Monday, April 20, 2015

New Norfolk

Photo © Annette Bailey via Twitter, actually taken yesterday.
Elf suggested we take the last day of the school holidays and drive up to New Norfolk. This area, the Derwent Valley, is famous for its beautiful autumn colours. Some say they are best in May, but the poplars were terrific today.

On the drive up (stunning day, lovely reflections on the river) we were just coming up the last hill into New Norfolk when a family of turkeys wandered out of the swamp by the highway and I had to stomp the brakes to just miss cleaning up the last one.

On the other side of New Norfolk I took us off up a winding hilly road that promised to take us to Rosegarland, my vote for the loveliest name in Tasmania. We ended up at a dizzy elevation with a choice of three narrow dirt roads and a sign saying ALL DOGS WILL BE SHOT. We turned around.

On the way up we had passed a bus-turned-into-a-shed so although we didn't get to Rosegarland at least we got another look at that.

I have an admission; despite living in southern Tasmania since 1986 and hearing a great deal about Willow Court Asylum, I had never been there until today. I thought it was over by the old Royal Derwent Hospital, and that I had just never quite found the right spooky dead end road. In fact it's close to town, and a new Woolies has been built on what used to be the Willow Court football ground. 

I am going to go back and have a better look one day and also document some other buildings and footy history in the area.

Administration building, Willow Court
We parked near Willow Court where a small daggy market was underway, not intending to go to it but just to go for a walk along the river there. When we came back I ducked up to take one photo of the 1930s red brick admin building, and a man named Mr Garwood carrying a Woolies bag came over to talk.

I hadn't been thinking of it at all, but as he was telling me about the bad old days the penny dropped; my grandfather's twin brothers were here. When they were about 6 or 8, one of them was kicked in the head by a horse. He was never the same and sadly the other twin also lost his faculties, and they were committed together.

My Grandfather was nicknamed Didds. He was the youngest of 11. My Dad told me that he and his sister would go up to New Norfolk with Didds when he went to visit his brothers in at Willow Court, but they had to stay outside and play in the park.

The buildings on the very large site are a mixture of different eras. The barracks here is older than Port Arthur, Mr Garwood said. He remembers the screams and moans of inmates drifting across the town as people went about their business. When I was little in Burnie (oblivious to the family connection) we would joke about people being sent to New Norfolk to the funny farm. It's a stigma that has stayed with the town.

While I was stuck talking to Mr Garwood, who had a lot to tell me, the family had decided they might as well go and look at the market. The daggy bits we had seen outdoors were just a small part of the market which was largely indoors. I bought an old footy book for $8 and Elf got some lemon butter.

Then we drove around for a while, and then came back to the Bush Inn for lunch. Old fashioned fried everything counter meals. The waitresses in their 60s, most of the diners in their 70s. There is a lovely old fashioned Tasmanian way of speaking that is really warm, lacking in the grammar department but that just makes it warmer. Our waitress said "OK darl, alright love, and now I'll get you yer knives and forks and that". 

I was wearing my Bones McGhie t-shirt. The way in and out of the dining room was via a tiny public bar, squeezing past a few standing drinkers around an open fire. As I approached, a man eyeballed me without stopping his conversation, then when I reached him he said " Ah, it's good to see some fuckin' decent colours around here at last eh?"

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Morning paddle

Photograph by Odille
Autumn is here. The beautiful warm days are persisting, and with each one I am sitting at my desk looking out, wondering if this will be the last chance to take out the wave ski.

This morning I made a quick plan, got the ski on the car and set off before I thought better of it. I haven't paddled at Cornelian Bay before - always been a bit put off by the sludgey sand - but I felt like paddling around to the fuel tanks at Selfs Point. That probably sounds weird but I have always found the huge white cylinders of different shapes and sizes clustered on the edge of the water to be very handsome. Mt Direction is a camel hump of bushy green behind. Its a nice scene, I just can't lay my hand on a drawing of it at the moment.

Google Street View
I braved the squishy sludge and pushed out into the glassy water. Its a fairly sheltered bay, sitting between the Domain and the cemetery. I wanted to paddle out of the shelter and around the point of the cemetery so I could admire the tanks from the water.

