Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Memento


This is a memento of a happy moment. I sat here with Winston looking over the brewery while a flock of homing pigeons circled, flying over us every 20 seconds or so. It was very quiet, apart from the periodic flapfest.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Is it OK to be angry about more than one thing?

Yesterday Australia exploded in uproar and disappointment at the news our Test cricket captain had confessed to pre-meditated cheating in the 3rd test in South Africa. Later in the day a backlash developed as human rights advocates contrasted our national response to ball tampering with our national response to our mandatory detention of asylum seekers – which has resulted in untold misery, many deaths and life-changing injury and mental illness.

I am gutted about the gap between expectations and reality with the cricket team. Pre-meditated cheating, pushing young Bancroft out to do it, the shitty attempt at cover up after. The first I or most Australians knew about this was Steve Smith fronting a press conference, admitting the offence.

On the other hand, our government is carrying out an established policy (with tacit ALP support) that is grinding asylum seekers into the dirt every day. Every fucking day. And like millions of other Australians I have tried to hold our government to account.

I have written to ministers, to newspapers, signed petitions, attended vigils. I have volunteered for many many hours on an Amnesty International stall at the market where we try to convey the importance of these issues to people passing by. I was even pressed into taking part in a bit of street theatre in Refugee Week once [if you know me you will know this is waaay outside my comfort zone].  There are people like Ian Rintoul and Kon Karapanagiotidis who make fighting this fight their life's work. I have given time and money to help them but I cannot do what they do.

Occasionally particular events leap out of the continuum of officially sanctioned human rights abuse. The deaths of Reza Bharati, Omid Masoumali, and Hamid Khazaei and many more. And now the attempt by the government to stop a suicidal ten-year-old coming here for treatment. These are the headline events, when every fair-minded Australian agrees - hang on, this is not right. But then it slips from the front page but those innocent people are still in mandatory detention.

Yes, there are Australians who are blind to the injustice, and in fact say they support offshore detention, tow-backs and even more punitive action against asylum seekers who have committed no crime. But 45% of Australians want asylum seekers on Manus and Nauru brought here. Undoubtedly there are cricket-lovers and proud Australians on both sides.

Freeing people from offshore detention is an every-day fight. Concern about cricket or the environment or corruption or the possums getting into your carrots; none of this means you have stopped caring about and acting on behalf of asylum seekers.



Sunday, February 25, 2018

Letter to the Mercury




Charles Woolley's column about Barnaby Joyce amounts to a whitewash. Most of the media focus has been on his private life and Woolley says, fairly, they need to get over it. 

But to say "He not a mass murderer, a terrorist … or even a crooked politician” is quite a stretch and amounts to a Joyce public relations manoeuvre. 

So, we can construe Woolley is OK with two taxpayer-funded jobs created out of thin air for Vicki Campion? 

Woolley is OK with the taxpayers millions spent on a ‘security upgrade’ of Joyce’s mate’s place in Armidale that he was staying in rent free? 

Woolley is OK with Joyce’s water buybacks at twice the market rate as Agriculture Minister? 

I agree, it’s time to lay off his private life and time to take a good hard look at his conduct as minister, and hold him accountable.

Sunday, February 04, 2018

Longitude


I’ve just finished Longitude by Dava Sobell. Great story with some amazing characters like Admiral Sir Cloudisely Shovell

Admiral of the Fleet Sir Cloudisely Shovell died along with 2000 sailors in the mass shipwreck of 1707 in the Scilly Isles. 7 years later Parliament passed the Longitude Act offering £20,000 to anyone who could develop a method for ships to accurately calculate their longitude. 

Sobell says one sailor on Shovell’s flagship, who was a native of the Isles, spoke up to warn him they were off course. Shovell had him hanged for insubordination. Shortly after the ship HMS Association foundered on rocks, and three other ships followed; Eagle, Romney and Firebrand.


Shovell’s body washed ashore in Porthellick Cove. Sobell says 30 years later a woman confessed on her deathbed that she had found him on the beach alive, and finished him off so she could take his emerald ring.

