Friday, November 20, 2015

Robbie Flower merch and the Australian Cancer Research Fund

Robbie Flower was a wonderful footballer and a wonderful man. I feel privileged to have had a very brief correspondence with him.

I designed this t-shirt a few years ago, and contacted Robbie for his permission to sell it. He replied;
Hi Chris. Designs are fine and look good. I would love to have one ( XL).....Hope they sell well.
One night I saw musician David Bridie wearing one on the Marngrook Footy Show on TV. I emailed Rob with a link to the clip, and mentioned he was being outsold by another design I did with his good mate Bernie 'Superboot' Quinlan. Rob wrote back;

Hi Chris
Shirt looks great. I will have to catch up with David sometime ! I am catching up with 'superboot ' later today........ I will tell him I have got him covered in the sale on the the t-shirts. I don't want him getting a bigger head than he already has !!! Thanks for the update on the sales and the youtube clip.
That was in May 2014. Sadly Rob passed away that October after a brief illness - he had had treatment for prostate cancer and cardiomyopathy in the 2000s.

I did not feel comfortable profiting from Rob's untimely passing, so from that point all profit on sales of his designs goes to the Australian Cancer Research Fund. I sell these through a site called RedBubble who take their usual cut; so from a $30 shirt they keep $20 and the other $10 goes to ACRF.

If you know anyone who you think might like a mug, shirt, hoodie, baby romper suit(!) or a framed print (lots of of other items available) why not pop over and get one?

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Following a contour to Knocklofty

Our house is just left of centre with the golden elm.
We went for a family walk today, exploring the fire trail that runs across the hill opposite our house. We usually call that hill Knocklofty but I think properly that is the smaller hill to the east, whcih can be seen from the city. From there ours is hidden by the real Knocklofty. The boys and I explored it a little a few weeks ago, and I thought was time to sort out where it led.

We set off from the Tip Shop, up and around the switchback. This is the only climbing we did until we got to the Knocklofty park. The trail runs along a contour around the belly of the hill, and after about ten minutes we got the view of our house I was hoping for. From this height you can see not just the park above our house, but the soccer ground above that too.

Along a little further are some concrete steps leading up to concrete foundations of a building. There are remnants of brick columns, and a tin bath which makes me think it was a house. There were wallabies all around so Winston was on the lead; we might come back without him to explore this more deeply.

These power lines run down to Tara Street 
We came out at the end of Forest Road, which was what I expected.  

 Knocklofty has been quarried intensively over the years. The Hobart post office and Government House in Melbourne are built of Knocklofty sandstone.

This block has been partly dressed then left.

As we got to the junction with the Knocklofty Park road, a council man was just finsihing putting up some banners for an Open Day today. My first thought was, how can a park have an open day? There were various groups there with card tables, and some trestles set up for morning tea.

Elf thought we should do the orienteering activity. I am not a fan of orienteering if I am honest; I like to go where I please and take my time. We got lost briefly but it was OK, once we gave Marcus the map. He wasn't 100% with his pathfinding but he did OK, shouting "Mapman!!" each time he located a checkpoint.

Nice view of the bridge from this spot.
Looking north towards Mt Direction. 
So, we found ourselves walking all over Knocklofty. Winston had a swim in the Reflecting Pond and seemed to enjoy himself - most of the course was on the off-lead tracks. We got back to the car park and clocked off just in time to see the fruit, sandwiches and little cakes come out. Then we retraced our steps around the nameless hill to the Tip Shop where we had left the car; the whole walk took us under three hours.

Day two in Perth

My old uni friends Philip and Andrea Vaughan offered to put us up for our second night in Perth. They were very helpful when we spent 3 weeks in Perth 2 years ago, lending us their car when they went off on holiday, so now we owe them even further.

A very small dog wih neatly crossed legs
Andrea was home when we got there, and introduced us to Iliana the Italian greyhound pup, who is incredibly tiny and fine-limbed. Her whole head is about the size of Winston's nose. We both had a swim in the new pool, while Andrea went to fetch the kids Ronan and Isobel from school. Marcus zonked out with jet lag after his swim and I caught up with goings on in the Vaughan world.

2 years ago neither of our buddies in Perth had pools, now they have both pooled-up.
The pool is amazing, and it was a major operation putting it in. A shed was demolished and once its parapet wall was gone a new fence was required. The pool is all concrete so that called for retaining walls, and the fencing is all glass, the paving is special marble etc. They decided to do it all very high spec and they are going to enjoy it for many years. Philip arrived home with his Movember mo bristling and looking very fit.

We had fancy takeaway pizza for dinner from a very, very busy place in City Beach. it took the kids a little while to reconnect with Marcus but they got going by dinner time. He was bonding with Iliana while they had their after school down time.

