Friday, January 18, 2008

6 under par at work

We have a putt returner (see above), putter and 3 golf balls at work. Its a clever machine - when the putt is on target, a battery powered mechanism spits it back to you, quite forcefully. I've never been very successful with it here at Gore Street. In the old church in Hill St I once sank a thirty-footer, which has given me delusions of adequacy ever since.

It's a very quiet week here, and so the putt returner has been getting a major workout. Yesterday we introduced some innovations. First I swapped the hole and the "tee" around so we had to putt uphill (our floor is very wonky). Then Nathan improvised a ramp. With one's back to the hole one putted up the ramp and hoped for a good roll back into the hole. Then we put the machine on the table, using the ramp to gain access. I am proud to say I scored here with a billiard-style trick shot (first attempt). I addressed two balls just touching, struck the rear one, propelling the front one up the ramp and in. GOALLLLL!

I have always wanted to make the whole exercise more like mini-golf, with a series of shots. And I thought it was time to "explore the studio space". So I went upstairs and teed off from the large edit suite. Nathan called it a par 16. I was onto the stairs* in one. I called Fore! and got a reasonable shot out into the hallway, but was left with a tricky lie behind a camera case.

A bit of fiddling around and I was in sight of the hole, shooting for a 7. I missed the machine altogether, and went into the rough (a bundle of ethernet cables). We checked the rules and it is OK to move cables but NOT peripherals. I wound up in the hole in 10.

*That will stand now as a course record, because what I didn't know is that the staircase in this old building is heritage listed. Playing golf up and down it is specifically verboten.

Elf turns 38

My delightful yet camera-shy wife had a birthday on Wednesday. She does not trust my natural taste in gifts, so she specified what she would be receiving. From me a 30 metre garden hose (in beautiful rose-spattered wrapping paper), and from the boys the new Alexander McCall Smith book. Mum and Dad were going to get Elf a travel rug. She graciously declined and requested a bale of barley straw.

I baked a flourless chocolate cake that I found on the www. It was a corker and it has inspired me to break my cast-iron "no recipes" rule of blogging.

Jill Dupleix's 'Incredibly Wonderful Chocolate Cake'

250g dark, bitter cooking chocolate
150g castor sugar
150g butter
100g ground almonds
5 free-range eggs, separated
icing sugar

- Heat oven to 180C. Melt chocolate, sugar and butter in a bowl over a pot of simmering water.
- Remove from heat, stir thoroughly to combine, mix in ground almonds, then beat in the egg yolks, one at a time.
- Beat egg whites until stiff and peaked, and stir a couple of spoonfuls into the chocolate mixture to lighten it, before gently folding in the rest.
- Turn into a buttered and floured 20cm round tin and bake for 40 to 50 minutes. [Elf's cake tin tip is: after buttering and flouring the tin, pop it in the freezer until the cake mix is ready.]
- Leave to cool before removing from tin.
- Dust with icing sugar to serve.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Preparing to camp

We are going away camping on Monday, for two weeks. It will be an interesting experience - hopefully fun. I am driving the Subie up to mum and dad's on Saturday morning, where I will leave it, and return to Hobart in their campervan. Elf and the boys and I will then set off up the east coast, to arrive back at Turners Beach tired but happy on or before the 1st of February. Mum will be having an exhibition opening in Burnie that night, so it will be nice to attend that.

I am not a camping type, and neither is Elf. I can not tie knots, or make fire by rubbing sticks. I like to look things up on the internet. (Actually, I think I will print out every kind of knot I might need and take hard copies with me). The boys will miss their DVDs and their friends next door. Elf and I will miss our lovely new house. But we hope that the peace, quiet, scenery and friends we catch up with on the way will make up for it.

I will probably not be able to blog along the way, but I will try to make notes and sketches that I can turn to when we resume normal services.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

A length of Tubing

Just had to dig out some old Late Show golden moments. Wiping away tears as I type.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Peel Microcars

No one is questioning this guy's manhood.

Neighbourhood time lapse

Visitors to our place often point across the valley and say "What the hell is THAT?" They are always referring to a very steep block below Loudon St, where there has been a lot of stuff under green tarpaulins, since before we moved here in 2000. Due to the lie of the land, it's all really on display. Some individual has been slowly noodling around on his slope there for years, doing a little terracing, a bit of brickwork, a little retaining wall, a few more mysterious piles covered in plastic, and so on and so forth. The people next door have put their place up for sale. They have been giving him access to their water and power to try to help him finish whatever it is that he is doing, but to no avail. When they bought they were told he would be finished in eighteen months, but that was three or four years ago.