Once I got out there I could actually smell oil - I am sure it wasn't from the tanks but just the normal smell of a working river. Not that the Derwent is busy by any means. In the half hour I was paddling out, only one boat went downriver. The wake took so long to reach me it caught me by surprise a few minutes later. The oil smell took me back to being little, on Christmas trips to Sydney, and being out on the busy harbour on ferries. I wonder how many people actually work on the water in Sydney now compared to the 1980s?

Once I had ogled the tanks I kept pushing out into the river, aiming straight at Geilston Bay on the other side. I had half an idea to just keep going and surprise Mum and Dad for morning tea. But to arrive near their house would require fighting the current, and I didn't fancy a half hour walk in saturated shorts. I might one day try it, but I'll start from upstream, let someone know first, and probably ask for a lift back to the car afterwards.

After a while I realised that my next target, an orange buoy, wasn't getting any closer, and I had effectively got myself into an endless lap-pool situation. So I took the easy way out and turned around and headed back in.

I didn't fancy the squidge so I went over the rockier side of the bay where the boathouses are. A few of them had morning residents. You are not allowed to spend the night in them, but if I had one I would certainly be down there early on a day like this. I am considering this morning my anti-school holiday. Soon enough I will have kids on holiday on my hands while I try to work. For now they are all safely in school for a couple more days.

Matt Newton took this one years ago, i just had it lying around.
After I stickybeaked around the boathouses I pulled up on the crappy oyster-shell encrusted south side of the bay. Not really any better, but at least I know that now. Walked around the bay and fetched the car. Now I am back home and the day's work can commence.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Chess Club for grown ups

I supervised the Taroona High team at a chess tournament the other day. There are some terrific players at THS but many of the older ones have drifted away from chess, which leaves Marcus as the main hope of the team although he's only just turned 13. He carried South Hobart Primary team's hopes through his last 2 or 3 years playing chess there, too.

He did OK at the tournament, but as he often does he finished between 3rd and 10th. I feel like he puts so much time into working on getting better, and tries so hard in tournaments but isn't making inroads against those top 4 or 5 kids. He's certainly smart enough. So I asked him if he wanted to go and try out the Hobart Chess Club.

The lady who runs the school chess tournaments mentioned it years ago. The juniors run from 5 to 6.30 on Monday evenings and the adults follow; kids are welcome to stay and play against adults if they wish. I didn't push it as who wants a commitment on Monday nights when there other things all week, especially in soccer season?

But now I think Marcus, who loves playing and loves to do well, is ready to have regular games against strong players and meet the wider chess community. He seemed cautiously keen so we went along this evening to the Migrant Resource Centre in Molle St, which is not far from home.

There was a coaching session for the first hour, playing through a famous game; then the kids (all boys) were paired up. Marcus played a kid of similar ability and age to himself and had a long tight game that he ended up losing. By then it was 6.30 and the adults were shuffling in.

Elf and Michael and I had been reading books and generally sitting around the edges, and all four of us were getting pretty hungry, but Marcus was very keen to stay and play. The rest of us went off and got takeaways at the Tandoori House.

When we got back he was just starting his third game against his nominated adult opponent, and he was having a wonderful time. Marcus won all three. He loves it, thinks the people are very nice and the balance of coaching and playing is just right. He was concerned the opponents would be too hard (or too easy) but I think he is going to get heaps of good competition and heaps of variety too.

Sunday, March 08, 2015

The last school sports

Yesterday I went to the South Hobart primary sports day for probably the last time. With Michael in Grade 6 this year, we are experiencing quite a few lasts. We started our involvement with the school in 2006, (almost matching the life of this blog), so it's quite an era coming to an end. Given the fluidity of people's work lives now, and I expect in the future, most kids will probably never have an 8-year stint anywhere again after primary school.

Michael is developing his thoughtful and responsible side. He shys away from the kind of leadership roles that naturally appeal to Marcus, but in his low-key way I can see he is enjoying being "top of the school".

At the sports I found him sitting in the back row of the grandstand, not on his own but just in his own space, behind some friends. Where Marcus revelled in leading, and encouraging, it is rare to hear Michael express enthusiasm for others efforts, and we are really trying hard to work on that with him. It comes very naturally to me to babble encouraging generalities while watching kids sport or playing my own, but it will have to be a learned skill for our youngest.