The creative and devilish Ronan
Ronan is in a gifted program at school - Andrea said although his school marks are not outstanding, they have perceived that he is a very quick and lateral thinker. It seems like a good program and he's been given all sorts of thought-provoking material to tackle. One project was building a compressed air marshmallow cannon. Having an engineer dad who has a taste for mischief is certainly helpful. They bought plastic piping, a ball valve, air nozzle and some plastic tubing. They can load a marshmallow, compress the air in the tube to 80psi, quickly release the valve and shoot the marshmallow a couple of blocks.

Your basic compressed air marshmallow cannon
The kids were sandbagged and frog marched to bed, but I didn't last much longer. Marcus and I were both operating still on eastern time. We both woke at about 4am again, and raided the house library for books to read until we could politely make noise. By 6 I was going insane so we snuck out and walked around the neighbourhood for a while. I am knocked out by the jacarandas, and I really love this cubby house (built in a non-jacaranda) with sunshade and lilac support struts.

Jacarandas are lovely looking street trees, and I imagine they influenced the colour of cubbyhouse.
Philip was up when we got back, and getting ready to go to the Mt Claremont farmers market while the rest of the family dozed. We went with him, and I am really glad we did; it was really great. Imagine a primary school with a whole garden of fruit trees, including an impressive banana tree! How do they keep the kids off them when they are ripe? I guess someone needs to eat them. Probably keeping them away when they are unripe is a bigger problem. For breakfast I had a sweet Greek rice pudding, an amazing vanilla cannoli, two satay buns and four ghoza dumplings. For anyone misguidedly coming to this blog for diet tips, I would suggest you don't take that one.

A riot of colour at the edible fungus stall.
One stall was selling amazing mushrooms, very reasonably priced. I mentioned I was from Tasmania and the stallholder looked stricken; turns out she visited recently and dearly hopes to move there. She just needs to find the right block of land to set up the fungi business. Everyone was very friendly and they all knew Philip well; he clearly has a good routine going. Having two pack horses with him I think he bought more than usual, including a dozen bottles of olive oil and a big tray of tomatoes.

I envy people who love cooking - somewhere there is a parallel universe where I do too. Local geography note; from Philip and Andrea's neighbourhood (flat and near the ocean) to Mt Claremont (seemingly also flat) we seemed to drive, if anything, downhill. I mock your mountains, Perth.

Pumping the cannon up to 80psi for cork launch.
The marshmallow cannon had a really good workout when we got back, until it was time to get in the cab to the airport. I was chatting inside when Marcus came in, raved about cannon details for 4 or 5 minutes, then said "oh and the taxi is outside"

He had parked up the road a little, which might have had something to do with the fact Ronan was shooting corks and handfuls of sand out of the cannon at high pressure. We said bye to Iliana and my dear friends. I am spoiled in having these two good friend families here so far away, because I know they will return periodically to see their families back here. After two trips to Perth in two years I really doubt we will be going that way again soon.

I usually cop out at this point in any travel story and say 'the trip home was uneventful' but there was a bit of a saga. Our flight to Melbourne was very late leaving, they swapped planes then the new plane had air con trouble. Then we hit some lively weather which meant seat belts on and no meals or toilets for an hour or so. The meal on the way over was actually good so I had been looking forward to it.

When the seatbelt sign went off every person on the plane essentially queued for the toilet, and the first nine people in line were all blokes, the weaker sex. It became clear that we were nowhere near making our connecting flight to Hobart, but the purser got on the PA and said Virgin would put people up for the night and book them on morning flights.

Passing the time with a bit of maths
It is 2727km from Perth to Melbourne, a bloody long way even if nothing goes wrong. Its hard to believe you are still in the same country where you started. We were exhausted when we finally landed and shambled across the seven zebra crossings to the Park Royal airport hotel, where we were a given a room with one king size bed and told there were no twins. Maybe twins are going out of fashion. The bed was big enough and we were tired enough that we both got a good night's sleep.

Morning at Tullamarine.
We both had monstrous breakfasts at Virgin's expense. I had put the fetta/ricotta spread from the farmers market in the bar fridge, and we went off leaving it and Philip's little fridge bag behind.

 Apart from all that, the trip home was uneventful.

Sunday, November 08, 2015

Marcus and I go to Perth for AMC medal Nº 2

This white shirt was purchased about four minutes before the photo was taken.
Yesterday was a very proud day of Dadness. I accompanied Marcus to Government House here in Perth to receive a medal from Her Excellency The Honourable Kerry Sanderson AO, in recognition of his result in the Australian Mathematics Competition. 27 kids from Grade 7 to Grade 12 were honoured, some for the second or third year in a row, and one boy in Grade 10 was getting his 4th medal.

The Australian Maths Trust run the competition and organise the presentation in a different city each time. Last year Marcus went with Elf to Brisbane to receive his first medal; and this year it was my turn.