North Hobart's tiny house district

I have worked out that in hour I can walk from Red Jelly up here to North Hobart and back. Or I can catch the bus up that way then walk around and have a really good look THEN walk back. I have found a big blackberry bush that I'd quite like to revisit, in a little thru-way between houses.

This is around Smith, George and Wellington Streets, between Argyle St and Letitia St. Some tiny tiny houses around here. (Photos from Google Streetview)

 







Friday, January 26, 2018

A wander around Rosny Point


I went for a paddle here this morning - Kangaroo Bay. There is a wonderful collection of mid century weatherboards around this area. Once back on land I went for a drive around Rosny Point. Below are some Streetview screen grabs.








Tuesday, January 23, 2018

To the ACT (Australian Christmas Territory) - Part 3, Festival of Bleak

Canberra is an unusual place. I try to accept it for what it is; a large decentralised city plonked in the bush, mostly built during the 1970s and marked indelibly with style choices of that era. The population quadrupled from 1960 to 1975, then a recession hit and building stopped dead.

But even by it's own standards, it is looking extremely bleak. There are some water restrictions – but they aren't draconian. Canberrans often have big flat blocks, and native trees predominate; often grey/green, with loads of dry bark piled up under them. Maybe the local flora is naturally bleak. But I have noticed in many places residents have essentially drawn a line across their property and just ignored everything past that point.

Some shopping centres are under a moratorium with no new building allowed and heaps of vacancies. A 5 minute-walk from Felicity's house are the Weetangera Shops. All over Canberra, this model of little clusters of shops was implemented. Here there is a Pakistani restaurant, a bodybuilding centre, a patisserie and a bakery, a dentist and Brazilian Queen hair removal service. There is zero traffic.

The tooth is headed next door for an eyebrow waxing.

You would never know you are less than 10 metres from a sindhi biryani
Further away but a larger are the Hawker Shops.

On my first visit I was overwhelmed by the abundant parking.
I returned to document the bleakness in full. It's not conventional suburban dystopia – there is very little graffiti. Things are just closed, or empty, or both. To be fair it is between Christmas and New Year, and everyone goes to the coast. But… a lot of these places are closed for good. I heard that Girlalang shops were a lot worse, but I didnt get a chance to ghoulishly cruise over there.

This changed to something else at some point but now its essential 'unisex hairdresser-ness' is reasserting.




The play area wasn't ALWAYS deserted but it wasn't hard to get this picture.
It is surrounded by blank brick walls, the back entrances of vacant shops.
Another factor is the Mr Fluffy asbestos scandal. Mr Fluffy was a local insulation business run by Dirk Jansen, that installed asbestos-based insulation in over 1000 homes. The Federal Govt is now buying and demolishing these homes, many in Weetangera. The three below are within a short walk of Felicity's. It is really sad to stand in front of a vacant block with nothing left but a letterbox, and perhaps a garage. Jansen stored the stuff under his own house. He kept installing it despite evidence of its health effects, until 1978.

You can just imagine the pall that this sort of thing could cast over a community. Neighbourhood friendships gone, possibly property values affected, and that nagging worry if your own health might be affected from living next door.




Below is a typical street in Weetangera. The first question this raises for me is; where do you walk? And in practice the answer is – on the road. Footpaths do exist in places but in many areas they have been omitted in favour of green nature-strips on both sides. Residents' approaches to managing nature-strips vary; it may be gravelled over for car-parking, maintained as tidy lawn, allowed to go feral or in many cases, planted with large trees and shrubs making it impassable to foot traffic.


And lastly here is a true Canberra icon – the cyclindrical concrete bus-stop. These date back to (and loudly scream) 1974!! They were designed by Clem Cummings. 



The bleakness is strangely entertaining, but for the good of all Canberrans I hope things turn around and freshen up soon.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

The highest tea

We just had the highest high tea in town, at the Wrest Point Revolving Restaurant.

 It was very amusing. When we arrived we were looking over Queensborough oval and the university, but in no time we were leaving it behind and pivoting towards Battery Point. I would estimate it was travelling at around 70cm a minute, out at the perimeter. I enjoy looking at mirror images of the world, and the central core of the restaurant is all mirrored walls and doors to make this possible. You can see bits of the view in reverse before you get around to see them directly.

