End of Summer & School Swimming Carnival

Yesterday – 1st of March – was the first day of Autumn in the Australian way of doing seasons. That is to say that summer is officially over down-under. Not that you would have noticed. The past two days have probably been the best two consecutive days since New Year’s Day. Less rain at least. It has been a particularly wet “summer”.

Swimming Carnival

Today as the school swimming carnival so just like last year the school went to Drummoyne Olympic size outdoor pool. Was that a year ago? Wow! You can read about that one here… Actually, that reminds me; I need to write a book review of Shane Gould’s autobiography. I read it last Easter (ugh!)- ages ago.

Anyway, here is a light-hearted look at this year’s swimming gala… Sorry, carnival.

Covid versus Swimming

This year was different. No parents (or grandparents, whatever) were allowed in to the viewing area. Covid for crying out loud. Agh!!!! Pathetic I know. There were hundreds of kids packed under the shaded area with teachers too. Social distancing (for what it’s worth) would have been easy (despite it being impossible with the kids) for any parents, as there was plenty of space elsewhere. Ah well…

Not to be put off I went over to Drummoyne and found that several parents were pitched up at a fence overlooking the pool, almost under the main road bridge. I got there too late for the freestyle events (front crawl in old money) but I did manage to see Dani swim the backstroke and breast stroke. In the end I got to watch from a decent vantage point and had a good natter with one of the parents who had recently moved to Sydney from Bathurst.

Had the swimming lessons paid off? Well yes. Not just for Dani but for all the kids actually. Certainly all the ones who struggled a little last year had also been having lessons. One-to-one in some cases. So things were not much different this year…

Results…

He came in last in the backstroke but only just. There was very little in it really for all of the racers. In fact due to the amount of zig-zagging he did I think we could claim a moral victory. He could even claim some sort of new record as he covered almost twice the distance of some of his fellow competitors. Well done Dani hahaa…

Next was the breast stroke. Again he finished last but there was stiff competition for that spot from two other kids, each determined to seize the ‘wooden spoon’. In reality Dani came third last – or fourth out of six, which sounds better eh? The reason was that the other two slower swimmers both cheated. The second last kid did so by pulling himself along the lane dividing floats for the final 20 metres or so. I say “cheated” but actually he was probably only saving his own life. Nothing wrong with that I suppose. Basic self preservation. The third last finisher  used the freestyle leg kick to get himself to the end. Under proper rules they would have both been disqualified. But only a grumpy old dad who has just seen his boy cheated into last place would be bitter enough to raise such minor infringements eh? Don’t look at me!

That said, Dani would have finished a lot stronger if he had not spent so much time watching those other two. Still, a proud old dad then left the scene. Dani had said that he didn’t want to do the butterfly this year. He confirmed later that he hadn’t splashed out a butterfly stroke. Almost a shame. That was by far the funniest race last year.

And the one I missed…

Just before I arrived he swam the freestyle (aka front crawl in old money). He says he finished third out of eight which is quite impressive. And I believe him. His freestyle swimming really seems to have come on this year. Bloody typical I should miss it.

 

Film Review – The Little Things

Denzel is back. In his first film since 2018! The Little Things is in cinemas here in Australia and it is a very welcome return for Mr. Washington.

The last film he starred in was The Equalizer 2, a fairly good action movie where he played an ex-agent turned vigilante (more or less). In this latest movie Washington plays deputy sheriff Joe Deacon.

Movie Plot

Deacon seems to be avoiding his past, when he was a highly respected detective in Los Angeles. But when he visits his old stomping ground to collect evidence (pertaining to a case in his new jurisdiction) he becomes intrigued by the similarities of recent murders to an old unsolved case he had investigated.

The film has two other main characters. One is detective Jimmy Baxter played by Rami Malek – famous for looking like Freddie Mercury (and indeed playing him in Bohemian Rhapsody). At first I was unconvinced by Malek and thought the role didn’t suit him. But he seemed to grow into the role and got better as the film went on.

The main suspect is a Charles Manson-like loner called Albert Sparma, excellently played by Jared Leto.

Deacon is haunted by his past and there are subtle flashbacks to a time when he worked for the same department as Jimmy Baxter. Meanwhile Baxter is the new college kid on the block trying to make a name for himself. The two team up after Baxter finds out who Deacon is. Baxter has heard a lot about Deacon and asks him to accompany him to a crime scene, hoping he may spot something.

Baxter is investigating a serial killer whose latest crime resembles an old case that Deacon worked on – a case that still haunts him. Whatever happened in the past cost Deacon his marriage, a heart attack and his (apparent) demotion. Deacon sees similarities in the recent killings with an old case he worked and wants to help. He is advised not to get involved so takes some vacation time in order to make his own enquiries. This leads him to Sparma who works for a local repair store close to several of the murders.

