Thursday, May 30, 2013


Its time for a big state-of-the-nation catchup blog I think. For one reason or another I have been captured by the dubious charms of Facebook in recent months. I could rave on about how busy I have been yadda yadda but in fact I have no excuses. FB does have the very enjoyable aspect of instant feedback, and an audience for your writing which is narrower but a lot less mysterious.

However now I am addressing myself to you guys, in Saskatchewan, Springvale, Switzerland and South Sudan. How are you all going?

It’s nearly winter here now. I have a photo taken on February 28, 2002, showing the poplars turning yellow. (I know the date because it was the day Marcus was born). This photo has led me to thinking that is when the colours will change every year, but I realise now that must have been an early autumn.

Marcus will be at high school next year, which freaks me out considerably. Last week he and Elf and I were escorted on a tour of his prospective high school by a couple of very nice and well-adjusted Grade 8 kids. I don’t know when this species evolved, it wasn’t abroad on the earth when I was at high school.

The school was well-scrubbed and a lot of it seems very new. Like most schools in the country they got a bunch of funding under the Building The Education Revolution program. Now all the headlines about rorts and delays have faded away, we are left with what seems to be some very good education infrastructure.

Co-incidentally, the very same day we toured Taroona High, we were invited to a ceremony at New Town High, (the alternative high school option). Michael did very well in his NAPLAN tests last year (as did Marcus) and he was given a certificate, along with about 100 other kids from the south of Tasmania who either topped the school, came in the top 1%, or did both.

The government claim that NAPLAN is not about league tables of school v school, and they may really believe that. However when you have to sit through a very long presentation in a large hall, your mind does turn to the schools whose top performer is outside the top 1% and think - hmmm. If I was principal of such a school, especially if it was a medium-to-large one, I would feel this was exposing me to criticism.

Minister for Education Nick McKim congratulates future archaeologist/slapstick comedian Michael Rees.
We have been lucky to have a lot of family around lately. My sister Jacki visited Hobart for a week from NSW, and stayed with Mum and Dad over the river. She had a great time with them, and managed to get around to a lot of the best things to see. We had several dinners and get-togethers, and managed to get a sibling photo with Sally - these summit meetings only happen about every 3-5 years.

Jacki, me and Sally.
For comparison,  here we are in about 1980 (with our carroty cousins).
Jacki and Dad and I also went to the footy up in Launceston a few Sundays back. It was a gorgeous day (we are having a lot of that at the moment), and although I don't have a great interest in either Hawthorn or GWS Giants, it was a pretty good game. Just nice to spend time together too. Jacki lives at Smiths Lake on the mid-north coast of NSW, and its a major operation getting to or from there to Tasmania.

Moments after Jacki went home, Fred arrived from Canberra to spend a week with us, to celebrate his birthday. Again it was all dinners and outings for a while. The boys and their cousins were hanging off him most of the time.

We are only very occasional Skype-rs, and fired up the camera on the Smart TV to call Chonk and Irma in Switzerland while we had Fred with us. It's fantastic to have a full family-on-family gathering at such a distance. They have now replaced their laptop-based skype setup with a camera on top of the big TV like we have, and it s a different experience altogether.

We all had a big day out at Richmond on Sunday - lunch at the pub, getting lost in the big maze, and then a few hours at Zoodoo. I have just found an excellent setting on the camera that enables me to fill the card with bad photos in mere seconds. This lion was standing up staring mystically into the distance, well, towards Launceston actually.

In other miscellaneous news, Marcus's school soccer team just had their first win of the year, which will hopefully be the first of many. I coached his team last year, but this year I found someone else to take training, so I am only responsible on game day. A few of last year's players were ratbags who took up a lot of my time at the expense of the rest of the kids, and they have moved on or dropped out this year, so it's a good deal more rewarding.

Marcus is still playing for the Hobart Central Region representative team - the next tournament is in a bit over a week up in Devonport, They had a friendly game on Sunday morning against a Northern Suburbs rep team. It was pretty even for the first ten minutes, then Marcus (who plays in defence) scored the first goal, after coming up for a corner kick. After that everyone lost count - it was something like 12-0 in the end I think.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

50th birthday preview

This is what my 50th birthday is going to be like. Everyone better start practising now -you have less than 5 years to get loose and funky.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Fraught scenes at Table 1

I am at a school chess tournament. Marcus has been very excited about it, as last year’s top players were all Grade Sixers, and they have moved into the senior category, leaving him as (he hopes) top dog. Unfortunately he has already lost one of his 4 games, and there were a few tears. He is a lot more resilient than he once was, but he still expects a lot of himself. The team started well but have drifted to equal 4th, hopefully a good final round might get us into the medals.

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Well, that was exciting. We were pretty much out of it with one round to go, but managed to sneak in for 3rd place! Most of the team picked up bronze medals - the top 4 scorers get them, and if a few are equal 4th they all get them.

Marcus came equal 2nd overall. His last game was on the top table against the eventual winner. It finished in a controversial draw when she walked out, and said she couldn't play as there were too many people crowding around the table. This crowding always happens with long games on the top tables - players who have finished their games congregate and watch, not always quietly. I'm disappointed the organisers didn't look after the situation a bit better - last game on table 1 should always have a referee/arbiter keeping an eye on it.

Marcus was furious because he had just taken a big advantage in the game when his opponent took a stress break. I can't testify to what happened, as I always stay away from his games, but no-one has said that he did anything wrong. But when the other player came back in, the tournament organiser had a little conference, asked Marcus to apologise to her, and declared it a draw.

Of course its not easy running these things, and I am happy to accept the umpire's decision (although its not the decision I would have made.) In the moment I was determined not to be Ugly Chess Dad, so I just went along with things. But now I wish I had just asked "What exactly is he apologising for?"

Monday, May 06, 2013

Hobart Cup 2013

I half-heard some after-school news from Elf while I was sitting here with the sandwich-sized laptop. Someone had said something about the venue for soccer on Saturday. I googled it to verify - hmmm, rosters are not online yet. "Marcus has the roster in his schoolbag!" Which is downstairs. Hmm, maybe if I google again? Nup - still not online. Sigh.

School went back today after 2 weeks of holidays. I enjoyed a break from being soccer coach and school chess guy, both of which will now resume.

The last 2 days we supported Marcus and Central Region's U/11s at the Hobart Cup soccer tournament. They had a few close games, won 3 out of 4 but lost the one that counted against Launceston, who took the Cup home (in their hearts - the Cup has no actual cup). Elf and I are like chalk and cheese at a soccer match - she doesn't really like to watch and never says anything. I am glued to the action throughout and yell my head off. Our team manager was summoned for a dressing down yesterday morning because he and some of our parents were a bit vocal during the Launceston game, and the young ref was quite upset by the end. I feel pretty bad about it, as I hate to be seen to be just whingeing when we are losing. He didn't do a great job though, and the organisers gave him even younger ref's assistants so he didn't have a lot of help.

Marcus copped a ball in the face a number of times, close range goalkicks to the torso, a kick in the back when he was on the ground, had a clash of heads ... that's the way he plays. The manager loves him as he always bounces to his feet and gets back into it. I love it too but Elf ... I think she'd be happier if he was playing tennis.