 A perspiring young man brought us a tray of 4 x 4 of little cakes, and 4 each scones, smoked salmon sandwiches, brown bread sandwiches and white bread sandwiches (crusts cut off and after hours flung down 17 floors to the ravenous gulls, you imagine).

 Service was good, the food was very good without being amazing. The standout was a little green-tea-flavoured creamy inch-high cube that weighed about 0.00001 gram. Marcus was given some pretty cheap orange juice but that might be a kids menu thing. He is about 6' 1" though. Proper juice for everyone please.

 We had rotated right around the Derwent side and just made visual landfall back in Sandy Bay when the fire alarm went off. It said
 WOOOOP. WOOOOOP. WOOOOOP. THE FIRE ALARM HAS BEEN ACTIVATED. PLEASE WAIT FOR INSTRUCTIONS. 
 It said that about 150 times before we got any instructions. Staff went around saying to other groups (not us though) "It's a false alarm so just don't worry and stay calm". It went on and on. We were just finishing our 2nd cup of tea – we'd finished but probably would have stayed to enjoy the view a bit longer. Finally some Wrest Point security or maintenance people arrived and a fire warden. They wandered around poking this and that then frowned and…
 WOOOOP. WOOOOOP. WOOOOOP. THE FIRE ALARM … 
 … gradually word was given to us from Perspiring Boy that we should please make our way to the fire door. We did, near the front of the queue. We were told to wait there so we did. Then someone else came by and looked astonished that we were just standing there, and said 'Open it! Go down!'
 …HAS BEEN ACTIVATED. PLEASE WAIT FOR INSTRUCTIONS. 
 So we did; we were behind a slow moving lady and it took ages to move down the narrow fire escape. Everyone stayed calm and whatever we were thinking, we all stayed polite and pleasant. The slow moving group kindly moved aside and we got to ground and went out through a loading bay. So that was a little bit of excitement. We were allowed back up after a bit of time standing around, but we just went up to pay. High tea was $42 per head. but they kindly charged us for 3 rather than 4 people for our inconvenience.

We'd certainly like to visit again, this time to see the view by night.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

To the ACT (Australian Christmas Territory) - Part 2

We arrived on Christmas Eve, and quickly settled into a routine of cups of tea and Nescafe,  and Fred's home brew with whisky nightcaps. We all took it in turns to cook.

I didn't take any photos of Christmas Day and my recollections are vague, so thanks to Chonk and particularly Fred for the photos below. The kids opened their stockings before I got up – when I did there seemed to be gifts everywhere. There's a lot more juicy main-event stuff going into the stocking than used to be the case, it seems.

We all put on nice clothes and convoyed over to All Saints for the Christmas service. The nice thing about All Saints which I have probably mentioned before, is that it used to be a railway station! It was built as the receiving station for trains to Rookwood Cemetery, the main Sydney cemetery.



The sermon was odd and quite un-Christmassy. I sat next to Eric who was an unwilling participant in worship. He disappeared after a while, possibly impounded by the Christmas Police for the duration.

Chonk, Ed, Elf, Michael, me, Felicity, Karri, Imp, Marcus,
Miah, Bea, Fred (with Eric tucked in front of him) and Irma

After a wonderful lunch we had a flaming Christmas pudding. Eric had disobeyed instructions and left the table. When the pudding arrived he was was called back, to no avail. So we all started yelling "Quick Eric! Food on fire! Food on fire!'" He came barrelling down the hall calling "It's not my fault!".

Marcus tries to get to grip with pentatonic triads, or something.

A lot of man-hours went into jigsaws over the week in Canberra.
Someone received the famous game Twister for Christmas and kids, Imp and Irma spent a lot of time contorting themselves. The kids all enjoyed each other's company a lot.

Marcus and I spent a bit of time playing soccer with Eric, and one time Chonk, Eric and I were roped into an 8-a-side game with some a group of neighbourhood teens and another group of smaller kids and dads. It was quite fun and we all represented the family well.