The cautious and cunning Sparma is soon onto Deacon and a classic game of cat and mouse ensues. Soon, Deacon convinces Baxter that Sparma is their man. But desperate to get the required evidence the duo effectively end up stalking their suspect.

Spoiler Alert

It is hard to say much about the movie without giving too much away. The ending reminded me of that 1990s movie Seven. There were definitely some similarities.

The latest girl to disappear is described as wearing a big red “barrette” (which I did not know is a type of hair clip) and this makes an appearance right at the end. But with a clever little twist.

Deacon has been through the trauma of overworking a case and can see that Baxter is in danger of sliding down the same path. His constant warnings go unheeded however leading to the final outcome.

Critique

The earlier comparison to Seven was referring to the ending but could equally apply to the two main detective characters and even the main suspect. That said any comparisons are a little unfair as this movie has a good story of its own. I also made the Manson comparison which is not unknown for bad guys in this type of story. When you see the movie you will not be able to shake that one out of your head – and for that I apologise. It does not detract from Leto’s performance however.

The reason for Deacon’s apparent demotion from detective to local sheriff’s office is kept under wraps until near the end so the suspense and anticipation remains throughout.

This is a decent movie with a good performance that we have come to expect from Denzel Washington. There is an average performance by Malik and a very convincing performance by Leto. Overall I would give this movie 3.5 stars (out of 5).

It is a dark crime thriller (film noir?) that manages to keep you on the edge of your seat for the most part. Worth watching.

Bathurst – A Lap of the Mount Panorama Motor Racing Circuit

This post is specifically to show our lap of the Mount Panorama motor racing circuit (see lower down). But first a bit of background info…

Bathurst

On our way back from the trip to Lightning Ridge we stopped off at Bathurst. Famous for being the oldest inland settlement in Australia, Bathurst is also home to the world famous motor racing circuit, Mount Panorama. It is referred to as Australia’s spiritual home of motor racing. And better still, they let you drive around the circuit. With strict speed limits of course…

Some Circuit

Naturally the speed limits for members of the public are to prevent complete carnage. This is especially true on the second half of the circuit as the track descends down the side of the ‘mount’ like a classic winding mountain road. When you drive this section you soon appreciate how good the drivers are that race here, with no speed limits and lots of other cars jostling for position. As far as I know there is no Formula 1 Grand Prix circuit that comes close to comparison with this particular section. Over the years sixteen competitors have died racing this circuit and two spectators were killed by a crashing car in 1955. They used to have motorbike racing also (since the 1930s) but that was deemed too dangerous. The last motorcycle race here was in 2000.

There is a 174-metre (571 ft) vertical difference between its highest and lowest points, and grades as steep as 1:6.13. The track is a 6.2 km (3.8 miles) long. The track is normally used as a public road (when no racing is on) and there are even quite a few residences which can only be accessed from the circuit.

Our Lap Video

OK, many of you ‘motor heads’ out there will know all about this circuit already. But for all you non ‘motor heads’ (as well as the keen ‘motor heads’) see for yourselves…
[Tip: Turn the sound up!]


Background Music: Motorhead by Motörhead. 

Some Links you may be interested in:
Motorcycle racing in 1968:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lZK7b_as46A
V8 Cars Lap record in 2018: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GVmmEgLu5Ck

Also, this weekend (26-28 Feb 2021) Mount Panorama hosts the start of the Supercar series with the Bathurst 500 event: https://www.supercars.com/mt-panorama-500/

 

What’s Wrong with Swimming Lessons in Australia?

After the post I wrote about Dani’s school swimming carnival way back last February (read it here) we then had all the covid crap. Finally the swimming pools re-opened and – with this year’s school swim carnival fast approaching – we managed to get him booked into a swimming class. But all is not what it seems…

First a little swimming brand background

From as far back as I can remember whenever you saw an Olympic swimming champion or any world record swim the chances are that the swimmer was wearing Speedo swimwear. Back in the day there were only two companies really. Speedo and Arena. These days of course all the big sportswear companies are into swimwear also, like Adidas and Nike etc… Speedo are the sports brand associated with the famous (or infamous) “budgie smuggler” style of swimming trunks. Generally, Speedo = Swimming!

How bad can it be?

In Australia, of all places, you would expect the swimming lessons for kids to be 100% spot on right? If I told you that the swimming classes Dani had been having were held at a Speedo owned pool and swimming school you would expect everything to be perfect right? Wrong. Double WRONG!

In fact you could not be more wrong. In five weeks of “lessons” (and I use that word very loosely) I would say that they almost undid two years of swimming lessons he had in Madrid. At the risk of sounding libellous I would say it was some kind of fraud. Certainly getting people to part with money for what they have the nerve to call “swimming lessons”.

