Tuesday, March 25, 2014

What I did on my holidays (3)

This is about 3 months in the past now, and still I haven’t got around to blogging all of it. I think I will just do these last chapters as photos with captions. Better for all of us really. We borrowed Phillip and Andrea’s car for the day to go to AQWA, and had a freeway adventure just getting there and back. The coastal highway is a little bit CHiPs if anyone else remembers that show.

This is my favourite letterbox I have ever seen anywhere.
This was at AQWA, the fabulous aquarium at Hillary's Boat Harbour, north of Perth. 
I was trying to get the classic ‘just cracked a joke’ expression moray eels have, and didn’t quite nail it.
Baby crocodile. Cute but fangy.
Toadfish, y’all.
Contractually obliged to call this a ‘denizen of the deep’. Sigh.
Sun setting into the sea -that’s worth travelling 3000km to witness. This was our local beach.


I asked Michael today what this meant, and where he got it from. He said it was joke, but nobody got it. And he had just made it up. It’s got a translated-from-ancient-Greek-ness about it. I’ve said it before and I’ll doubtless say it again - he’s unique, that one. But having said that, as his cousin Arthur grows up some very interesting parallels are apparent.

Boys in the paper, again

Our platypus. They look quite a lot like a rock when they are sitting still, but fortunately he was pretty busy.

Marcus and Michael watch the platypus in the rivulet, with Lily and Katherine McShane. Photos by Sharyn Jones.
The other day Nick and Anna and their girls Lily & Katherine came up for lunch. Lately there have been a lot of sightings of a platypus in the Hobart Rivulet – Elf has seen it herself so many times on her way to work that its practically a big yawn to her now. Nevertheless, she thought we should take the visitors and Winston for a walk down there to see if we could locate the little monotreme.

We did - this was made easier by the presence of a photographer squatting on the bank, giving him the once over with the long lens. She was delighted to get some human interest involved, and so the kids stayed on the bank for about 15 minutes watching him very close up, while they were snapped from all angles.

The story in the newspaper is here, and West Hobart mother of two, Anna Berger, even got in with a nice quote. 

We did think though – doesn't that picture of the kids look a bit Photoshopped? The edge of Michael’s shadow is flat and perfectly vertical. Odd.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Bad dog


One very stormy night, with the power of panic, Winston worked out he could get in through the cat door. Since then he has done it regularly whenever he is left at home and the door is not blocked. I set up the iPad to catch him, so we could see how he does it. This clip shows his eventual success after about 12 attempts.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014


Time for a catch-up blog. I will go through the family one by one.

Elf is working virtually full-time until at least the end of June. She is coping OK with that. She really enjoys her current boss. She feels much more appreciated for the amazing range of skills she has and her no-fuss way of just getting things done. Elf is the family gardener and the continuing lack of rain is an irritant, but I secretly think she enjoys spending an hour out there in the evening just hosing.

I have had three months of very little work in the freelance design world. Several mooted projects were put on ice, and combined with the usual summer downturn it has been a pretty thin time. Elf took on extra hours as a consequence. Work is now starting to cascade from everywhere, which is a relief. You do wish it would even out a bit though.

I had one karma moment which signified the turnaround. A client I worked with last year rang, and I was pretty disappointed when instead of a design job, she wanted me to meet and mentor a young designer, for free of course. I said yes, but actually had to borrow cash from Elf to cover the cost of two coffees. So I didn’t go into it feeling like Mr. Successful Designer With A Lot To Offer. During our one-hour meeting I had contact from two new clients. [One located across the road from the cafe I was in at the time]. This after 3 months of tumbleweeds blowing through my office. Since then almost everything on-hold has come off-hold and various new projects have been sprung on me. 

I am starting a new design/blogging project collaborating with Dugald Jellie, who last year blogged Richmond’s footy season under the name Tiger Tiger Burning Bright. Stand by for details when we launch in time for Round 2. Yeah, well we are playing Gold Coast away in Round 1 so it hardly counts, alright?

Michael is doing a maths extension program at the Uni each Friday. He has finally got his way and we are canning his guitar lessons after the one today. He’s more of a piano guy. He is making beautiful music on it, and his guitar teacher suggested we just expose him to as much piano music as possible. Michael had a fantastic day at the school athletics carnival - he has finally accepted that it is important to participate as much as possible. He went in just about everything, and won his 200m and the sack race, as usual. He has a 100% record in sack races, usually winning by half the length of the track.

Marcus is now settled in at a new soccer club, Hobart Olympia. It’s a bit remote by local standards; but then again on Sunday I broke my previous best and got us there from home in 13 minutes. So – not really that far. He played his first game of the year on Sunday, wearing the blue of Olympia after about 110 games for South Hobart and Central Region, all in red, going back to 2008. So that was weird.

He is recovering well from the cactus incident. High school has been undemanding yet interesting enough for him so far. He just got an A+ on his first Chinese test. He will be learning the flute, and has been given one of Imp’s two(!) Jacki was also a junior flautist so there is some pedigree behind the lad. Time to start playing some Jethro Tull.

