Saturday, January 28, 2012

A town called Cygnet

There is a very pretty town in northwest of Tasmania called Penguin. They have an an endearing large concrete penguin, and some penguin-shaped rubbish bins. Lately they have revved up the penguinity to the point where its starting to look like the town was named after the bins, as a gimmick.

On the other hand, Cygnet eschews the baby swan as a civic theme - I don't think saw one anywhere. Today we retraced our steps from Australia Day, primarily to take pedalboats out on the Huon River at Huonville. We were ran out of time to do it the other day, but since we have broken free of Little Athletics and can do as we please on Saturday morning, we went back to the river.

it was a perfect still and sunny morning. We were the first punters for the day I think - the boats had been baking in the sun and the plastic seats cooked our backsides. Michael and I took Boat 1 and Elf and Marcus Boat 2. Michael's tender young bot was in pain, so he developed an impressive pedalling technique where it hovered a few inches above the seat.

In no time my legs were in agony - I am about 6 foot and the ideal height for the seat-to-pedal distance is probably about 5'4" (I think the boats were made in North Korea). So we pedalled and rested in equal amounts. Michael, as well as being my human son, is a cartoon character, and has learnt a lot of moves lately from Tom and Jerry. "Resting" for Michael is a performance that involves stretching, hands behind head, legs crossed and propped up on something, and even puffing an imaginary cigar (when he is really giving it everything but the kitchen sink).

In no time Elf and Marcus caught up to us. Boat 2 was faulty and splashy - not serenely silent like ours. We docked together like spacecraft and spent some quality family time together in midstream. There were lovely reflections, ducks, landlubbers waving at us and a large redbrick pub that looked enticing from any angle.

However. We set a course for our home port and gave back Boats 1 and 2, and went on to Cygnet for some lunch. Things were bubbling along, the Red Velvet Lounge (which is the heart of everything) was open, and the Targa Tasmania cars were chugging through town and parking everywhere.

Targa is an annual road race - I think the serious term is "tarmac rally". They close proper everyday roads to have the race, in different stages, all over the state. Along with them in a non-racing capacity go a whole heap of old cars. Today we saw a couple of Model T-ish age, up to the 70s cars I grew up with like Toranas and Monaros. Over half the cars were MGs.

My favourite was the Jowett Javelin - in a colour I would call British Church Fete Green. I didn't have a camera but thanks to the internet:

We popped into the RVL for a very nice lunch, then walked up and down the main drag with ice-creams. Cygnet is a bit of a tree-change town, and has a hippy element. Our beautiful table came from there, and I believe they run a very good Folk Festival, but they also have a shop that sells proficient but kitschy hippy/goth art, crystals and dreamcatchers. I always run a mile from dreamcatchers so we were out of there pretty fast and on the road home again.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Knackered 7 d Wilkins 6

Down 5-2 at half time, although we were playing well. Paul in goals had muffed a couple of stoppable ones. I thought we needed to have a few more early shots, and similarly catch their keeper on the hop.

The second half went all our way. I was hitting shots first time every chance I had and a couple went in. We were level 5-5 in no time, then gave up a goal to go behind again. Wilkins have one particularly strong player and we were keeping him out of shooting range - their other guys were easier to knock off the ball.

I was off the court when Adrian scored to level it up 6-6, then with 2 minutes left Paul put us in front from an impossible angle. The lads passed it around with composure, Ed did some of his best ever goalkeeping and we safely made it to the hooter.

Three wins in a row, after 8 losses in a row. Things are coming good.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Night of the round table

I have just cleared off the small round table, and plonked my drawing things on it. Ideally, drawing will now ensue. But first, blogging. I have been rubbish at blogging this year. Bloggable things have been happening but sometimes the thought of putting on my "writing voice" just wearies and disgusts me. But if I never do it then I'll never do it.

Today is Australia Day. The Australian people broadly fall into two camps: flag-worn-as-a-cape Aussie-pridesters, and progressive types who go to the "Invasion Day" march in the morning but quietly enjoy the afternoon with a few Coonawarra red wines and some of the later Nick Cave albums.

I know, I know - you and I don't fit into either of those categories. But I don't think Australia Day has ever been bigger - more polarised, more loudly pumped up by the bogans and more studiously deconstructed by the progressives. Some people are even writing blogs about it.

We felt that we wanted to be out of the house for the day, but somewhere quiet, so we did the Cygnet loop. From Hobart you can drive south over the mountains to Huonville, then east to Cygnet. From there you have a choice of several winding mountain roads to take you over to the D'Entrecasteaux Channel, with lovely views out to Bruny Island. From there the Channel Highway takes you back to Hobart.

