Trees in the City of Unley vs Geneva

I have been involved in a discussion lately about trees in Geneva – are there enough? Are they being cut down when they shouldn’t be? This will sound familiar to anybody living in Adelaide, but especially in my local area, where public trees are such an important part of the character of the neighbourhood.

My intuitive thought, based on living in both places, is that Geneva is a bit of a concrete jungle, but that it has magnificent parks. Unley, in contrast, has lovely street tree settings, but its public green areas are dire. They have little shade, no aesthetic aspect whatsoever. They are often totally utilitarian, there for sport and dogs. Anybody wanting a pleasurable experience of sitting in a beautiful green place need not apply.

Indeed, the facts bear this up. Geneva, being a typical medium density city, has an area of about 16 square kms with a population of 200K. The City of Unley has about 39K population in an area of 14 sq kms. Unley has 2728 persons/sq km, while Geneva has 12,000/sq km. Geneva has 40,000 public trees, whilst Unley has only 26,000.

However, the makeup of where those trees are, is incredibly different in the two areas and I think each could learn from the other. Geneva’s public trees are mostly in parks. Unley Council must do something about this. It’s such a shame that your green areas are the very opposite of the pleasing areas they should be. On the other hand, Unley has a huge number of street trees compared with Geneva: about 23,000 compared with 5,000 in Geneva. Thus the street scenes are all lovely in Unley – shady and verdant and utterly vital to making this part of Adelaide what it is.

This is not to suggest that the residents of the City of Unley have no obligations. We should all have as many trees as possible on our own property, but it all goes together. The beautiful gardens of the area are visually enhanced by the street trees. One has only to compare areas with nice gardens – eg the beach suburbs around Somerton Park – and no (or stunted) street trees to see the striking difference. The street trees give a continuity that makes the area one big garden. Maybe that explains why I often feel like I’m walking in the country when I’m walking down my street in Clarence Park.

Which is why it’s so disappointing to hear the idea expounded in Unley that trees on footpaths should be cut down so that people in wheel chairs can cruise around enjoying the gardens of the area – it’s their ‘right’. But take away the street trees and you’ve taken away a lot of the impact of the gardens too. They are symbiotic. And without the trees, there is not the shade which is crucial to walking around the area. This is not an option. In fact, noting that the Unley Council has put the occasional bench on streets in the area with signs saying that these are old people friendly, the very idea that benches have any purpose at all without being in shade is hard to understand. Ditto, one might add, for the CBD, where along North Terrace etc public seating places are rarely put where they can be used in summer/sun.

Thinking of my own back yard, something like 15M x 3M, I’m amazed at how many trees one can have in a small area and the fabulous visual, psychological and practical impact. The Unley Council should be a driving force in stepping up the process of increasing green tree coverage of public spaces, both streets and parks, and the local residents should be doing everything they can to facilitate and extend this into their private space. We should, in short, be a leader in making green matter.




High rise box living in Australian cities

This is obviously the serious problem of cities across Australia at the moment. This, combined with the future problem that the aim is to create hugely increased populations which Australia cannot sustain.

The developing disaster is most obvious in Melbourne. But Adelaide, Perth, Sydney (Brisbane?) all follow. We are supposed to think it is inevitable. What a crock.

In particular the point must be made that Australia has decided to follow the Asian high rise pattern of most people living in small boxes in badly built ghetto highrises. An extraordinary decision, perhaps brought on by corrupt dealings between politicians and developers. There is presumably a big connection with inferior Chinese building products commonly used.

The obvious and preferable option would have been to follow European design principles of medium density mixed buildings, typically 5-7 floors high. Decent amounts of space and light are always part of the developments even those of more modern vintage which are frequently ugly from the outside.

How ironic that Adelaide is called the Urban Forest when it is stripping itself of those inconvenient assets as fast as possible both in order to assist in big business’ building objectives and also to cater to the ‘that tree might fall on me’/that tree is….brigade.

The good thing about Adelaide is that it is way behind the catastrophe as developing in Melbourne and maybe there is the possibility of doing something about it if we can find politicians who are independent of the business behind building development.

One point worth noting that in Europe nobody as a rule wants to live in the more modern medium density apartments either because of their ugliness and the fact that they tend to be in outerlying areas. They live there because they can’t afford to live in the older, gracious apartments in the older more central parts of the city.


By retrofitting our capital cities, we’re forcing residents to live with planning failures discussing some of the catastrophic decisions being made in our cities.

Backyard blitz having an adverse impact on our health, planning expert warns

To investigate planning policies that deliver positive social outcomes in
hyper-dense, high-rise residential environments. Report by Leanne Hodyl – 2014 Churchill Fellow Hodyl_L_2014_Social_outcomes_in_hyper-dense_high-rise_residential_environments_1

The Housing We’d Choose includes a downloadable report on what Australians want in housing, report is 2011.

