Sunday, February 25, 2018

Letter to the Mercury

Charles Woolley's column about Barnaby Joyce amounts to a whitewash. Most of the media focus has been on his private life and Woolley says, fairly, they need to get over it. 

But to say "He not a mass murderer, a terrorist … or even a crooked politician” is quite a stretch and amounts to a Joyce public relations manoeuvre. 

So, we can construe Woolley is OK with two taxpayer-funded jobs created out of thin air for Vicki Campion? 

Woolley is OK with the taxpayers millions spent on a ‘security upgrade’ of Joyce’s mate’s place in Armidale that he was staying in rent free? 

Woolley is OK with Joyce’s water buybacks at twice the market rate as Agriculture Minister? 

I agree, it’s time to lay off his private life and time to take a good hard look at his conduct as minister, and hold him accountable.

Sunday, February 04, 2018


I’ve just finished Longitude by Dava Sobell. Great story with some amazing characters like Admiral Sir Cloudisely Shovell

Admiral of the Fleet Sir Cloudisely Shovell died along with 2000 sailors in the mass shipwreck of 1707 in the Scilly Isles. 7 years later Parliament passed the Longitude Act offering £20,000 to anyone who could develop a method for ships to accurately calculate their longitude. 

Sobell says one sailor on Shovell’s flagship, who was a native of the Isles, spoke up to warn him they were off course. Shovell had him hanged for insubordination. Shortly after the ship HMS Association foundered on rocks, and three other ships followed; Eagle, Romney and Firebrand.

Shovell’s body washed ashore in Porthellick Cove. Sobell says 30 years later a woman confessed on her deathbed that she had found him on the beach alive, and finished him off so she could take his emerald ring.

North Hobart's tiny house district

I have worked out that in hour I can walk from Red Jelly up here to North Hobart and back. Or I can catch the bus up that way then walk around and have a really good look THEN walk back. I have found a big blackberry bush that I'd quite like to revisit, in a little thru-way between houses.

This is around Smith, George and Wellington Streets, between Argyle St and Letitia St. Some tiny tiny houses around here. (Photos from Google Streetview)


Friday, January 26, 2018

A wander around Rosny Point

I went for a paddle here this morning - Kangaroo Bay. There is a wonderful collection of mid century weatherboards around this area. Once back on land I went for a drive around Rosny Point. Below are some Streetview screen grabs.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

To the ACT (Australian Christmas Territory) - Part 3, Festival of Bleak

Canberra is an unusual place. I try to accept it for what it is; a large decentralised city plonked in the bush, mostly built during the 1970s and marked indelibly with style choices of that era. The population quadrupled from 1960 to 1975, then a recession hit and building stopped dead.

But even by it's own standards, it is looking extremely bleak. There are some water restrictions – but they aren't draconian. Canberrans often have big flat blocks, and native trees predominate; often grey/green, with loads of dry bark piled up under them. Maybe the local flora is naturally bleak. But I have noticed in many places residents have essentially drawn a line across their property and just ignored everything past that point.

Some shopping centres are under a moratorium with no new building allowed and heaps of vacancies. A 5 minute-walk from Felicity's house are the Weetangera Shops. All over Canberra, this model of little clusters of shops was implemented. Here there is a Pakistani restaurant, a bodybuilding centre, a patisserie and a bakery, a dentist and Brazilian Queen hair removal service. There is zero traffic.

The tooth is headed next door for an eyebrow waxing.

You would never know you are less than 10 metres from a sindhi biryani
Further away but a larger are the Hawker Shops.

On my first visit I was overwhelmed by the abundant parking.
I returned to document the bleakness in full. It's not conventional suburban dystopia – there is very little graffiti. Things are just closed, or empty, or both. To be fair it is between Christmas and New Year, and everyone goes to the coast. But… a lot of these places are closed for good. I heard that Girlalang shops were a lot worse, but I didnt get a chance to ghoulishly cruise over there.