We flew in on Thursday afternoon, taxied into the city to our shabby but central hotel, then went off for a ferry ride to South Perth just to have afternoon tea. We made this trip two years ago to see Perth Zoo, but this time we were just doing it to stretch our legs after a long plane ride. We gained three hours, which to me says you are entitled to squeeze in an extra meal. The ferry is part of the public transport system; it cost Marcus a full 80c each way.

 We had a little stroll around and watched the pennant lawn bowls players for a while. One came over and said "come back on Tuesday night, we have a scroungers night when anyone can play" which was nice of him.

We'd been invited to Wendy and Jon's new house at Swanbourne for dinner, so when we got off the ferry we walked up Barrack St to where the train station was supposed to be. Barrack St is mostly pretty decrepit, and the train station is quite hard to spot until you are right on top of it. It was only about fifteen minutes to Swanbourne.

Our timing was comically spot on, as Wendy drove past us and bipped the horn as we were about three doors from their house, while Jon had just pulled in from the opposite direction. The kids had been to basketball, where Bella's team lost 25-0 but no-one was too fussed.

Bella and Sam were delighted to see Marcus but disappointed to not see Michael as well, I think he made quite an impression on them when we were here in January 2014.

Jon barbecued magnificently, as is required for all Perth men. He is a super fit triathlete, mid 40s but strong as an ox. He recently led a 1000km charity bike ride that began in Perth and went north. Yes, a thousand clicks, often into a hot headwind.

It turned into quite a late night for us as when we wrapped up and Wendy took us back to town it was around 9, but our bodies were telling us it was midnight.

On Friday we both woke up at 3am. For some reason I read the clock radio as seven, so I was quite cheerful about have slept through the night. Then Marcus pointed out that we had a long way to go. We tried to get back to sleep but finally gave up at about 6 and turned on the TV. The preamble to day 2 of the first cricket test came on; it's a long time since I have watched that mix of boofheads, ads disguised as content, actual ads and a small amount of replays. For some reason Tubby Taylor interviewed Dave Warner out on the field, in front of a giant touch screen TV wheeled out there for the purpose. If you are going to be up that early Perth is the place to do it, as the rest of Australia is well into their sporting day.

We dressed up nice for the Governor. Then I realised I had a fat neck problem; I packed a business shirt I hadn't worn in a long time, and it just would not button up, and looked dreadful unbuttoned. With 35 minutes before we were due in the Ballroom, I told Marcus to sit tight while I walked along Hay St until I found a menswear emporium, where I bought the most expensive shirt I will probably ever own. The gentleman clearly thought my tie was a disgrace and insisted I buy another one, but I refused and furthermore insisted he tie my old tie for me as I am not skilled in this area.

I managed to get it all done in time, then we walked the 2 blocks to Guv House. The invite said 2.30, arrive no later than 2.25. We walked in at 2.15, and a man at the entrance who I assumed would beam in welcome actually looked at us like we were noted petty criminals. The ladies inside were more smiley but the table of name tags was almost bare - we were among the last to arrive. We were shown to our places and then we sat and twiddled thumbs for fifteen minutes.

Official photos aren't released yet but I'll add them when they are.

There were a few speeches, the Guv spoke well and conveyed her own love for and aptitude in Mathematics which served her well when running the Port of Fremantle.

Then they ran through the 23 boys and 2 girls alphabetically, with Adj. Prof. Mike Clapper from the AMT reading out the potted biographies supplied by the medalists, as they were presented with their medal and, in the many cases of kids with perfect scores, also a certificate. Some of the bios went on and on, and I was glad Marcus had kept his brief and snappy. He looked very relaxed up there, being a 2nd timer. 

Apologies for the terrible quality of this dadVid.

Quite a few parents approached and said they remembered Marcus from Brisbane last year. The Taroona High uniform stands out among all the private school blazers; Marcus cuts a memorable figure in his bright red rugby top.

There was mingling and chit chat and tiny, tiny snacks, then we all walked a block to the Mercure hotel for a cocktail lunch of slightly larger snacks and deeper mingling, interspersed with speeches. An outstanding young mathematician named Seyoon sang You Lift Me Up, a kind of Wind Beneath My Wings doppelgänger. He then went straight into a speech without notes that went for about ten minutes, paying tribute to Mike Clapper, the absent Alex Gunning (3 time international Olympiad gold medallist) and various other figures in his life.

Seyoon also won a gold medal at Chiang Mai this year, and was in every way the star of the show. I went up and congratulated him and introduced Marcus. Seyoon will be at the School of Excellence that Marcus is attending in Melbourne over ten days in December, and he gave us an idea of what that will be like; in short it's just problem solving from dawn to dusk.

Marcus spoke well to everyone and I was proud to be there with him. After the last speech people began drifting away, so we had one last mini-kebab each and sauntered back to the Shabby Central to get our bags, and commence phase two of the trip.