Cygnet has just hosted its annual folk music festival, and was pretty much shut down for the public holiday, so we had lunch at Fleurty's Cafe in Birch's Bay, on the Channel. The cafe is on a farm which grows irises, blackcurrants, garlic, hops and mountain pepper berries (which they distill into oil).

The outlook was stunning, the food marvellous, and the service friendly and attentive. Thumbs up all round, except that I didn't like having commercial radio on in the background. You just don't do that in a swank cafe in a beautiful setting. Bush dusted salmon fillet with orange pepper berry glaze and crazy bargains from our very good friends at Muffler World - the combination is not right is it?

But to be positive - Marcus and I had the salmon and brie tart with a magnificent salad - the minted beetroot was so good. Michael enjoyed his toasted ham and cheese panini. Elf had a goat cheese tart and it was also excellent but I liked mine better.

This evening back home Marcus and I went I up to the cricket nets, and I introduced him to the physics of the taped-up tennis ball.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012


1930, Hobart Mercury small ads - not exactly the heyday of persuasive copywriting.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Knackered 11 d Mexican Avalanches 9

For the first time this year, a non-pictorial and non-disused-train-station blog post.

I am still on a high after our win this evening. I have never before won a game in any sport where I was so expecting to cop a hiding. Before the game I actually said to Marcus "this could get ugly". We had never played Mexican Avalanches but it seemed to be a dream team of various quick, strong and generally deadly players who had taken us to the cleaners in previous seasons. The had won 5 from 8, and we had lost 7 (in a row) and won just one, a big win last week. Handy form, but I didn't expect it to count for much.

Well, it was 7-7 at half time and we we were playing out of our skins. I felt like I would be delighted if we could stay with them and notch a narrow loss or even (gasp) a draw. I had scored one goal I was very happy with - a spiral dribble followed by a left foot toey into the corner. Ask me and I'll demonstrate anytime.

We scored on the stroke of half time. I pounded  the ball goalwards, one of the Avalanches stopped it with his tummy and fell, knocking over a teammate, and Jason collected the rebound magnificently, first-timing it into the net over the flailing keeper. This was Marcus's favourite moment - we walked off for the break, celebrating the goal with three of them sprawled on the floor.

The 2nd half was tighter, and there was no score for the first 3 minutes. Then I was a bit slack, let my man get away and he scored, 7-8. I subbed off feeling like I had just loosened our grip on it. While I was off Jason scored again - he finished with 5 for the night. 8-8.

Their flamboyant keeper (he once played against us wearing a cape) was making mistakes and keeping us in it, Bruce Grobelaar-style. I got another, they got it back, 9-9. Then one of their stronger players got the ball and held it up. I was keeping him in check and sucking in air. All the while I was thinking "I am getting my breath back, we are not getting hurt on the scoreboard, time is running out, this suits me fine". He ended up losing the ball and Paul slotted a goal. 10-9 to us.

Moments later Paul put me through down the left wing and I slashed the ball across the keeper and into the far corner, 11-9 with only 40 seconds left. I don't celebrate goals very often but I did a smallish double fist-pump for that one. There was no way they could catch us, and they didn't.

I think considering how we've been struggling, this counts as one of our very best wins.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Port of Hobart, c1960

I love this beautiful photo from the Tasmanian Archives. The tone and light and detail are so magnificent, that when you look closely at it, any small section could be a film still. Each little setting seems pregnant with possibilities, with things about to happen.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

A fat beast

This is from a 1930s tourism brochure for Flinders Island, Tasmania. It reads as though it is also intended to convince visitors to stay and take up farming. I know people were more in touch with the land back then, but the amount of agricultural detail is surprising. Note: 'rape' is a common seedcrop that was renamed 'canola' in the 1970s.

Wisdom from the back page of a savings passbook

This is the back page of a Hobart Town Bank passbook, c. 1860

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Dug out of the 2008 sketchbook

A sketch of our house from across the street.

Monday, January 09, 2012

52 Suburbs - beaut photoblog

As I am making a stuttering start to the blog in 2012, why not try a new one: 52 Suburbs? Louise Hawson spent a year taking photos around Sydney, one suburb each week. Now, she is going to do the rest of the world, and she has taken her 8 year-old with her. Hats off for that alone. The photography is very, very good.

Saturday, January 07, 2012

Christmas 2006, Kingston Beach

A splendid photo from 5 years ago.

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Disused railway stations in the United Kingdom

Sometimes Wikipedia is just a bit sad.
"Uralite Halt was a halt between Milton Range Halt and Cliffe station on the Hundred of Hoo Railway. Built to serve the British Uralite works, it opened in July 1906 and closed on 4 December 1961. The halt was demolished soon after closure." 
Even sadder when you learn that British Uralite mostly made sewerage pipes out of asbestos paste. If you were a bit mad you might like to see a list of all disused railway stations in the United Kingdom.