Transport-Oriented Development – US site but the ideas have been brought to Australia.

Activity Corridor Intensification in Perth and the role of Design Based
Research A 2013 report on this development strategy in Perth.

Melbourne Activity Centres – trying to make suburban life attractive enough to stop pressure on the city centre. Looking at their timeline for Broadmeadows, one cannot help thinking of Elizabeth in Adelaide. Can governments create such things successfully?

City Futures Research Centre (UNSW) has a large list of resources including a literature review of a couple of hundred pages:

Healthy Built Environments LiteratureReview_FullDocument

The Adelaide Parklands’ future.

Written in reaction to this story in The Adelaide Review. A bit depressing that such news gets no reaction. My two cents’ worth. When the idea of the Parklands was conceived, the impact of cars/traffic was obviously not factored in. I want to compare Tiergarten in Berlin with the Parklands. The Parklands are bigger, but it is all shallow and surrounded by cars. There is no meaningful concept of being ‘In Nature’ when you are in the Parklands. Compared with this, Tiergarten is smaller, but it is less spread out and only divided by one (large) road. This means that you can be inside away from roads and traffic. You can really feel, as the original intention was, that you are In Nature. It is a highly successful way for urban folk to get the sensation, the peace, the ambience of it.

Further, Tiergarten is deliberately left mainly uncultivated rather than manicured, but it is lush. You can always sit on the ground, there is always shade nearby. The parklands suffer, as all common area does in Adelaide, as opposed to Melbourne from being dry, harsh and generally unshaded. (Do the toffs in North Adelaide have it better?). It can’t be used in the way that Tiergarten can be. Or, indeed, Melbourne parks such as Treasury Gardens.

It will be a great pity if the Adelaide Council or the SA Govt is allowed to give the parklands to cronies to build more cafes (because we don’t have enough of them) or to make them places for Events (yes, let’s have more noise and environmental degradation because? I’ve forgotten why) or to make them increasingly sports places combined with the accompanying car parks. What’s the problem. It’s a parkland right? So we’re parking on it.

But I would be strongly in favour of improving the usability of this natural asset by making it more accessible to the idea of urban residents being able to seek solace there. Not Coffee, not Events, not Sport. Solace. The expensive way is to put all the road surrounding parkland underground, which I guess isn’t going to happen. The cheap way which will only make things better, not best, is to slow down all surrounding vehicle traffic substantially. Uproar. Cars travelling more slowly than they might? Well. Yes. It can be done.

PS: I wonder if I’m the only one who feels unsafe walking through the parklands even in daylight? Didn’t feel safe when I was a teenager, don’t feel safe now. More could be done in this regard to facilitate use.

Adelaide: food out


Chianti Classico  is still my favourite breakfast place in Adelaide. Sophisticated menu, impeccable service. However, there are many great sounding places that we didn’t get to this time. Unlike other trips we stayed in our own place and sitting in one’s backyard eating breakfast under the shade of a vine has its attractions.

Ichitaro is is a world-class Japanese restaurant on King William St Hyde Park. Its lunch menu on Fridays and Saturdays is plain unbelievable value and its evening offerings are masterly in taste and presentation, whilst remaining excellent value too. Whereas we will be able to go to London for good breakfasts when we are back in Geneva, nothing will replace Ichitaro.

Mrs Q Gouger St. Good Asian fusion, nice surrounds, overly attentive waiters ( large place, we were early), generous serves, will be back.

Vietnamese Laundry We dropped in for a quick lunch the other day, tried the salads, a really nice heat to them, excellent value at $12 or so per serve.

Lucky Lupitas  We almost didn’t get here, it’s up towards the North end of O’Connell’s St and we had to walk past the enticing smells from a Greek restaurant to get there. We managed, but only just. Just a quick meal, but it was darn good – Manny said it would hold its own in California which prides itself on its Mexican. I can only compare it with the dire Mexican interpretation that New Mexico inflicts upon unsuspecting tourists. No wonder the Mexicans want to build a wall.

Katsumoto is a simple cafe in Gays Arcade, it does cheap unpretentious lunches. We can’t go past the eel and the eggplant to date.

Larry and Ladd There will be a moment in your life when you need a toasted cheese sandwich that very moment and I can only wish, even upon my enemies, that they find Larry and Ladd close to hand. Their plain toasted sandwich is practically life-saving.

Naturally we tried out some of the places close to us. In no particular order:

Sublime East Ave. Everybody should live on a short street with a cafe at the end of it!

