Category Archives: Melbourne

Melbourne Research: Brother Baba Budan

This cafe, at 359 Little Bourke St, Melbourne , is named for the man who reputedly first smuggled coffee beans out of Yemen (and consequently brought joy to the world).

A version of BBB appears in the first chapter of Number One Fan. The cafe isn’t identified by name in the story, but the cosy, industrial ‘distressed’ look of the walls, the metal scoop that is a door handle and, of course, the inverted forest of chairs hanging from the ceiling are reflected in the look of the story version.

In 2009, BBB was run by the owner of North Melbourne’s St Ali, another great Melbourne cafe. (In 2019 it gets its house roast from Seven Seeds, another Melbourne coffee superstar.) 

It’s tiny, with one communal table and a few stools scattered around periphery benches. The only food it serves are a few pastries, which are also excellent. I rarely have to queue for coffee, but there can occasionally be a short wait while visitors armed with guide books come to take pictures of the ceiling’s bristling chair legs and of course the coffee.

I prefer other people to make my coffee – an espresso-machine cafe latte is da bomb! – but we get their house blend and their decaf for making plunger coffee at home, for those hours when *gasp* BBB is closed! 

I suppose it’s cheating to call it research to drink here, but I’ll do that anyway, because that makes me happy, and you should do the things that make you happy, right?

Because it’s tiny, there’s not always somewhere to sit and enjoy watching the staff being so professional and the Melbourne coffee crowd being so very appreciative of their excellent brew. 

Instead, bring a Keep Cup or equivalent, get your coffee to take away, and sit on the steps of the Melbourne GPO (though not at its own excellent cafe on its terrace, obviously). Contemplate your delicious sins while watching the trams, and decide if you’ve done enough of them.

Research: Melbourne in 2009

The next book in the Duo Ex Machina series, Number One Fan, is set in Melbourne in 2009.

What was going on in Australia and Melbourne that year?

For a start, I found and photographed this plaintive sign which had been shoved into a bin down near the Sofitel Hotel, on the Flinders Lane side.

I never did find out why the placard had been made or why it had been dumped as though it caused the placard-maker pain, but the sign and its sad ending have always made me wonder what the story was.

In 2009, Australia’s Prime Minister was Kevin Rudd. He and the Labor Party had won government by a landslide in 2007 and he promptly signed the Kyoto Protocol, apologised to the Stolen Generations, finished pulling Australian troops out of Iraq and instigated several education and communications policies, including the National Broadband Network.

It was kind of downhill after that,  and in mid-2010 he was replaced by his deputy, Julia Gillard. But that’s a whole other year and not part of Frank and Milo’s 2009 story.

In that year, Australia was playing it’s regular game of Natural Disaster Bingo, with floods in Queensland, the Black Saturday bushfires in Victoria that killed 173 people, torrential rains in NSW, followed by more floods in Queensland and NSW.

This was the year Geelong won the Septemer AFL Grand Final and Shocking won the Melbourne Cup in November.

In February, the St Jerome Laneway Festival overflowed its location after four successful years (leading to new locations in 2010 that would fit everyone). The line-up included The Temper Trap, Tame Impala and Architecture in Helsinki.

The Black Eyed Peas, Kings of Leon, Lady Gaga and the Hilltop Hoods were all over the charts. Jessica Mauboy and Guy Sebastian were in the Top 100 too.

So that’s a taste of what was happening in 2009, when Frank and Milo are recording a new album, setting up an office to deal with admin, and find themselves drawn into another maelstrom of crime and danger.