Monday, December 31, 2012

Some assembly required

The end of year assembly at school is always a big gig - its taken me several weeks to recover to the point where I can write about it. This was also the new principal's first EoYA, so we all waited to see how she would go. Past editions have been long and windy with unnecessary amounts of Scottish country dancing.

We had been asked to attend which usually means Someone Is Getting Something. I knew I would be presenting the inter-house chess trophy, so I was going anyway.

 [A quick digression on the chess - Rodney and I agreed that we needed a trophy but that modern trophies are yuk. I was casting around for something simple, inexpensive but ingenious to serve as a perpetual trophy, when Mum suggested a sandblasted-glass chess board she found cheap at a jumble sale. I bought a plate stand for it and bingo, we had a trophy good for the next 32 years of winter and summer competitions. Then, just two days before the EoYA, Elf and I were standing in the hallway at school by the trophy cabinet when she said "Look - there is already a chess trophy!" It was inaugurated in 2008, and only awarded once before being forgotten. It's a standard modern trophy ie ugly, but it exists, and so we gave back the glass chessboard and went with it. Derwent made a stirring comeback on the final day to beat Wellington. In all about 52 kids took part, which was huge.] 

Elf was called to the front for a thank you for running the Saturday Sausage Stall for 4 years, and awarded a fine box of chocolates. Rodney and I presented the ugly chess trophy to "a representative from Derwent" who turned out to be Tully, who had in fact been tricked into playing for Wellington. Then it was time for medals. Here's where it starts to get braggy.

The school does very well in the various academic competitions. This year both our boys got High Distinction certificates in the UNSW Competitions for Maths and Science. Last year Marcus got a medal at the end of the year for being in the top 0.3% (or smidgen) nationally in the Grade 3/4 Maths competition. This year Michael was called up and given a medal for being in the top smidgen in Grade 3/4 Science - and he's not yet 9! Then Marcus was called up for a repeat of last years' effort - another Maths medal, this time for being in the top smidgen in Grade 5/6/7, and he's not yet 11!

The loot
The boys are undoubtedly gifted in Maths and Science, and it's worth remembering what gifted literally means. They are lucky kids to be able to achieve on this level without any visible effort. But it's to their credit that they love learning and long may it continue. I refer to them for now as The Medallists, eg "Have you brushed you teeth yet, Medallists?"

Eleanor in Grade 6 also won a medal in spelling, and that was it - Reeses provided 2 of the 3. I was probably puffed up like a bullfrog, I was feeling so proud. Karri won the Grade 6 Principal's Award, for her excellence in ALL AREAS. All three grandparents were there, which was even better. Bill would also have been very proud, but fortunately he had plenty of opportunity to see the boys and Karri and Miah succeeding in music, sport, and academically before he died in mid-2012.

The golden glow of the boys' success was enough to carry us through the Valley of Darkness that was the senior brass ensemble's performance. Parp. Wah wah waaaaaaaaaaaaah.

This year the Grade Sixers had written a song with 2 lines for each leaver, to the tune of Gangnam Style (of course), and after that they marched out of the life of the school to (strangely) Aussie Jingle Bells. And, another school year was over.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Quiet day at the cricket

Marcus and I went along to the last day of the Sri Lanka test match last week. As the Lankans battled to last out the day, the Australians put every single fielder around the bat. I've never seen anything like it. At one point there were four Australians fielding in helmets, including Matt Wade the keeper (seen above in this pic from The Age). The Aussies ended up skittling the visitors with about 8 overs of the Test left to play - it was great to be there in the moment of victory. With about 200 other genuine spectators and at least 250 ground staff, police, TCA and CA people, security, media and catering people.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Christmas 2012

Arthur and Winston found a comfortable quiet moment on the floor

Marcus and Arthur find the way in


Eric in Switzerland and Michael in Hobart compare their pillowcases from Aunty Imp

A bike! A bike! A bike! A bike! A bike! Giver and givee confer.

He's off!

Winston received a squeaky bone, which he carried around gently for an hour. 

Friday, December 14, 2012

Nelson Mandela makes a cup of tea

I have a lot of respect for Nelson Mandela, of course. He is pretty much the No.1 respect-worthy person on earth. I also have a lot of respect for Phillip Adams, although he has regularly annoyed me since I started reading his column in The Bulletin in about 1980.

Yesterday on Radio National he was interviewing John Carlin, who I think had written a biography of Mandela. Phillip begged him to recount a story from the book wherein Mandela had invited a delegation of sinister Afrikaaner generals to his house. It wasn’t clear when this was, but I guess during the F. W. de Klerk era when democratic elections were not far away.

Mandela asked the senior and most sinister general for a short private chat, and asked him if he would like a cup of tea. Mandela made the tea, then enquired if the general would like milk. Finally he offered sugar - the general is quoted as saying afterwards "All I had to do was stir it!"

I must be missing something. Had no-one ever made the general a cup of tea before? Had he been repressing minorities all this time just because he was a little thirsty? Phillip and John were all misty eyed about Mandela's charisma and tactical genius. Their devotion was religious in its intensity, and I felt like they had just gone a tiny bit over the top.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Catharsis on hold

I have done some work for a local ad agency in the last couple of weeks. Someone that they rely on went on holiday unexpectedly, and they needed someone else to very quickly whip up animated banner ads for an online bottle shop, using Christmas as an excuse to flog beer, wine and spirits over the net. Luckily I have been doing a lot of volunteer work lately so I am in karma kredit.

