with different kinds of watches. There are too many to choose from. Ron doesn't know where to start. A young woman assistant helps Ron select a silver banded watch. He buys the first one the assistant puts on his wrist, it looks strong and he says it is comfortable.'No, I won't wear it now,' he says as he admires the silver piece on his left arm. He places two $50 notes on the counter - the watch costs under $100. Kevin decides to buy a watch too.He wants one with a black leather band.It is difficult to find one; most of black watches in the store have the new plastic bands. Ron and Alan tell Kevin that he should buy a silver one too, 'That's no good to me,' Kevin insists, 'You get your hair caught in the band.' A black leather watch is found and Kevin's eyes light and he is pleased. The assistant helps him try it on; he finds it comfortable and likes the classic and simple white watch face. This watch also has a two-year guarantee and costs less than $100 dollars. From his leather wallet Kevin hands over a $100 note. The watch is packed into a box, wrapped and handed across the counter. There is a smile on his face.
The brothers take a taxi back to the Savoy and rest a few minutes before walking across the bridge to Crown Casino.They'd heard so much about the casino from their friends and relatives back home; warned,'not to go near the place, it was evil' and they had been told 'you got to have a go, put your five dollars in and have some fun.' They were going to see what the fuss was about.
'Its pretty awful - an ugly thing,' Alan remarks while standing on the bridge above the Yarra River eyeing for the first time, Jeff's Shed - the new Exhibition Centre.
'Make a good Hay shed,' replies Kevin, and adds, 'Wonder it does not blow away, hope the roofs secured well.'
Ron agrees and says that it would make a good machinery shed.
The most memorable area of the casino for the brothers is not the noisy, imposing and glitzy gaming hall; where Alan spends a few minutes trying to work out how to use a poker machine; he is bored and gives it away after his first dollar, 'it would be alright if you knew what you were doing.' The most memorial part of the casino for the brothers is the Atrium light, sound and water sculpture.
'It's like being in another place, a fantasyland,' Alan says dreamily with his head titled back looking at the ceiling. His brothers agree and sit down on the grand steps inside the foyer, transfixed by the changing colours from the thousands of strings of crystal shards suspended from the ceiling. They watch with delight as two chandeliers descend from above with a kaleidoscope of colour. The brothers were suspended, in a Disney world of spectacular laser imagery, moving and strobic lights, and water spurting fountains using computer technological accuracy. Music composed by Chong Lim, David Hirschfelder and Guy Cross; played by the Melbourne Symphony orchestra filled the space with nocturne surround sound.
Leaving Crown Casio, the McDonald hired another taxi to take them to Lygon Street, Carlton, and dinner. Again, they are surprised at the number of restaurants, and curbside tables with people eating out of door.
At the Italian restaurant, Il Gambero, they each ordered a small Aussie pizza - it came with; ham, cheese, tomato, and egg. This was the first pizza the brothers had eaten, prepared and baked in a restaurant. With the pizza they had a large bowl of salad, garlic and herb bread to share, and a small bottle of Carlton beer.
'The Italian's in Carlton,' Alan says, 'I couldn't tell if they were Italians or not, everybody looked much the same, and they all spoke English. I noticed more of a difference in Chinatown, I can't speak Chinese.'
'It was alright too, it was good!'they agreed.
For dessert, the McDonalds enjoyed their first gelati ice cream; strawberry and caramel; from Bruchetti's in Faraday Street.
Across the road to Reading's book and music store, Alan discovered racks of music CD's. 'I'd have to spend a week here to see what I'd want,' he says with frustration. He buys a CD of 'Forty Country Classic Hits' and two more country music albums.
At 10: 30pm the brothers returned to the Savoy Plaza Hotel to watch television before drinking lemonade and turning in for the night.
'Didn't get much sleep. It was noisy; all those sirens,' says Alan next morning, adding, 'And, I nearly fell out of the bed. The city lights were good - had a look out of the window before I went to sleep'.
'Yes, they were good', Ron and Kevin agree - they too had looked at the Melbourne night light show.
