Friday, December 29, 2006

Get Milk On Way Home from Cave

Today we convoyed with my Mum and Dad down to Hastings Caves. It always amazes me that you can drive for 2 hours south of Hobart, but you can. We stopped at Geeveston on the way down and again on the way back. It is trying hard to shrug off its redneck image. There are really lovely lifesize wooden figures of notable townsfolk, rough-hewn but really expressive. One was an Olympic rower - his limbs were the limbs of trees. An extremely stout doctor has also been immortalised. He was not a tall man - even the kids can reach up and tweak his nose. Its great we have the opportunity now as he hated people to do that when he was alive.

A downside is the town is suffering from an abundance of carved bush poetry. A plague of plaques. One was about smiles, and how great Geeveston was generally at smiling, and ended with a line about the "dimples of encouragement that lend a helping hand". The Wood Centre there is the feel-good face of Forestry Tasmania propaganda. A talking log truck acknowledges that the environmental movement's pressure has been good for the industry. The general setup emphasises the "jobs v conservation" paradigm that I think is out of date.

Michael had fun driving the talking truck anyway.

We had a splash in the thermal pool at Hastings. It's come a long way from the extremely dodgy concrete basin it once was. Marcus took another leap forward - letting Grandma tow him around at speed while he kicked furiously, splashing everyone. The shop now does lattes. Last time we were there the cafe strip lifestyle had just arrived, but without adequate manpower. One poor guide was selling tickets for the pool, postcards and hats, clueing people up on the caves and trying to make the perfect skinny soy latte in between.

The boys were great in the cave. The tour is one hour, and I had misgivings about Michael getting through it, but he was fine. They were both very interested and oohed and aaahed. The cave was fab, but if you've ever been in a cave, well, it was just like that.

I had planned to take some photos of Glendevie on the way back as it is very beautiful and I want to do drawings of it. The road winds sinuously through a tiny village on the side of a steep hill, and every house, shed and barn seems to be tucked into a fold in the earth. I think I'll have to go there on a sketching mission - we just couldn't stop today. Perhaps I should just draw from my impressions of whizzing through. I might find that if I stood still there, it wouldn't have the magic that it has seen from the car.

We had a lovely outing, after going no further than the beach for about a week. I meant to write myself a note, "Get Milk On Way Home from Cave", that I could deliberately lose at Coles where someone would read it. Forgot.

Sydney to Hobart

We were able to stand on our "deck" - (concrete landing at the top of the back steps) and watch the Sydney to Hobart line honours winner come upriver last night. There was a fairly small flotilla of spectators, considering it was not even 10pm. Elf said "look - there's Wild Oats", but I thought the modest line of lights was just a freighter. The sails of the maxi in question were unhelpfully black and it seemed to have just one tiny light winking atop the mast. Maybe lights are considered dead weight. Mum rang her yachtie brother Peter in Sydney, to tell him what we were seeing. "How many knots is she doing?" Err... "Is she on just fores'l and mains'l or is she belaying a genoa to windward (or something)?" Um....

I turned on the local ABC radio thinking they would be broadcasting the action live from Constitution Dock. Instead someone was talking to James Valentine about their favourite songs. Patsy Cline belted out Crazy as the little entourage slipped out of sight around the headland. Patsy is so blue-water racing.

Seasonal visitations

Matt K (old buddy, and stalwart reader of the blog), and his daughter Edie visited us on Tae Kwon Do Day (after Boxing Day). We hadn't seen them for over two years, but the kids were soon scamping about very happily together. In their younger days Marcus and Edie saw quite a bit of each other, and it was heart-warming to see them working things out together. Matt and his family are living in Sydney but hopeful of a move back to Hobart soon, if things work out with a job at Tas Uni.

The kids bounced on the tramp, made monsters, we had the obligatory ham sandwiches, then walked down to the beach. It was blustery and cold and we felt like fools when we got there. Marcus swam all the same, making friends with a boy his own age as they leaped about in the breakers. After a while being frozen and sandblasted we went to Citrus Moon for coffee and shelter.

Here are the three daredevils on a stationary racing car (we have a policy of never putting money in the rides at the Moon - we just go there too often.) It was wonderful to see good friends after so long, and hopefully we will see them again, along with mum Mem and baby sister Callie who were indisposed on Wednesday.