One day we all went to Jamieson Water Park and the kids and fitter grown-ups spent the day plummeting down chutes. I was seized with the idea that all around us the diplomatic corps were enjoying the sun, the slides, the chips.

[Here comes the Chilean agriculture secretary down the corkscrew! The Uruguayan defence attaché is making a towel screen while the ambassador changes back into his underpants, wobbling on one leg. The Egyptian 3rd trade attaché (clearly a spy) is demanding to know what is in a Chiko roll.]

Felicity revealed that she is in the running for selection in the Australian Marmalade Squad to compete at the World Marmalade Festival in the England in March.

Her kitchen is a bit of a time capsule. Like many people in their seventies, she is happy to offer a good home to condiments and tinned food with use-by dates that go back several prime-ministers.

A lot of child-hours went into fiddling with the vapouriser attachment on the fan. A LOT.

The thug lyfe
The hug lyfe
I brought with me to Canberra a 2018 vacuum-packed Richmond members scarf to give Chonk,
who used to be a Tiger. (And surely will be again). He responded by fetching from his old bedroom
a 1983 scarf and beanie for me.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

RIP Cyrille Regis

Cyrille Regis was a stylish centre-forward for West Brom back when I was playing in the under 10s. Regis caught the eye in English soccer as one of few black players. But in this West Brom team he had the company of Brendan Batson and Laurie Cunningham. This team was beautiful to watch; I recall them usually wearing yellow and green stripes but I think that was their away strip. Which in those days (they are away in this game) you only wore if required to avoid a clash.

The black players were routinely booed just for their skin colour. It starts when Cunningham gets the ball at 2:15 but then stops dead as he sets up a lovely West Brom goal. Good on the commentator for highlighting it. Regis and Cunningham particularly copped a lot of abuse but persisted. When Regis was selected to play for England he got a bullet in the post with a message "if you set foot on our Wembley we'll shoot you in the knee". It would be great to think that's all long ago and far away but Adam Goodes would probably disagree.

There's so many highlights in this old game; an unexpected one is the goalkeeping of Gary Bailey. The save at 8:19 is as good as you'll see. Then there's the drop ball in front of goal, and the players caught offside from a keeper's long kick.  And the snow!

Monday, January 15, 2018

Easter tip

Hot cross bun stuck in the toaster? Turn it off at the powerpoint, then hook it out with a banana. Around easter I always keep a nice green firm banana for this.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

To the ACT (Australian Christmas Territory) - Part 1

We spent Christmas and New Years Eve in Canberra this year with Elf's mum, siblings and their kids. Imp, Ed, Karri and Miah arranged to stay in a neighbour's vacant house across the street so the large house comfortably held the other ten of us.

Elf wanted to take the car to Canberra on the Spirit of Tasmania. So when we booked that I also booked us an Airbnb to stay at on the way between Melbourne and Canberra. This swapped two 5-hour drives on country highways for one 8-hour drive up the Hume. That worked out quite well, so then I did the same for the return journey.

Teenage daughters of a work friend of Elf's minded the house and mammals while we were away. So our pre-departure clean up was fairly intense. We left early on Dec 22 for the 4-hour drive north to Devonport to board the Spirit. Boarding started at around 6.30pm so we actually had to kill quite a lot of time in Devonport, but … it was better than trying to fine-tune it and then having to scream up the Bass Highway running late.

We went to the Devonport Library and hung out on the Bluff and took pictures of the lighthouse, until it was time to drive our car up the gangplank and into the boat.

Looking east from Mersey Bluff
Classic 'Sunderland strip' lighthouse paint job.
On the boat as we ate dinner we were surprised to see our South Hobart pals Steve, Meredith and Finton. They had not been able to find a place for their dog Mochi while they went to Melbourne, so they decided that Mochi would have to come with them - she was down in the pet cages on the car deck.

Then later we were even more surprised to see Marcus's girlfriend of about 6 weeks, Erin, also on the boat with her family. We have not been given very much information about Erin. But the next day on our long drive we managed to glean from Marcus that she originally hails from Adelaide and this was a family trip back there for the school holidays. He knew she would be on the boat but didn't think it was relevant to tell us. And maybe it wasn't.