Carnevale East Ave. Even closer than Sublime. You can get freshly ground coffee/beans to take home, as well as all the usual things onsite.

The Middle Store Winston Ave. Sort of Lebanesey, nice!

Dear Daisy  Leah Street. Cute, and like the others named above, all nice places to hang out.

Bar Fifty 8 Brand new, a couple of us grabbed coffee there on our way back from lunch at the Rice Bar and it was declared excellent. It has a good look about it and we look forward to lunch there some time.

Pickle in the Middle I just love this breakfast dish and haven’t yet managed to get past it: Breakfast greens 16 Poached egg, shredded kale, Asian greens, snow peas, whole oat kernels and lentil sprouts, toasted seeds, watermelon radish, orange. If you ask me it sounds weird at best, but honestly? It’s fantastic!!

By Blackbird Still haven’t been here – it has a dark look from the street which somehow puts me off – but a friend brought their cakes around recently and they are stunning. In the posh cake French style Manny thought they were at least as good as anything he’s had in Geneva. We are going to have to bite the bullet and go there one day.

A small intro to the next two. One of the things that makes Adelaide special is non-licensed cafes that open at night, generally specialising in dessert. The atmosphere is totally different from places that serve grog. Long may they thrive!

Eggless Cafe Famous doesn’t begin to describe this place. We had to go three times before we joined a queue small enough that we could actually get in when it opened! The first time I swear it was about minus 2 degrees, strong wind, rain, we got there a few minutes after opening time and yet the best we could do is put our name on the waiting list and try coming back in 45 minutes. Which we did not do. Instead we went to….

Spats Cafe  A blast to the past if ever there was one. Seventies written all over it. We love it and to have both this and Eggless Cafe (which is so very different from Spats) within a short walk of each other is very lucky for us. Spats isn’t quite as crowded as Eggless, but it’s close. You can book.

I can see there are many eating out experiences we’ll be leaving for our next visit, this one coming to a close soon. I pray that Adelaide doesn’t end up like Melbourne with too many cafes and not enough anything elses. For now, it has a great balance and more on that next post.

Something’s wrong with the banks

With his $12 million salary this year, Commonwealth Bank chief executive Ian Narev has become the latest poster boy for corporate excess, making 106 times that of an average Commonwealth Bank worker.

Nearly $10 million of his pay was in bonuses, while 25 per cent of the long term portion was awarded for customer satisfaction. from the ABC

Today I queued at the Commonwealth Bank opposite the Central Market. This sort of bank used to have a large line of tellers, but now it is down to one. There was an employee standing near the door ‘welcoming’ people who stepped in. I said to the lady in front of me that it would be better if that man was working instead of standing there.

She was elderly and bitter. She worked hard and paid her taxes for 50 years. Now she is treated like shit. She is treated like shit by society at large who thinks it can’t afford to pay her pension. She’s treated like shit by the bank. The same bank who employs the CEO who has apparently made $4M this year just for his customers being satisfied. How dare society, how dare the bank.

May I assure you, Mr Narev and the Commonwealth bank, that your customers are not satisfied. We do not want to wait an eternity for a teller. Once I had got to see the one teller in a bank which seemed to have lots of employees doing other things, we had this conversation.

Me: I’d like to get withdraw some money.

Teller: Hey, you could link your account up to a card and then use the machines.

Me: I don’t want to use machines, I want to stand in a queue and talk to a human being when I get to the top.

Teller: But you wouldn’t have to wait if you took my suggestion.

Me: If you took my suggestion and employed more tellers, I wouldn’t have to wait.

Teller: Do you have a financial adviser? I can organise an initially free appointment with a financial adviser for you.

Me: I could have said already, not unreasonably, I just want my fucking money. Is that too much to ask. Instead I said no thank you, I don’t want financial advise.

Teller: We’ve got some great Apps you can download to your phone.

Me: thinking WTF, this is how Mr Narev gets his customer satisfaction bonus? By getting this teller to harrass me instead of giving me my money?, said: I’m a Luddite, actually.

Teller: (thinking WTF’s a Luddite, no doubt) gives up. Offers me what I went in for in the first place.

Mr Narev, you should be ashamed of yourself, taking this money. You should employ more bank tellers. You should not use them to try to force services upon the customers.

Society, what are you thinking of? It’s not even your money, it’s her money, this lady who has paid her fair share of taxes and probably a contribution to make up for whatever Mr Narev avoids.

Our elderly citizens are angry. Something is wrong with our society. Something is wrong with a society so greedy for its bank dividends, it will kowtow to the excesses of men (sic) like Narev, whilst treating those they should be honouring like they are tedious interruptions to their time and their financial planning. Couldn’t we do better?