Yesterday (um, Kung Fu Day?)... we were visited by the households of sisters Wendy and Jill. This consists of Wendy's 10 month old twins Samuel and Isabella, Jill's non-twins Alec (4) and Lucy (1), and Wendy's husband Jon holding it all together in a support and logistics role. (I imagine Jill's husband Steven was swordfighting with evil dwarves in a role-playing session somewhere). We hadn't seen Wendy and Jon since their wedding, as they are living in the most isolated large city in the world, Perth, WA. They have coped with twins admirably, as they seem to be basically the same people they were pre-kids. Bravo.

I looked out the window at one stage and Marcus had an avuncular arm around Alec's shoulders, sketching some sort of plan in the air with his hand. Alec looked on eagerly. It was something to do with a tennis ball, some concrete steps, a window and a bucket. Inside Michael was quite happy with his role as King of the Babies. "NO - DON'T EAT THAT!!" he advised them as they gummed tinsel, books and toys.

We have an invitation to train across the Nullabor and visit. We just might take them up on it, but probably not this year when the mortgage will be biting hardest.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Christmas photographs

2006 winds down

This year we are delighted to be at home for Christmas. My Mum and Dad arrived on the 21st, so the boys clicked into Christmas mode immediately. Marcus had his kinder breakup on Wednesday. We were hoping to find out who would be in his prep class for 2007 - perhaps a class list. All we found out was that he's in Red, so now we will need to do a bit of tentative networking over the holidays to see who else is.

I've already dealt with Roar's end of year party. I kept myself nice, so Elf could pick me up and take me to neighbourhood drinks at 124 Cascade Rd without scaring the children. There we sampled fine food and bevs laid on by Mark and Caron. I borrowed Mark's mower and gumboots and tamed the jungle of our remaining backyard. Guests arrived, wondering at the large hole and the strange man mowing around it. I clomped back over to Mark and Caron's and we explained the whole thing as best we could. One guest said she thought we might have a nice view from the new house, despite that stupid bloody big gum tree out the front.

Sharyn and Lana from No 120 were there. Lana will also be in Red, thank goodness. Lana, Marcus and Michael tagged along with the older boys who had decided to explore the "tunnels" (space under the house) for "treasure" (any old crap). It was getting quite late and dim outside, and was as dark as the deepest night under the house, but the kids were all cheerfully bumping into pillars, boxes and each other down there. Mark is with the Tas Fire Service and so there were hard hats aplenty. I hovered waiting for one of my kids to have a sudden panic attack/minor head injury deep down Shaft 11B but it never happened. Cameron, 8 year old son of wine-aficionado parents, emerged with a bottle of white wine, said matter-of-factly "Shiraz", and went back inside leaving it propped against the other treasure. I suggested we get a list of names and have the children tag on and tag off, but no-one heard me.

Christmas report

The temperature crashed from 31° on Friday to freezing fog and hailstorms on Saturday evening. I can confirm that on Christmas morning I saw significant snow with my own eyes on Mt Wellington before the clouds lowered for the day at about 7.00am. Since Elf moved to Hobart in 2000 it has snowed here every Christmas Day we have been at home.

Saturday and Sunday passed in a bit of a blur. There was some beach action. We did a big shop-up for Christmas lunch and I wrapped, at last. I have had an uninspired year for gifts, I'm afraid to say. Sorry everyone. After the boys had crashed on Christmas Eve, we put up in their room a dozen big folded-paper stars that Elf had made. They looked great. Then we went outside and assembled the Big Present.

Michael had a disturbed night. I think he is a bit young for genuine anticipatory excitement, but something has been giving him worrisome dreams lately. He slept in. Marcus was first awake, and came in to report that there was "a big sock full of stuff" on his bed! Had he opened anything? "No!" We opened stuff and waited for Michael. After a bit of noisiness from us, he finally woke in a bad mood.

"Open your stocking Michael? "NO!"
"Come on, let's see what Father Christmas has brought you!" "QUAAAAAAAAACK!"