Footy predictions 2014

For once I have got to this before the season is already half over. I am seeing Hawthorn as minor premiers, going into the Grand Final as favourites and getting rolled by Geelong. Richmond will be top 4 for much of the season then fade. But this year they will win a final.

  1. Geelong
  2. Hawthorn
  3. Freo
  4. Sydney
  5. North
  6. Richmond
  7. Essendon
  8. Collingwood
  9. West Coast
  10. Adelaide
  11. Gold Coast
  12. Carlton
  13. Western Bulldogs
  14. Port Adelaide
  15. St Kilda
  16. Melbourne
  17. Greater Western Sydney
  18. Brisbane
Brownlow Medal: Nate Fyfe

Coleman Medal: Jeremy Cameron, GWS, 66

Grand Final: Geelong d Hawthorn

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Cactus boy

Marcus had his mate Caleb staying with us last weekend. On Saturday afternoon they were walking Winston, who as usual was off the lead. He’s allowed to chase the rabbits up in Wellesley Park as long as he doesn’t catch any. For some reason Marcus decided to chase Winston, tripped over a tree root and fell onto a large agave cactus. Sigh.

They are the strappy yellow and green type pictured above. I’d never really noticed before but each strap has a 1-inch long spike on the end of it. The spike entered his forearm and snapped off - it was very painful. Elf took him to an after-hours doctor across town. He asked for an ultrasound scan to help find it. The broken end, which should have been near the surface, couldn’t be felt at all.

Sunday passed and on Monday I took him to the local radiologists, but they couldn’t fit him in. On Tuesday I took him back, and they found he had 15mm of spike buried in the muscle, about halfway down from the skin to the bone. The local GP passed on it, and asked us to take it to the surgeon at the Royal, to be done under general anaesthetic. We got in for a consultation there on Thursday. Our appointment arranged by the local GP had somehow not been lodged in their system, so we waited a while and finally saw a junior doctor, the registrar, and two med students, who all thought the whole thing was very interesting. They named Marcus Cactus Boy.

All of that week Marcus was going to school, and I would pick him up for the various appointments. He wasn’t able to write, but he could take notes on his laptop and at least he was there (he has just started high school, and I feel like every day some new things fall into place).

The hospital asked us to be there at 7am Friday, so we attended and waited. We were sent home around 8.30am to come back at 11am, but the phone rang while we were driving, asking us to come back now. When we got back things started to happen. (I’m glad we didn’t have to wait longer as Marcus hadn’t eaten since the night before, and was not even allowed to drink water.)

They cap-and-gowned us both, as I was allowed to come into the little anaesth. annex with him. Elf is thoroughly needle-phobic, and in fact argues that it is the only logical way to be. She was at work, but on her behalf I asked if Marcus could have gas to dull his senses before the cannula went in for the serious anaesthetics. They said no - but they used a local anaesth. cream called Angel which they swore by. I distracted him with a blow-by-blow account of the previous evening’s cricket. Still, the cannula going in felt about the same as the original injury, Marcus said.

Then I was invited to go for a walk, and they said they’d call me when he was out. It took about an hour - they said later that is about as long as these procedures ever take – it was unusual that it was entirely within the ‘muscle capsule’.

I wandered about for a while but I find the environs of the hospital completely charmless and dispiriting. Someone is smoking in every nook and cranny, and across the road the police station and magistrates court host their own nervous and/or pissed-off knots of smokers. I once thought the large public hospital with its pregnant teens and freshly stitched pub-brawlers made an interesting nexus with the courts opposite, with their extended families of dumb, unlucky or plain bad Tasmanians. Now I just don’t want to be there.

Marcus was awake but very woozy when I went in. He felt terribly tired, and a few tears slid down his face, just from fatigue I think. He looked older somehow. He was asking “have they done it? Is it out?” and a male nurse gave us a little specimen bottle with the culprit in it - looking actually pretty harmless. After an hour or so in recovery they took him down to the street in a wheelchair while I fetched the car.

We were home by 2pm. I thought he would just zonk out, but he stayed awake until about 9.30pm. Unfortunately being Friday we had the usual visit from Imp, Ed, Karri and Miah - everyone else has dinner while Ed and I play indoor soccer, then we catch up after, and it sometimes is nearly ten before they are out the door and we can get the boys into bed.

We got a call during the week asking if Marcus would play for Olympia* in a national under-13 8-a-side carnival in Launceston. It’s on next weekend. Because of a school camp, today was the only chance he had to train with them before then, so I took him along with strict instructions to stand out if any activity was hurting his bandaged arm. He threw himself into it just as he usually would. Hopefully in a week’s time I will be able to watch him play without wincing like I was today.

*Now Marcus has finished primary school, the question of where to play soccer is a complicated one. He has been training with Olympia, over the river at Warrane, where some of his friends from Central Region are playing. Central Region, for whom he played rep soccer the last three years, has either been dissolved, or not been dissolved, depending on who you ask.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Closed captions

The things you miss when you don’t turn on the closed captions!