Of course it's nice to be encouraging, but beyond that it is good for you yourself, I believe. Even if it's claptrap and the people nearest me dearly wish I would shut up, I am certain that some kind of soup of positivity infuses and nurtures my brain while I am being Mr Encouragement.

Back to Michael and the sports. Grade 6 kids are chivvied into participating in practically everything. Once I was there too to join in the persuading, Michael had no hope of receding into the grandstand as he wished.

He had won his 100m race before I arrived - he usually runs in the "not that fast" heat and has won it comfortably now two years in a row. I also missed seeing his long jump, but I understand he came fourth.

I came in exactly at the start of his speciality, the sack race. He has been unbackable favourite for this for some years. It's a shame the monkey race was phased out, he was seriously a world title chance in that one. It was like Walter Lindrum all over again.

His race approach in the sack was "give it the kitchen sink", which probably cost him the win. He is simply the fastest, so if he'd just gone boing boing he would have won comfortably. Instead he took off in a frenzy and fell, injuring his arm and scraping his knee. He got up and then just burned up the track with the most incredible (bagged) closing speed anyone had ever seen. But too late, he hit the front mere inches after the finish line.

After some cajoling he went in the 200m. He is actually quite fast when he applies his mind and legs. He ran in lane 2, starting staggered behind all but one of the others. And he caught them all but one, coming with a terrific finish and just failing to pass Oliver who had spent nearly all his petrol.

Michael's egg and spoon race was not his best, but I was pleased to see that at last SHPS has invested in some Sensible Standard Spoons after some less-than-fair variability in past years.

As ever our family house Derwent was the winner at the end of the day. Join me now in one last rendition of DER WENT (clap clap clap) DER WENT (clap clap clap).

Summit meeting in Richmond

I went to Melbourne for a footy bloggers summit meeting. Had a great time with my TTBB colleague Dugald, and meeting for the first time Craig from Footy Maths Institute, John from Holy Boot's Emporium, and Andy from TTBB and Reading Sideways.

We met at the London Tavern, and then had a stroll through the park around the MCG and a bit of kick to kick.  

Above and below, soaking up the Tigerish atmos of the London Tavern in Lennox St Richmond.

The Canoe Tree. " old eucalyptus scar tree which shows a big scar caused by harvesting of bark for a canoe by the original inhabitants of the Yarra River Valley, the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin nation." -Wikipedia

The Lake Oval, former home of the South Melbourne Football Club. Now its been swanked up as a (locked up) soccer and athletics venue.
Abot 15 years ago before the Lake Oval was redeveloped. The echoes of Laurie Nash and Bobby Skilton that were here then were removed along with the asbestos. 

This next batch are from around Victoria Park, former home of Collingwood Football Club. It is now open to the community and its an object lesson for how this sort of heritage site ought to be retained.

Alistair Jellie fitting in with the frankly yellow-and-black vibe that now permeates Vic Park thanks to health and safety regs.

Magnificent scoreboard sculpture by Anderson Hunt

The sculptures around the MCG are very classy. Shane Warne with just a hint of tub.
DK Lillee photographed from exactly 22 yards away.

A quite moving memorial to Tom Wills, pioneering cricketer and co-inventor of Australian Rules.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Chan and Sukumaran

Amnesty International rang me this afternoon asking me to attend a vigil for Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, who are likely to be executed in Indonesia in the next couple of weeks. I am an Amnesty member and against the death penalty, so it should be a no-brainer. I probably will be there.

But I feel very conflicted about it. Here is why.

Indonesia's sovereignty. The Republic of Indonesia has always had the death penalty, and they have used it regularly since 1973. People inside and outside the country can pressure them to repeal it for all the excellent reasons that apply everywhere else too. And of course in this particular case we can appeal for clemency and so on. But we have done those things. Sometimes they may work but in this case the President of the country has considered it and declined.

The big picture. I want the death penalty repealed in Indonesia. Bashing Joko Widodo over the head with the specifics of this case – the involvement of the AFP, the rehabilitation efforts of the men, their distraught families – none of that will actually help push Indonesia to repeal.