It didn't take all that long for him to get the idea. Elf, who has organised Christmas completely off her own bat, had bought the boys a small trampoline. We put a wrapped box under the tree with a note in it saying "This thing is too big to fit under the tree, so look outside". The loved it straight away. Michael didn't want to bounce on it at first, but was very happy to drive the Big Red Car around on the bright blue spring-covers. He is now a dedicated tramp scamp.

The tramp was a great distraction until Auntie Sal and Uncle Matt appeared at 10.00. They gave Marcus a tub of Monster Bones, to put together however you like. He has knocked off about two dozen masterpieces in this medium since, and each time insists on having it photographed immediately so he can cannibalise it for the next one.

Elf specified exactly what she wanted from the boys and I, but was no less pleased when she unwrapped them (Pictionary and a small tank of Sunflowers perfume). I received a good swag of books. I have to finish Captain Corelli's Mandolin first - I should have read it years ago.

We had a big cold meat and salad lunch. We had eggnog. We had champagne. We had a very nice time just noodling around in a family way. What a nice Christmas.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Breaking up isn't hard to do if it involves scallops in butter sauce

Ah, its been a busy week or so since the last blog. I hammered away at our rather overdue CD-ROM project to get it as far advanced as I could before the break-up. Work will be very intense when we resume on Jan 2. We have not received from the client a great deal of the source archival stuff that is to go into the CD, so we are not entirely to blame.

We knocked off at midday on Friday for the Roar Christmas party. This year we did lunch, at Prossers On The Beach in Sandy Bay. We made a TV pilot for the owner and chef, Stuart Prosser this year. He has intentions of becoming a cross between pukka Jamie and khaki Steve - ooh, look at this lovely crayfish, isnt he a little beauty, you stick the knife in him here, slice him in two, stuff him with porcini mushrooms and panfry him with just a sprinkle of lime juice and balsamic.

Anyway, his food is fantastic and his restaurant was very enjoyable. It is on the beach, and with all the windows slid wide open, it felt like we were on a very steady boat, as all you could see beyond the window frame was the Derwent River. It was 31°, very muggy, absolutely no breeze.

It was while sluicing my 17th scallop from its shell that the dolphins appeared around the point, closely followed by bikini girls futilely wading after them. Futile but decorative. If Girl from Ipanema by Astrid Gilberto had been on the stereo it might have been a 5/5 on the sense-ometer. The dolphins headed upriver, as though on their way to town for some last minute shopping. Maybe for i-pods. (Ha!)

Friday was also my colleague and friend Raef Sawford's last day at Roar. He's a great bloke, and I have enjoyed his company every weekday for the last five or so years. I'll miss him a lot, but I am glad he is finally out of his dark sweaty editing suite, free to see the sky, and smell the flowers. Sure, he's made mistakes, but now he's paid his dues, its someone else's turn to sit in front of the hissing and bleeping monitors joining up bits of tape to make coherent stories. Be free, gay pirate!

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Marcus learns about Christmas

These are the three things you have to do for Christmas- you have to decorate the tree, you have to look after Jesus, and Santa has to put presents on your bed.

Is there a Mrs God?

[After a pep talk at school about the ABC Giving Tree] Can we buy something we don't really need?

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

The solitary beach

When we drive anywhere from the Beach House, we get a lovely view of the beach on our way down the hill. We look along a great sweep of it, with the waves rolling in from the right. Its amazing how often there is no-one on it, or perhaps a few specks in the distance down the dog-walking end. This is a fairly densely populated area, with houses and a few shops right along the Esplanade facing the beach, and all the surrounding hills pretty closely settled. There is no shortage of people about. If I didn't know better I would imagine the waters were infested with sharks or stinging jellyfish or something.

We are really loving our ready access to the surf and sand, and have probably been at least every second or third day in the last few weeks. We will definitely be trying to keep up our beach hours after we move back to the hinterland in June. The boys love it, and even "no getting wet" visits, they are endlessly fascinated (for now) by shells, sticks and seaweed. And, er, ciggy butts.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Sydney Harbours

My Mum is from Sydney, and even if no-one else enjoys this list of place names, I'm sure she will. Hi Mum. These are from Port Jackson, Middle Harbour, Botany Bay, Port Hacking and Broken Bay, and they are all close enough to the city to fit in a Sydney street directory.