So now, his building permission has run out. The poor bugger is singlehandedly carrying everything back up that slope, loading it into his small white van and driving it away to God knows where. Like many we have watched him from afar, mocked his lack of progress, questioned his sanity, and sometimes bemoaned the blot on the landscape he has made. But now I feel very sorry for him. How must it feel to take each load up the slope, with a sense of injustice or failure making the load seem heavier and the slope steeper? I want to leave him a carton of beer and an anonymous note of support.

With this in mind I have made a then/now comparison picture. The main difference is seasonal. The first pic is either April or May 2007, the second is today. Of course the state of our house has changed a little as well. His block is circled - the first pic shows how it has looked for at least the last eight years, until he got the bad news from the council.

Games going with serve

Marcus received a totem tennis set for Christmas, and he has been getting a lot of use out of it. It's jostling for space with the trampoline and the swingset in the usable half of the back lawn. To be fair to Marcus I should have a picture here of him using it. I took these while Michael played with Elf - it's an unusual pleasure to see him playing a ball game.

Marcus prefers to play solo, and he is quite a natural in the way he addresses the ball, bends the knees for a low shot etc. Elf showed him how to properly play a backhand. He rejected her advice outright, and continued holding the racket inside-out to hit the ball backhand. Over time he worked it out for himself and now he is biffing the ball back and forth very well. I was so impressed that this afternoon I asked him if he would like to take the yellow bats down to the proper tennis court, and have a hit. We had a few good rallies, and I think he could follow in his great-grandma Lucy's footsteps as a champion. Grandma Lucy played with the great Adrian Quist, originator of the Dunlop Volley sandshoe. To quote Jack Kramer, "He had a dink backhand that was better for doubles than singles, and he had a classical forehand drive with a natural sink." I will have to do some research to work out what this actually means.

If its Friday it must be South Arm Beach

Elf went back to work on Wednesday, so that was when I assumed control of the holiday agenda. It was supposed to turn hot, so the boys and I set off for Kingston Beach, as we had not visited since we returned to live in South Hobart. We had a nice enough time, but it was blustery and verging on cold (photo above). On the way we stopped and passed the time of day with our erstwhile neighbour Judy in Kunama Drive. Our rented house has been sold but looks exactly the same.

On Thursday we caught up with Phillip and Andrea again at Seven Mile Beach, where they had a house for a couple of days. This time the heat was on pretty much from breakfast onwards, and by the time we got onto the sand it was pretty torrid. I hadn't been there for years - I used to go alone quite often in the days when I had my floral Honda Civic. It was seaweedy and a bit slimy and quicksandy.

Phillip's sister Anne and her husband Paul and daughter Thea joined us. I remember when Thea was born, and vaguely picture her always as a two year old in a cardigan. She is in fact fifteen and to all intents and purposes a grown up. The temperature got up to about 37° and I was glad I'd changed into a polo shirt just before going out the door. The boys and I had our top buttons buttoned and collars turned up, and I was smearing as much sunscreen on them as they would let me. It is unheard of for us to be out in the sun at noon on such a day, but everyone else took it in their stride pretty much.

Eventually we trekked back over the scorching sand to the house, Auntie Elspeth Vaughan appeared, and we all sat down to one of the all-time great lunches. Hot-smoked salmon and smoked trevalla. Phillip said the trevalla was really snottie. Hmm, I wonder why they market it as trevalla? Marcus and Michael had a great time running around with Isobel and Ronan. Elspeth is a well-known watercolourist, quite elderly now but lively. Her sister Gwenyth is Phillip's mum. I was puzzled as to how Elspeth could be a Vaughan too, when Vaughan is Gwenyth's married name. Phillip's mum and dad are cousins, that's how. Shhh.

On Friday we went to the country, and the beach (again). We hadn't seen our friends Monica and Jonathan for ages, so I drove the boys out to South Arm to see them and their girls Lena and Elise. I packed the beach stuff although I was hoping we might not have to use it but... beaching was in fact the plan. Just across the highway from their property a lane runs down to a nice little beach, reasonably sheltered. It's about as far as you can go south before the Derwent River opens out to become Storm Bay. There is one tree that shades the beach, and the only other people on it were suntanners, so we snaffled it. Again the boys just giggled and wriggled about happily with today's playmates. I don't know how well they remember all these kids that we see sporadically, but they seem to slip back into easy mateship with no trouble. Monica and Jonathan are well, they would love a good soaking rain though.

Out on the tear with a cardboard Richo

I dashed off on Saturday afternoon to Launceston to attend Joe Crawford's 40th birthday. Joe and I go back to about grade 8. I caught a ride up with Ado, Pete Wilson (No. 1) and Olly, who I have variously seen not much, hardly and not at all in the last five years. We had a good trip up the Midland Highway, although it was squeezy in the back as for some reason Ado had left Jordy's child seat buckled in there.

When we got to L-Town things were pretty hot and steamy. I met young William Richard Douglas Crawford for the first time, but I think he thought I was part of a dream. He was starfished out on his little blanky to keep cool, and just very slowly opened his eyes and closed them again. Jill whisked him away to a safe place to spend the evening.