This changed to something else at some point but now its essential 'unisex hairdresser-ness' is reasserting.

The play area wasn't ALWAYS deserted but it wasn't hard to get this picture.
It is surrounded by blank brick walls, the back entrances of vacant shops.
Another factor is the Mr Fluffy asbestos scandal. Mr Fluffy was a local insulation business run by Dirk Jansen, that installed asbestos-based insulation in over 1000 homes. The Federal Govt is now buying and demolishing these homes, many in Weetangera. The three below are within a short walk of Felicity's. It is really sad to stand in front of a vacant block with nothing left but a letterbox, and perhaps a garage. Jansen stored the stuff under his own house. He kept installing it despite evidence of its health effects, until 1978.

You can just imagine the pall that this sort of thing could cast over a community. Neighbourhood friendships gone, possibly property values affected, and that nagging worry if your own health might be affected from living next door.

Below is a typical street in Weetangera. The first question this raises for me is; where do you walk? And in practice the answer is – on the road. Footpaths do exist in places but in many areas they have been omitted in favour of green nature-strips on both sides. Residents' approaches to managing nature-strips vary; it may be gravelled over for car-parking, maintained as tidy lawn, allowed to go feral or in many cases, planted with large trees and shrubs making it impassable to foot traffic.

And lastly here is a true Canberra icon – the cyclindrical concrete bus-stop. These date back to (and loudly scream) 1974!! They were designed by Clem Cummings. 

The bleakness is strangely entertaining, but for the good of all Canberrans I hope things turn around and freshen up soon.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

The highest tea

We just had the highest high tea in town, at the Wrest Point Revolving Restaurant.

 It was very amusing. When we arrived we were looking over Queensborough oval and the university, but in no time we were leaving it behind and pivoting towards Battery Point. I would estimate it was travelling at around 70cm a minute, out at the perimeter. I enjoy looking at mirror images of the world, and the central core of the restaurant is all mirrored walls and doors to make this possible. You can see bits of the view in reverse before you get around to see them directly.

 A perspiring young man brought us a tray of 4 x 4 of little cakes, and 4 each scones, smoked salmon sandwiches, brown bread sandwiches and white bread sandwiches (crusts cut off and after hours flung down 17 floors to the ravenous gulls, you imagine).

 Service was good, the food was very good without being amazing. The standout was a little green-tea-flavoured creamy inch-high cube that weighed about 0.00001 gram. Marcus was given some pretty cheap orange juice but that might be a kids menu thing. He is about 6' 1" though. Proper juice for everyone please.

 We had rotated right around the Derwent side and just made visual landfall back in Sandy Bay when the fire alarm went off. It said
 It said that about 150 times before we got any instructions. Staff went around saying to other groups (not us though) "It's a false alarm so just don't worry and stay calm". It went on and on. We were just finishing our 2nd cup of tea – we'd finished but probably would have stayed to enjoy the view a bit longer. Finally some Wrest Point security or maintenance people arrived and a fire warden. They wandered around poking this and that then frowned and…
 … gradually word was given to us from Perspiring Boy that we should please make our way to the fire door. We did, near the front of the queue. We were told to wait there so we did. Then someone else came by and looked astonished that we were just standing there, and said 'Open it! Go down!'
 So we did; we were behind a slow moving lady and it took ages to move down the narrow fire escape. Everyone stayed calm and whatever we were thinking, we all stayed polite and pleasant. The slow moving group kindly moved aside and we got to ground and went out through a loading bay. So that was a little bit of excitement. We were allowed back up after a bit of time standing around, but we just went up to pay. High tea was $42 per head. but they kindly charged us for 3 rather than 4 people for our inconvenience.

We'd certainly like to visit again, this time to see the view by night.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

To the ACT (Australian Christmas Territory) - Part 2

We arrived on Christmas Eve, and quickly settled into a routine of cups of tea and Nescafe,  and Fred's home brew with whisky nightcaps. We all took it in turns to cook.