'Never had a breakfast like that before,' the brothers agreed before eating their plateful of delicacies.Breakfast in the Savoy dining room is something to experience.A smorgasbord, sumptuously presented, offering a variety of fresh and compote fruit, juices, yoghurts, buns and pastries as well as the hot Bain Marie silver services with a choice of grilled baby sausages, bacon, scrambled eggs, grilled tomatoes, fried rice, stir fried peppers, hash browns, French toast and chicken livers with bacon.Also on offer were delicious croissants; hot toast and jam; coffee and tea.
With only a few hours before their return flight to Portland, the brothers' caught a tram to the Museum. Alan asked why the builders 'didn't finish the roof'.
The brothers look around the modern architecture of the museum as they wait in the foyer for it to open. A biplane is suspended from the ceiling and of much interest as they decide whether this is one of those planes that was peddled or driven by some other mechanical ingenuity.As they walk around the newly set up displays there are things from their past that they recognise, and others that they have not seen before. There are kitchen displays of the 50s and 60s; a schoolyard shelter shed complete with low wooden bench seats and a display of lunch packed in plastic boxes.
'Mum used to pack our lunch, yes, it was like that, we would have sandwiches, but we didn't have those little packets of sultanas that they have in those ones,' reflects Alan.
The brothers admire the small bottle collections and say they have not seen bottles with a sharply pointed base like the ones in the cabinet.
'That's like the one the Queen rides in', Alan says of the Hansom cab on the floor. The is much discussion and searching for bullet holes in Ned Kelley's armour - 'that could be one there,' says Ron pointing to a small hole near the top of the heavy metal armour. 'Wouldn't like to have to run too far in it,' Kevin suggests, and the other two agree, 'Pretty heavy I would think,' says Ron.
Pharlap, the champion chestnut racehorse has been something the brothers wanted to come to the museum to see. 'Looks alive,' says Alan, adding'look how well the coat is preserved, and you can see all the veins.'
'I wonder how they hold him up? All that body on those small legs, all these years. They must have steel pins through his legs and the floor.' With more discussion they agree that this must be how Pharlap has stayed upright in the glass showcase for so long, 'You can see bolts down near the floor.' It is decided, there are pins in his legs. The brothers agree that Pharlap is a beautiful horse and were pleased to have seen him in the flesh.
The final excursion of their whirlwind tour of Melbourne is a trip to the Zoo. Alan particularly loves the garden setting and the naturalistic environment the animals live in.
Yakini, the baby gorilla is about to have a first birthday, 'reminds me of Henry Bolte,' says Alan, 'only much more cute'.They admire the hippopotamus and gaze disbelievingly at the underwater antics of the frolicking seals.The small cats are sleeping and don't seem so different to cats back home, in the bush.
There was not enough time to see it all. Stopping briefly at the zoo shop for souvenirs, Alan wants to buy everything. Kevin and Ron are more restrained, 'I buy things for the farm,' Kevin says.
Kevin and Ron each buy a journal and a white mug printed with Melbourne Zoo, 'will be useful in the shearing shed, just to prove I've been here'.
Back at Tullamarine airport, the brothers join a long que to have their baggage processed. It is busier today, and not at all friendly and personal, like Portland airport. The plane is delayed 25 minutes.
This is a big place. 'It's hard to believe we are here, and that we are leaving' Alan remarks, 'Its just beginning to sink in - Melbourne!'
The flight back to Portland is perfect. With clear skies and excellent views, Alan says he has a sore neck from looking out of the window.They comment about the dryness of the country around Melbourne, and how, 'It's much greener down our way'.
'Words cannot describe it,' Kevin said later of the impressions he is left with about Melbourne.'It is much bigger than I expected, faster, and there are more people'.
'When I close my eyes, I still see people, like a parade, lots of them,' says Alan. 'And the sea is a different colour in Melbourne. It looked sort of grey; perhaps, it's the stuff that goes into it. It's always blue in Portland. He adds, 'only complaint I have is the one rude taxi-driver. The rest were all right!'
Will they come to Melbourne again? 'Sure will, when it can be arranged'.
What about flying? 'It is all right - yes, we will try it again!' Ron grins.
'.That's the closest we have ever been to heaven.' Says Alan, standing with his head back peering longingly at the sky as their plane leaves Portland and continues its journey to Mt. Gambier.

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