Evgenia Markina 1978-2016

Earlier this evening Genia, dear friend of Oliver, Roberto, Katia, Manny and me, died. She experienced a brutal 3 week battle with secondary liver cancer, diagnosed too late and treated ineffectively before succumbing.


Genia: star historian, PhD student, dancer, photographer, hiker, skier, knitter. Genia: who had much shit to put up with in life and dealt with it full on. Genia: classic Russian looks, disposition, straightforward directness.

Genia: in hospital undertaking the chemo treatment which ultimately killed her by failing in its duty, her tumour getting bigger not smaller, when she wrote this:

“The photo I didn’t take or This Is Love”.

As some of you might know, I’m hanging out in the hospital for the Valentine’s Day. I’m spared from chocolates and flowers ads, as well as photos of 20 year olds kissing and holding hands on every corner. But it’s not a story about me.

It’s about a photo I wish I took today. My neighbour is a woman who’s been fighting breast cancer for eleven years. Gaunt, with dry and wrinkled skin, hair cropped to her skull, her eyes are tired, her look is dull. Eleven years ago she was a mother of two, now she’s a grandmother of four. She proudly shows me some photos of them. Then he comes. Medium height, medium built, bold, fit, with a smile in his eyes. I politely leave the room. When I’m back I see a perfect frame around them – that is the photo I must take!

I tell them spontaneously that their presence is for me what Valentine’s Day really should be about. A couple that sticks together against a chronic and deadly illness. Not children or grandchildren, not other people or 45 years together defines them as a couple. It is simply love.

She’s sitting in the bed, he is slightly lower, on the chair. They hold each other’s right hands and some invisible energy is flowing from one body to another. There is a smile now in her eyes, they are no longer dull, but warm and tender. Just like his.

I wish I had taken this photo.

Genia: died without being a couple. Indeed her choices in that department caused her much grief. But I think she knew, as she called upon her friends to help her through what turned out to be the last three weeks of her life, that love was also this, her friends at her beck and call. She knew there was nothing we wouldn’t do to help and she was completely appreciative.

Genia: who generally hated my knitting, laughed at my technique, but wanted this hat. The photo (like the other) is taken about one and a half weeks before she died.


How could I say no? And the other day when she sent me the pictures, this exchange by email:

Genia: Remind me why you gave to me? I definitely didn’t ask you first ( you can’t do it to a fellow knitter, bad manners!).

Me: Ha, yes, well, you broke protocol there. You looked at it and said you wanted it! Or you tried it on and said you wanted it. You’d just got your C permit (or something like that) and were bubbling over. So I said yes, you could!

Genia: I’m blushing ! And once again – you are an incredible friend !

And now I want the hat back again, not because it was mine, but because it was Genia’s.

Genia: a part of my life in Geneva since the week I arrived here. We will never forget you, dear friend.

Outside drinking in Geneva.

Good on the Geneva council for trying to stop drinking outside on Rue de L’Ecole de Medecine. It’s horrible living next to groups of people getting pissed and being dicks. Switzerland has a very simple approach to noise. It’s not social, it’s anti-social.

So the idea that the drinkers are going to stage a demonstration tonight is pathetic. Go home. Get pissed. Quietly so that other people around you can have their lives.

The thing I find most interesting about the situation as it unfolds – the young drinkers who think, seriously, that they ‘made’ this street, which means it used to be somewhere they didn’t want to go and therefore didn’t exist – is the very idea that there is ‘nothing for young people to do in Geneva’. There is no ‘night life’ in Geneva.

What a pathetic definition of nightlife. Geneva is the most amazing place for culture. It still has ten or so independent cinemas – though, alas, they struggle. It has many theatre groups. It has much live music of all kinds. It has opera. It has bridge clubs. Chess clubs. Reading groups. Acting groups. Knitting groups. You can tango outside on the side of the lake. Or rollerskate if that’s more your thing. I’ve never seen a place with so much stuff you can do at night relative to population. You can go to bed early enough to get up in the morning. Mornings are beautiful in Geneva.

But the only thing that actually defines ‘night life’ for ‘young people’ and this seems to include, say, thirty year olds, so people who used to have jobs and children and the commensurate life, is getting hugely pissed outside other people’s residences and being really loud and offensive about it. That is apparently their definition of what fun should be. I might add, that one of their justifications for ruining the lives of people who try to live on the streets they turn into pisspots is that it’s ‘known’ that this is what they are, so people ‘choose’ to live there. That argument would be bollocks anywhere, but especially in Geneva where there is often no choice about where to live.

I wish the residents of the area nothing but the best of luck in their ongoing battle to make their district livable again. I hope our area does the same.