Balls Head
Bongin Bongin Bay
Bottle and Glass Head
Box Head
Little Box Head
Breakfast Point
Butchers Block
Caravan Head
Dead Horse Bay
Dolls Point
Harness Cask Point
Hen & Chicken Bay
Jew Fish Bay
Kissing Point
Long Nose Point (2 of these)
Looking Glass Bay
Neverfail Bay
Onions Point
Parsley Bay (2 of these)
Powder Hulk Bay
Quibray Bay
Salmon Haul Bay
Shag Bay
Shark Beach (in Shark Bay - it has a swimming enclosure)
Snails Bay
Soilybottom Point
Tambourine Bay
The Spit
Tom Uglys Point
Yowie Bay

Elf's workshop

I knocked off my Christmas shopping on Saturday. We dropped in on the Dog and Spanner (Nick and Anna) and their girl-children. They have a very nice and user-friendly deck. It doesn't have glorious vistas, isn't doesn't loom over their garden. It is just very pleasant to sit and listen to the distant crashing and squealing of the children.

Our Christmas tree is looking great. Every time I come home Michael gives a little flourish with his hand and says "look at our treeeeeee!" Its a bona fide pine, and Marcus has really thrown himself into making decorations this year. Elf is taking little craft workshops and teaching the boys to do this and that. [I should avoid using "Elf" and workshop" in a sentence together at this time of year, but that just slipped out and my Delete key is broken].

On Sunday Rob, Mel and Ollie came by, with armloads of food as usual. They even brought gifts for the boys, to get the pile under the tree started. We ate until we were stuffed then staggered downhill for a very pleasant couple of hours sitting in the shade doing not much at all while the kids amused themselves. Rob and I were idly poking sticks into the sand while we chatted, and before we knew it we had erected miniature palisades opposite one another and slipped into a bit of a cold war. When he wasn't looking I built a Peace And Co-Prosperity Highway connecting our two nations of sand. Little did Rob know I built it with my armoured divisions in mind.

The cricket

Appalling Shameful Horrific England Shambles - yesterday's headline in The News of the World. I think they're taking it all pretty well really.

Meanwhile on ABC Radio their advice yesterday was "you've got to keep your powder dry, or it can come back to haunt you."

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Enough with the Tasmania, already.

I am Tasmanian. I love Tasmania. I even like reading about Tasmania. But I am feeling a bit queasy after reading the Fullers Bookshop special Tasmaniana Findings catalogue. There are so many damn books about Tasmania.

One in particular just pushed me over the edge. Call me a grump, but the promise of another search for the "mysterious thylacine" in "an exhilarating frolic" that can be read as "a love poem to... our heart shaped island" made me want to put a special tax on anyone who intends to "celebrate Tasmania" in some form.

As Ramona Koval wisely said, "Think you've got a book in you? Well, leave it there..."

Marcus Rees, game designer

Marcus often draws up complicated game boards. Here are three recent examples. His explanations were convoluted and funny, but I couldn't do justice to them now.

Miscellaneous Wednesday thoughts

On Radio National this evening, another earnest discussion on cell research: " would then not be a sheep liver, it would be a human liver, grown in a sheep environment". One man's sheep environment is another man's sheep.

How do new cells know what's going on? Skin cells are always sloughing off and being replaced. How can tattoos be permanent? Why do I have a scar on my hand from something that happened when I was ten? Is there some sort of orientation session for new cells? "OK, listen up, I'm sure you're all excited about being part of a new layer of Barry's skin, but the bad news is, you are stained blue, and you are part of the elbow of a wonky mermaid tattoo Baz got when he was 17".

I like the town of Rosebud, on the Mornington peninsula south of Melbourne. You know the famous scene in Citizen Kane, where the hero's last word is "Rosebud"? I like to think that he died while trying to say "Rosebud Tyre and Exhaust Centre" or "Rosebud West Fish and Chips".

Hijacks 12 d The Bowling Shanes Prem Def 7

Last night was the Grand Final for this roster. As usual the Mervs were a few pages behind everyone else, and didn't tell us it was the final until I was already into my 2nd sausage.

We shot out of the blocks to lead 6-0 after 2 ends. Then we put our feet up and watched as the Hijacks eked out a comeback. We only won one more end I think. They picked up one point, end after end after end. We looked to be rallying at one stage, holding four shots. Their skip is a bit of a little master, and he nearly tipped us out all together. As it was he cut our gains down from 4 points to 1. It was to be our last hurrah.