Joe had booked out the Cascade HQ downtown. It seems to be the main Launceston office of the Cascade Brewery, with a pub attached, although it is just around the corner from Boags' Esk Brewery, which is confusing. Drinks were paid for until 11. Joe anticipated thirsty hordes coming back to his place, so he had asked a few people coming to stay to bring eskies with them. The house emptied as a posse went to the bottleshop to get stuff to fill the many eskies.

I finally met Pete Wilson (No. 2) for the first time. He was living in Scotland at the time of Joe and Jill's wedding in 2002, and was to be Best Man, but couldn't make it as his wife was unwell. I stood in as Second-Best Man. I said something about this to the nice blonde lady he was with. She pointed out that that wasn't her, that was his nasty wife, who he can hardly bring himself to discuss, and the missing-the-wedding thing was the last straw. He is now with Nancy, who is French Canadian.

The party was grand. I had travelled light on the assumption that no-one would care if I rocked up in shorts and sandals, and I was right. It stayed warm and humid throughout the night, and I spent much of it out leaning on a railing with the smokers and the more outdoorsy non-smokers. Joe was circling, urging people to down the grog he had paid for, as he saw the 11.00 curfew as a "bet-you-can't-get-your-money's-worth" challenge. Older and generally wiser than before, most of us were drinking beer keenly, but drinking water as if we were landed fish.

Two of the guests were lifesize cardboard cutouts of a young Matthew "Richo" Richardson. They were ritually abused by the generally non-Richmond supporting crowd. Even long suffering Tiger fans like Joe and I found ourselves turning on him after a few hours and berating him for his kicking style, poor body language on field and narcissistic habit of watching himself on the big screen.

Joe ruined his prospects of pulling in eager drinkers at his place, by insisting everyone traipse over to another pub at kick-out time of the first one. Apart from we six who were staying the night and Joe himself, only about 3 or 4 others showed up. One of the Richos had his head ripped off at the second pub, and the other one was badly karate-kicked about the gonads.

After borrowing Sal's sleeping bag I had left it behind, as I couldn't imagine myself wanting to get into it at the end of such a hot day. I lay on a couch and had about one hour of sleep, in cumulative five-minute bursts. Ranald, one of Joe's dogs, was trying to get between me and the back of the couch most of the night.

In the morning I got on the go before any signs of a recovery session started. I felt that the beer in the eskies would be calling out to everyone by about twelve, especially as the last day of the test match was going to be unfolding on telly all afternoon. I hiked into town and caught the Redline bus home.

Closing the 3013km gap

Its been a giddy social week or so since the last blog. I was going flat stick at work until five days ago. All the senior people have now been waved off on flights to the UK, with bags full of e-learning goodness. At short notice it was suggested I take a week off, so here I am.

Our Perth-based mates have all been "home" for Christmas, and they came to see us and have a look at the fabled house about which we won't shut up. I just looked up the distance between our actual homes, and its about 3013km. Big country isn't it?

Jon and Wendy and their 2 y.o. twins Sam and Isabelle came for pizza dinner on Thursday night. I was still working, I was extremely tired and I now can't remember anything anyone said. They liked the house, and Jon had a few spectacular swings on the rope swing up the back. He's a triathelete, so it was particularly Tarzanic. Wendy and I and a few other folk shared a house at uni. She is the only person I know to successfully combine legal practice (corporate litigation speciality) with Scottish Country Dancing (sword dance speciality).

Phillip and Andrea and their kids Isobel and Ronan came to see us too. Ronan is a year younger than Michael, and Isabel is about a year older than Marcus. They all got on famously (why do we say that?) especially when the talk turned to poo and wee. I had to rush off to Launceston before they had been with us long. Luckily they will still be around tomorrow, and the boys and I will have another chance to catch up with them, at Seven Mile Beach.

Andrea and I met in the ditch around the cricket ground at Burnie High School, when we were about four. Our dads taught there, and were playing cricket at the time. We didn't see each other after that for years, then hooked up again in Grade 11 and 12, in among a crowd of other friends. We shared in a certain amount of teenage boozing - nothing too outrageous. It always seemed to involve very long walks in the small hours.

I have known Phillip a long time now too. He is a very intelligent, gentle and funny man, formerly with a penchant for sudden and complete nudity. His No 7 home brew from 1987 is still the best beer I have tasted.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Poppa, swinging like a gate

Poppa with his sax, before he joined the AIF and was sent off to hold back the Japs in New Guinea. He wanted to join the navy, but when he was standing in line in Martin Place, Billy Hughes himself (ex WW1 era Prime Minister) said to him he would be better off in the Army. See below for the story of younger brother Laurie. Thanks to Sal for the photo.