I didn't take any photos of Christmas Day and my recollections are vague, so thanks to Chonk and particularly Fred for the photos below. The kids opened their stockings before I got up – when I did there seemed to be gifts everywhere. There's a lot more juicy main-event stuff going into the stocking than used to be the case, it seems.

We all put on nice clothes and convoyed over to All Saints for the Christmas service. The nice thing about All Saints which I have probably mentioned before, is that it used to be a railway station! It was built as the receiving station for trains to Rookwood Cemetery, the main Sydney cemetery.

The sermon was odd and quite un-Christmassy. I sat next to Eric who was an unwilling participant in worship. He disappeared after a while, possibly impounded by the Christmas Police for the duration.

Chonk, Ed, Elf, Michael, me, Felicity, Karri, Imp, Marcus,
Miah, Bea, Fred (with Eric tucked in front of him) and Irma

After a wonderful lunch we had a flaming Christmas pudding. Eric had disobeyed instructions and left the table. When the pudding arrived he was was called back, to no avail. So we all started yelling "Quick Eric! Food on fire! Food on fire!'" He came barrelling down the hall calling "It's not my fault!".

Marcus tries to get to grip with pentatonic triads, or something.

A lot of man-hours went into jigsaws over the week in Canberra.
Someone received the famous game Twister for Christmas and kids, Imp and Irma spent a lot of time contorting themselves. The kids all enjoyed each other's company a lot.

Marcus and I spent a bit of time playing soccer with Eric, and one time Chonk, Eric and I were roped into an 8-a-side game with some a group of neighbourhood teens and another group of smaller kids and dads. It was quite fun and we all represented the family well.

One day we all went to Jamieson Water Park and the kids and fitter grown-ups spent the day plummeting down chutes. I was seized with the idea that all around us the diplomatic corps were enjoying the sun, the slides, the chips.

[Here comes the Chilean agriculture secretary down the corkscrew! The Uruguayan defence attaché is making a towel screen while the ambassador changes back into his underpants, wobbling on one leg. The Egyptian 3rd trade attaché (clearly a spy) is demanding to know what is in a Chiko roll.]

Felicity revealed that she is in the running for selection in the Australian Marmalade Squad to compete at the World Marmalade Festival in the England in March.

Her kitchen is a bit of a time capsule. Like many people in their seventies, she is happy to offer a good home to condiments and tinned food with use-by dates that go back several prime-ministers.

A lot of child-hours went into fiddling with the vapouriser attachment on the fan. A LOT.

The thug lyfe
The hug lyfe
I brought with me to Canberra a 2018 vacuum-packed Richmond members scarf to give Chonk,
who used to be a Tiger. (And surely will be again). He responded by fetching from his old bedroom
a 1993 scarf and beanie for me.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

RIP Cyrille Regis

Cyrille Regis was a stylish centre-forward for West Brom back when I was playing in the under 10s. Regis caught the eye in English soccer as one of few black players. But in this West Brom team he had the company of Brendan Batson and Laurie Cunningham. This team was beautiful to watch; I recall them usually wearing yellow and green stripes but I think that was their away strip. Which in those days (they are away in this game) you only wore if required to avoid a clash.

The black players were routinely booed just for their skin colour. It starts when Cunningham gets the ball at 2:15 but then stops dead as he sets up a lovely West Brom goal. Good on the commentator for highlighting it. Regis and Cunningham particularly copped a lot of abuse but persisted. When Regis was selected to play for England he got a bullet in the post with a message "if you set foot on our Wembley we'll shoot you in the knee". It would be great to think that's all long ago and far away but Adam Goodes would probably disagree.

There's so many highlights in this old game; an unexpected one is the goalkeeping of Gary Bailey. The save at 8:19 is as good as you'll see. Then there's the drop ball in front of goal, and the players caught offside from a keeper's long kick.  And the snow!