The attractive trophy has passed into the hands of Hijacks. The defence was unsuccesful. It was a good season however, and we all bowled pretty well.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

A weekend of UVA and UVB

It's been hot. Very hot yesterday but just very warm today. Yesterday was Candle Day for Amnesty International. I collected outside Centrepoint for a bit over an hour. I didn't do very well. For a Saturday just before Christmas I was surprised how light the crowds were. The sun crept up on me - my intially shady spot was in full sun after a while and was too slow to get the sunblock on. After that I was rostered on the Amnesty stall at Salamanca Market.

Standing in one spot for two hours in a great opportunity for people-watching and I started musing about consumer fashion. Who decided blokes' t-shirts now have to be illegible? They have to look as though they are trying to say something, but some kind of technical error at the t-shirt factory has occurred. The one legible word will be "Volcom" or "Stüssy" or whatever the brand is, but it will be printed so it is under the armpit, or over the collar, or something.

Girls' t-shirts have to a) be two sizes too small and b) pretend to be old. They will have something like "Pelican Bay Canoe Club '76" on them, with pretend cracks in the printing, in pretend faded colours. Who decides on these idiotic trends?

Copped more sun at the market, but the stall behind us had a big awning I was able to duck under from time to time. A family I know stopped to chat - their 14 year old is six foot two. Last time I saw him he was a normal sized 11-year-old. It was quite a shock.

When I got home we all had a snooze, then went down to the beach. It was 33° at one stage, and the beach was still well populated at 5.30. The water just seems not to warm up though. The surf was flat, so it was a lot like sitting in an ice bath, ie no fun at all.

Today our new Kingston Buddies, Greg and his boys Mason and Dylan came over. Elf pumped up and filled the pool, plugged the leaks and erected the shadehouse over it. What did I do? Hmm, I think I cut up a watermelon. Everyone had fun, we all caught a bit too much sun again, and Marcus and Mason got along very well.

This afternoon I sat in the shade and read an Alexander McCall Smith book while everyone snoozed. I have read about six of his books and this is the first one that's been a bit of a let-down. Pleasant enough, but that's all.

Boys awake

The boys have been in bed since 8. Its now 9.15 and they have been yakking flat out the whole time. I just heard Marcus saying "Michael - it's just like an ostrich, except smaller"..."Now Michael - what's three threes?"..."Now Michael - do you know what's past a billion?... A zillion!"

It's a regular Socratic Dialogue in there.

Thursday, December 07, 2006


I was trying to get Michael inside for dinner. He was floop-de-flooping about with his wooden numbers and letters and some old number plates in the back yard. "Come on Michael, dinners ready. Time to come in." I headed up the steps and waved my arm to say 'follow me'. He stayed where he was and said "Suit yourself, Dad."

Little fella

Coming out of kinder yesterday, Ebony and her little brother were yelling goodbye to Marcus. The little boy ran on ahead, and was getting a bit close to the road. I asked Ebony what her brother's name was, so I could call to him. Marcus was a bit closer to him, and said "What's your name, little fella?"

The Bowling Shanes Prem Def 16 d Hijacks 10

The boys came to bowls with me on Tuesday. All around the greens is a gutter filled with sand. There was less sand in the gutter and plenty on the green when Michael had finished. The boys were generally very good.

We were behind most of the night then came good in a big way. I have never paid less attanetion to the bowls - the boys were popping up all over the place. I delivered my two bowls, then I was on duty, and the outcome of each end was a complete surprise to me.

They had fun and there was no permanent damage to the venue.

Monday, December 04, 2006

A strangely familiar weatherboard

We dropped in on Judy and Terry at Carlton River, to look at how our old place fitted on their block. The bathroom is already fully functional, and is the only part of the interior that looks familiar still. Standing in our bathroom, looking out the window at the river, was very odd.

More pics here

Friday, December 01, 2006

Not sleepy

Going to sleep is hard when its summer, its still sunny, you've got a slip-slidey aluminium window and flip-flappy vertical blinds. He was leaning (dangerously) out the window and talking his head off to the fence.