The next day we woke up and had a hot damp breakfast (I thought they kicked you off the boat before breakfast time but I was wrong). Then we found our way north out of Melbourne.


I didn't want to drive all day but I did want to have an interesting non-Hume Highway drive, so I took us up the Maroondah Highway to Mansfield, via Healesville and a coffee break at Buxton. Mansfield was actually stuffed to the gills and seems to now be just an endless strip of cafes. It's the main town in the Vic snowfields I think so we were seeing it actually out of season. We lunched there and tried to flop down and relax in their Botanic Garden but its really lame. It has dry grass and some very normal trees and is about as botanic as our front yard.

By the time we had a snooze the afternoon was advancing so we took the quickest way (yes, via the Hume) to Myrtleford and from there found our way to our destination, Dederang which is on the Mt Beauty road an hour south of Wodonga.

(I just want to say this trip confirmed my dim view of the Hume Highway. People drive like utter dickheads. Speeding and tailgating and cutting in after overtaking.)

At Dederang we drove into the farmyard - I saw the house and thought, wow - this is going to be great! Then I saw a second, smaller house. Ah, now that would be ours. It was lovely and cool, beds so soft, and Di Goonan and her son Marcus were very friendly and hospitable. Quite a few flies though, courtesy of the dairy farm next door.

The Dererang district c/o Airbnb
My family and I flopped about like jellyfish for a while but I had seen a football ground as we drove through the tiny town, so I announced I was walking back to look at it. I did, accompanied by many flies. It was in fact a whole sporting complex; racetrack, netball courts, tennis courts, bowling club and footy/cricket ground. The latter is the home ground of St Kilda/Hawthorn ruckman Ben McEvoy.

The bowls club has this magnificent sign, made of old bowls.





The footy ground scoreboard is named after Di and her late husband Tom, who were scorers for many years. We had dinner at the pub under a massive honour board listing all the office holders of the sports club, and it was thick with Goonans. Di and Marcus even trained the last winner of the Dederang Cup.


Back at the farmhouse during the night Michael started throwing up. Elf and I took turns sitting up with him. It seems like the pub's pizza was the culprit.

In the morning the water was off due to some dam/tank electronic switch. But Di urged us to use her bathroom. I had a very interesting chat with her old mum while Michael showered. She emigrated to Australia from Germany in 1946, and was interned with her future husband at Bonegilla. She still lives in the house they built in Albury when they were released.

On account of Michael still feeling poorly, our third day of driving was straightforward, up the Hume with a lunch break at Gundagai. I noted with interest that the roo-shootin' ute seems to have really dropped off in popularity since last time I was in these parts. Maybe there had been a Bachelors and Spinsters Ball on that weekend, but there were utes with two-to-four massive antennas and a rack of spotlights parked all over the town that time.

I had pigeonholed Gundagai (based on the very large roadhouse by the 'Dog On The Tuckerbox' statue) as a place of; uh, large roadhouses and statues of dogs. But it's an interesting place. The main street has a lot of lovely and unusual buildings.

We ate pies, flopped in a park next to the Visitors Centre. We really needed coffee, and I noticed that the VC had a little sign on the door saying "INFORMATION TOILETS COFFEE". Inside it was all brochures and desks and no sign of beverages. I asked "Do you make coffee?" and was told "yes, but it's no good". I thanked them for their honesty and took a wad of brochures.

Instead we went up the main street and found the famous Niagara Cafe. It's a 1930s time capsule. An old Greek lady took fifteen minutes to make us four hot drinks, while an older Greek lady chatted to her.

The Niagara Cafe is lined with photos of famous people who have
waited there for a quarter of an hour for a simple coffee.

Jockey in a raincoat?
From Gundagai we just drove straight up the Hume to Yass, then down the Barton Hwy into Canberra. We arrived just after Chonk, Irma, Bea and Eric, and just before Imp, Ed, Karri and Miah.

In the next instalment, 7 days in Canberra will be examined in forensic detail.