Friday, February 07, 2014

What I did on my holidays (2)

I should say a bit about the house we borrowed in Perth. Our first impression was it was dark and cool. All across the front were louvres that can be opened/closed independently, or swung back out of the way. We had most of them closed most of the time. The bedrooms and living room had those reverse cycle air con units - we tried to use them as little as possible, only when it got over about 40° in the day, and few of the hotter nights. There was a proper pool just by the back door, an entertainment area beside it, and beyond that a path/cricket pitch, a bit of lawn, and an amazing treehouse in a big tropical palm - it was completely invisible from down below. 

I enjoyed the cricket setup very much, especially because as right-handers we both had to play offside shots. Our cricket spot at home has the house hard up on the offside, and you can only score by hitting straight or hoiking legside across the line.

Elf planned our days out very well. While the tempertaures were low, about 27°-30°, we got through some of the “walking around outside” attractions, such as Perth Zoo. We caught the bus into the city, then walked about 4 or 5 blocks to the river, where we caught a ferry over to South perth where the giraffes, parrots and lizards were waiting. Our all-day bus ticket covered the ferry too. The zoo is a just a short walk from the jetty on the other side.

We thought it was a great zoo - and it catered for visitors well with lots of shade and water fountains. Highlights were the elephant, orangutans, the massive reticulated python and the nocturnal house.

On the ferry - emu outside, Michael inside.

Cassowary with lethal claws apparent. It does not like being called “bonehead’.
Does this need a caption? Not really.
Some kind of mutant leopard-horse.
These guys are not of sufficient rarity or zoological interest to have in the zoo.
Yet they too would like free food. It’s a bit of a dilemma. It’s hard to tell but they
are on the roof of the enclosure, about 10 metres up in the air.
On the way back we decided to have look at Perth Bells,
the spiky building in the centre.

The clock that is attached to the bells came from Ascot Racecouse in England.
It was time for it’s daily wnding and the boys were invited to help out.
Perth city from up in the spire. This re-developing area on the left is Elizabeth Pier, or “Betty’s Jetty”

Thursday, February 06, 2014

What I did on my holidays (1)

We did our house-swap with a family in Perth, as mentioned a couple of posts ago. Then we were doing a major top-to-bottom clean of the house. It’s a bit of an unusual situation for people you don’t even know to be living for weeks in your fully furnished and clutter-laden house, while you are elsewhere. In fact, while you are doing the same in their house. We felt like we had to bag and bundle and stow a whole lot of stuff that had just been floating around, not for security but just to make life easier for our guests (and hosts), the Brandises.

So - we flew to Perth. I took Hattie down to the cattery the day before, but Winston stayed behind to welcome the visitors - he would be looking after them while we were away. My Mum was at the house when they arrived to explain the things that Winston could not.

I have some very good old friends, Phillip and Andrea, who happen to live 3 minutes walk from our swap house, in the suburb of Floreat. Phillip collected us at the airport and drove us “home”. It was pretty warm and very dry. It didn’t crack 30° in our first five days, so we had an easy introduction. Just lovely, blue skies all day, day after day. (Meanwhile Hobart was getting blown sideways by freezing winds, and after a white-knuckle landing the Brandises arrived at our house to find the power out for hours due to fallen trees).

In Perth we dumped our stuff in the house, had a bit of a reconnoitre and then walked up the road to have dinner with Phillip and Andrea and their kids, Isobel and Ronan, roughly the same age as ours. They were supposed to be going to Tasmania the next day, to see family and gad about for 2 weeks, but due to some non-serious medical misadventures they had to postpone leaving for a week. So we had neighbourhood buddies for that week, and then enjoyed the use of their car once they had gone.

We had a list of outings we wanted to make, starting with Scitech and Kings Park. We did all but one of our first week of outings by public transport. The bus stops for downtown were close, and the buses were on time, clean and pretty economical. We paid $11.60 for a family day ticket, only useable after 9am. We found our groove after a while, packing sandwiches, fruit and water to be as self-sufficient as possible, so then we felt like a pick-me-up we could spend our money on an ice-cream or coffee.

Our first trip was to Scitec, which was right by the bus route into town. It’s a science exploration centre, full of well thought-out and well-maintained activities. The boys have been to a few of these places, and they thought this one was great.

Michael generates around 2000 kilo-rads of science.
This is a trough of rubber crumbs, that is 3D-tracked in some way so as the kids push it 
and pile it up, the contour lines change, the colours change and water animates in the  
lower areas. If you shade an area with your hand "rain" falls on it and animated water 
gushes down the side of the real hill. Its ... incredible really.
Here are a few pics from Outing 2, to Kings Park. It’s a massive expanse of land on a hill overlooking the city and the broad waters of the Swan River.

Michael and Marcus make friends with a ficus.
In fact, a very large Port Jackson Fig.
Admiring the Swan. I have never been able to work out how Perth works from looking at maps.
I have a slightly better feel for it now.
This 750 year-old boab had to go when a highway up in the Kimberley region was being widened.
It was carefully removed and trucked 3200km to Perth.  
There is a water-play area where we found this vermillion-coloured dragonfly.
The old Swan Brewery has an amazing position on the water.
It’s now luxury apartments.
A view south, over to South Perth (centre) and down towards
the confluence of the Canning and Swan Rivers (right).