Monday, January 02, 2012

Eleven staplers

When at my in-laws recently, I kept seeing staplers everywhere. Fred did a round-up and the total finished at eleven staplers. They have rationalised somewhat since. The red Radiant 150P in the front row is the Citröen of staplers - idiosyncratic. The one behind and to the left was my favourite - it was either an Ambassador Ajax or an Excelsior Albert 1000. The obvious mistake I realise now was not lining them up in a soccer formation.

Cthulhu parsnips

People doubted me when I said all my parsnips look like the evil god Cthulhu. All I can say is - if these parsnips don't make you wake in fright, you have my undying respect. I am going to bury them again now.

Sunday, January 01, 2012

Travel travails

Happy New Year everybody. Like most Australians, we flung ourselves across the country for Christmas. It's a jolly national tradition to stuff a car to bursting, then drive for 11 hours in punishing heat. Alternatively, you can be the "guest" of an airline and enjoy their announcements, cute little surcharges and fun inflight catalogues of tat. We did both.

Before I seek out catharsis by writing about our travel pain, I'll mention some great moments in our mad five days on the mainland. We arrived in Canberra on Christmas Day and were met by Elf's parents Bill and Felicity and brother Fred. We did the gifts, demolished a turkey and then Skyped with Elf's other brother Chonk and his family in Switzerland. I am new to Skype so it's something of a miracle still to me. We were all Christmassed-out and ready for bed while they were just getting ready to have lunch.

Our boys spent a lot of time down in the garage which doubles as Fred's lab. Occasionally they would pop up for meals and mention the oscilloscope, or the 240 volt generator, or something about glass tubing. They really adore Fred, and Elf and I were able to loaf about quite a bit while he did the heavy work.

While in Canberra my Uncle Pete and Auntie Chrissie dropped by for a cup of tea - I hadn't seen them in years, and they happened to be in town. It was really good to see them and reconnect. They had never met Elf or the boys, and we've been married ten years. We are always hoping they will make a visit to Tasmania. Maybe now they have seen my lovely family they will bravely make the leap across Bass Strait.

In Melbourne we spent some time with Elf's cousin Ash, who is Marcus's godfather, and also a big hit with the boys. He lent us his swanky car - Elf and I had separate "climate zones". We visited Elf's 95-year-old grandma Marki who lives with her daughter Buddy. They were both in good form. Marki is amazing - she loves to talk and her long-term memory is marvellous. However she does ask the same question a number of times; the short-term memory is starting to drift a little.

The next day we went to lunch with Marki's younger sister, 92-year-old Auntie Val. She is a cracker - still lives independently, has a wicked sense of humour and an eye for the young men. She's a joy to talk to. I think a good measure of how with-it someone is, is whether or not you can pull their leg.

Now for the bad stuff. We had a complicated travel plan to try to save money - of course this meant more things could go wrong. We flew to Canberra with no trouble. To get to Melbourne we booked with VLine a combo ticket - bus to Albury on the Victoria/NSW border and then train. At the Canberra bus station we arrived nice and early, and were told
  • our bus had not arrived yet
  • our bus would be labelled ALBURY
  • our bus would have VLine on the side.
Sadly, none of this was true. After the departure time came and went, I phoned VLine to ask when this 'late' bus would appear, to be told it had already gone. It's true the other 26 people managed to catch it, and I can only suppose they asked more or different questions than I did. It was a Doyle's bus, had been there when we arrived, and was labelled CANBERRA. In Felicity's car we briefly tried pursuing the bus in the hope of catching it at Yass but it was hopeless. We went back to their house
 in despair.

After some discussions about our options, Fred offered to come with us in the family car, share the driving down and bring the car back the next day. This was incredibly generous of him, as it's an 8-hour drive each way, and two days out of his Christmas break. We accepted, and that's what we did.

A couple of days later after meeting all our family commitments, we were in the shuttle on our way to the airport to fly home, when we realised we had confused our departure and arrival times. It was about 2.50pm and our flight actually left at 3.00pm, and there was no way to make it. I called and asked about rebooking. I was told it would cost us about $1200 to get the next flight. We were shattered - for the rest of the bus ride was I was grimly thinking of all we would need to go without over the next few months.

The happy ending was that when we spoke to a lady named Eva at the Virgin Australia desk at Tullamarine, she put us on the next flight for just $50 more per person - although I am pretty sure that technically we should have been up for $1200. With all the faffing around we missed out on a 3.45pm flight, but for only $200 we were very happy to wait four hours for the next one.

Considering we were only gone five days, our delight at getting home was off the charts.