Collateral damage.  In pushing Indonesia to repeal, we need to pick our battles. It’s like selecting a test case to take to court. You may be one of many victims of a criminal, but yours is not the clearest case. The police take another case to court knowing that they have a better chance for conviction. Your own case may never be heard, you are just collateral damage in a larger war. If people in Australia would like test the death penalty in Indonesia, maybe take a wider interest in Indonesian justice. We hear that its corrupt, patchy, painfully slow. Maybe more Australians could get behind an international organisation like Amnesty that tries to work within existing frameworks, applying leverage in the most effective way. You can bet that there are dozens of Indonesian citizens on death row whose convictions were not so cut and dried. I’d rather devote my efforts to having their cases re-examined, saving them and demonstrating the pitfalls of the death penalty, anywhere, for anyone. These Australians may just be collateral damage in a longer struggle.

Consistency. [Take away the death penalty for a second.] If you want to intervene to change their sentence, is it because they are Aussies? Because they are sorry? Because they were dudded by the AFP? Because they lead prayer groups and painting classes?  I don’t feel like I want to change someone’s sentence on that basis. They were guilty, they did a terrible thing and dragged seven others down with them. Rehab is great, good for them, but it was not a hard thing to choose. For me they can rot in jail. [OK, bring back the death penalty.] Now I have to act whether I like it or not. I argued against death for the Bali bombers. Even for Russell Brewer. But I am pretty sure Alan Jones wasn't on my side then.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Seven Mile Beach

We just spent our first of seven nights at a beach resort, courtesy of my mum and dad. It is very nice, has a tennis court and swimming pool, on-site restaurant, and we are in a very private self-contained unit. Of course I am missing the dog and cat, but I will see them shortly when I go home to do some work. We are only twenty minutes away from South Hobart, at Seven Mile Beach.

Mum and Dad have stayed at a couple of Wyndham resorts, and joined some kind of frequent fliers club where you accrue points. They gave us a brochure to choose which resort we would like to stay at, using some of their points. Due to a combination of work commitments and lack of liquidity, we found the only option that worked for us was just crossing the bridge and coming out here near the airport to Wyndham Vacation Resorts Asia Pacific Seven Mile Beach (to use its correct name).

I have bought a carton of books and articles to read, but we found last night that there is pay TV with it's dazzling menu of live sport. I will need to exercise some degree of will power to stick to Plan A rather than just soaking up all 90 minutes plus injury time of relegation battlers Everton v West Brom, for instance.

I have not made a general announcement to clients that I am clocking off for a week. I didn't think it would be necessary as last year work was quite slow to pick up after Christmas, but I have two clients who are already up and going and expecting me to be likewise. I think that a couple of hours today and possibly the same tomorrow should take care of the pressing things that can't wait for our return.

Approx. 3.5 miles of the seven.
The resort is handily located to Hobart Airport

Michael's birthday was on the 24th, so we took with us this turntable, his birthday present.

The units were cleverly designed to be quite private from one another although they are all cheek by jowl. Skilful landscaping.

A radar installation I guess.

The birthday boy, now 11.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Phillip Hughes 1988-2014

When Phillip Hughes was suddenly drafted into the Australian cricket team, they must have got him to pop in to Channel 9 so they could film his little video portrait. When they mention a player or when he comes in to bat, they play this clip of them slowly turning around, lifting their head and giving you a look, you know, like you have just asked to dance with their girlfriend.

Phillip however jerked around as though someone had just dropped a fully laden tea tray.

I am joking around because his death is too sad and incomprehensible for me to address any other way. There have been many beautiful, thoughtful and heartfelt pieces written and I will not even try to match them.

It is a small mercy that of all the world's cricket grounds he was at the SCG. For his family and friends it meant they could be with him and all together over the next two days and hold a vigil for him. If he had been in Mohali or even Perth it would have felt quite different. Michael Clarke has been outstanding and is an ever more impressive leader, who has some more challenging times ahead, maybe the most difficult of his career.

I was fickle in my support for Phillip Hughes. After thrilling to his brilliant start and then despairing of his chances to ever lock down a spot in the team, I was too easily convinced by those who said he was a Shield run machine that just didn't have the technique to make the next level.

His innings that has been warming the cockles of my heart was not a spectacular one. It was full of maturity, and a sense that time was not against him, time was in fact ripening up and rounding out his talents. He batted with Ashton Agar on debut, in that extraordinary partnership at Trent Bridge that dragged Australia back into the match. He talked the young bloke through it and it was so impressive in a low-key way. There is a beautiful recap of it by Anthony Sharwood here.

Rest in peace Phillip Hughes, 1988-2014.

 Pic: Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images