I was on the phone to them at one stage, when the lady I was speaking to had to put me on hold for about two minutes. It seems they use national youth radio station Triple J for their hold music, so I got a quick window into what’s hot for the 18-25 demographic right now. For about 90 seconds I got this;
DJ: “Wow! Wow. I’ve got chills. That’s so raw, such real pain. Cathartic. Oooh. I’m in tears right here, it’s all so real. Phew. Wow.”

Then “Are you there? Sorry, I'll have to get him to call you - bye!”

Ho Ho Ho!

I got to be part of the magic of Christmas this week. I am a bit of a humbug most years, but nevertheless I was approached to play Santa for the local playgroup’s Christmas party. I know a couple of the parents, but only one of the kids knows me, and we were pretty sure he wouldn't recognise me. (Last year one of the kids freaked out because Santa was his dad, but not his dad, and his dad was Santa, and ... waaaaaah. Hence the need to contract out the the gig.)

I am not a thespian type, and generally avoid being the centre of attention. But I actually loved being Santa! The punters were all 3 or under, in fact Isla (on the left of the pic with her mum Sally) might have been the oldest. They were so sweet, innocent and straightforward (compared to the groups of kids I usually have to wrangle, aged 8-12). I realised afterwards, that for me and all the adults there I was the guy who was playing Santa, but for the kids I really was Santa. Quite a responsibility.

Sally, who is the playgroup coordinator, dropped off the suit to me, a really good quality suit it is too. The beard took some working out, but it actually has a bit that goes over your head to minimise the dangers of beard-tugging toddlers. I put it all on at home, classical pillow-up-the-jumper and all. I felt a responsibility, shared with all Santas (and any other grown-ups called upon to be Mickey Mouse, a Banana In Pyjama etc) to not be seen getting in or out of costume. So I waddled down to the car as Santa, drove as Santa, got out of the car as Santa, changed my dainty driving shoes for serious Santa Boots as Santa, and set off across the soccer field to the appointed spot in the Darcy Street playground, ringing my bell and trying out a few Ho Ho Ho's. Or the old 3H as we call it in the caper.

Sally did a fantastic job planning it all, and making it very easy for me. I sat in the shade of a marquee, next to a small decorated tree that fell over regularly. The parents had all smuggled in gifts for me to hand out, and that went smoothly. Although one or two were very shy they all came and took their gift from me in the end, one or two shook hands and Santa scored a kiss and a couple of hugs. Once the gifts were sorted, it was time for the traditional sit on Santa's lap session. The parents seemed keen to get photos to remember it all by, so I took that as a sign it was going well. Weird to think that I am going to printed and stuck on grandparents fridges all around Australia.

Once everyone had all the photos they wanted, it was time for Santa to move on to his next port of call. Fortunately my initial line of retreat was around a corner, as I had serious pants-sag issues. Santa exited backwards, ringing his bell, ho-ing.

Recent work by Michael

The space shuttle may have retired but Michael has a few ideas for a reboot. 
Mr Birley introduced the class to perspective and Michael embraced it.

Sunday, December 02, 2012


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I have been getting the wave ski out a bit. I am in a pre-christmas fallow period with freelance work, and I feel that on a warm day I might as well be out on the water if there's nothing to do at my desk. (In fact there is always something to do at my desk, but if there is not going to be an invoice at the end of it my motivation is somewhat lower).

The other day I did my first fairly serious Derwent River paddle - from this spot at Marieville Esplanade, right around Battery Point to the CSIRO corner. I went out far enough into Sullivans Cove to see the GPO clock in town. Then I got a bit nervous about being on the water equivalent of a major road, piloting the water equivalent of one roller skate.

On the way back I hugged the coast and had a good and envious look at the homes of the Hobart super-rich that back onto the water, with starfish at the bottom of the garden. Private jetties, boathouses and so on. Saw an actual watergate. I had a little rest in the sun on a boat ramp on the way back, and ate a banana. I'm no Sir Francis Chichester, but it was good exercise and very good fun.

A couple of days later I set off from the same spot and went the other way, heading for the little beach beyond Wrest Point Casino. But it was pretty choppy and quite hard work, so I satisfied myself with getting to within sight of it, then turned around and had an easy ride back with the swell. (Note how I am talking all boaty now.)

I had an excuse to go down towards Dodges Ferry on Thursday, as Marcus was at a school camp there and parents were invited to a midday beach frolic. So I took the wave ski, and on the way found a lovely little ramp just where Lewisham peters out into the start of Dodges Ferry. Across the channel there is a long sandspit with big sandhills on it, which is the "back" of Seven Mile Beach. I paddled across and back very easily. I had the sandspit to myself for a time and went through the usual desert island fantasies, spoiled somewhat by people coming over the hill and saying "how are you going?" and the like.

I have been going barefoot, but have found that a lot of places where I would like to make landfall are not so foot-friendly. So today I snapped up some boat-bootees for fifteen bucks.(I did continue on down to the surf beach and see my first-born son but that's not what this blog is about now. Me. Me and my bootees.)