Five weeks of nothing…

I let the first two weeks go as it was explained to me that they were assessing Dani’s ability. Fine. Then it became apparent that they were not really teaching him anything. Not even allowing him to try to swim further than a few metres. Honestly. I am not making this shit up. I can hardly believe it myself as I type. In fact, after the fifth “teacher” in five weeks I actually felt nauseous and could not bear to watch. What a bloody rip-off! I was fuming.

Over That Biggest Hurdle 

At least he still has that eagerness to jump in and have a go. That fear of water and dread of pushing off into the open pool to try and swim is not there. He overcame that first (and definitely biggest) hurdle some time ago. So he is ready to actually swim properly. 

As far back as last February in his school swimming carnival he had no problem jumping in an Olympic sized 50 metre long pool. His technique was rubbish but he did not have that fear that still stops many adults from swimming. Now we have just paid for these idiots to only allow him to “swim” a few metres and not give him hardly (and I mean almost zero!) any instruction or tips.

Vote with your feet…

As always it was time to vote with our feet. I arranged lessons in another location (actually closer to his school). Initially they seemed a lot better but more recently he has had a different “teacher” every week. And they are not letting them swim far enough. he needs to be doing full lengths of the pool now in order to improve. Little or no continuity and definitely not pushing him hard enough. 

I fear the only way may be private tailor-made lessons and not some swim school’s dragged-out method. But then you still need a pool eh? Private lessons (in the same place he goes now) may be a little better but only if they allow him more space.

DIY?

You may be wondering why I don’t teach him myself. Good point, because I could certainly do it. No problem in knowing and passing on the techniques required. The answer is simple. He will not listen to me. Nor his mum. Otherwise, trust me, that is what I would do. He responds much better to a third party “teacher”. 

So Here’s a Question: How the hell does Australia produce so many great swimmers with so called “lessons” like these? (Of course I know part of the answer…)

Berry and Seven Mile Beach

The town of Berry is only about 140km south of Sydney but is a world away. Still with all the modern conveniences of course.

The town was originally called Broughton Creek but the name was changed by an Act of Parliament in 1890 to Berry in honour of Alexander Berry who had established the nearby Coolangatta Estate in the 1820s. The estate (later run by Alexander’s brother David) spawned the town.

Lost? It should be easy to find your way home from Berry.

The Berry Hotel

Busy Sunday afternoon in Berry

It is one of those places that everyone says is “nice”. (That word you were told not to use by your English teacher. Well, at least that was the case in my day.) It certainly is a nice pleasant little town.

The Museum on Queen Street, Berry

The historical Berry Posthouse. There’s always a bloody car in the way eh?

Scots Presbyterian Church

The town seems to be thriving with many boutique and specialist shops. There are plenty of good restaurants too. The only problem – with anywhere like this – is the traffic and the crowds. I think a sunny Sunday is probably the worst time to visit such places but it is the weekend… I read recently that there are plans to make the centre of town around Queen Street) ‘pedestrian friendly’. That would be a great improvement on busy (touristy) days like this one.

Berry station

We saw a long goods train, coming from the south, passing through the station. I have no idea where it came from as the passenger service doesn’t really go much further. Maybe the line runs all the way to Melbourne? Does anyone know?

Seven Mile Beach

Berry, which is only 10 m above sea level and only (just over) 8 km to the east lies the magnificent Seven Mile Beach.

There are main entries to the beach at either end with the urbanisations/towns of Shoalhaven Heads at the south and Gerroa to the north. There are one or two small tracks leading through to the beach between those two spots. It is yet another huge beach in New South Wales. Seven miles is just over eleven kilometres. It is enormous so finding a quiet space on the beach is easy. Even given the size of the beach it still seemed unusually quiet. The car park we used was not even full. No complaints from me though…

Looking south just before the Shoalhaven river estuary.

Plenty of space here. There’s a reason they call it Seven Mile Beach!

Between the beach and the road sits the heavily forested Seven Mile Beach National Park. The density of trees in these places never ceases to amaze me. I am sure you could fence these places off and many endangered species would thrive in there.

The old fashioned route signs showing the stops for the next train.

 

Film Review – The Dry

This week, for the first time ever, the top three box office movies in Australia were all Australian films. Those movies are: #1 The Dry, #2 Penguin Bloom and #3 High Ground.
Today I went to see The Dry and I can start this review with the conclusion. This is a very good movie. 

Plot

The movie stars Eric Bana as Federal Agent Aaron Falk. He returns to his remote home town Kiewarra after living in the big city over twenty years to attend the funeral of his old school mate, Luke. It hasn’t rained in almost one full year in Kiewarra and everyone is tense. But Luke had seemingly shot his wife Karen and child Billy (but thankfully not their baby daughter) before turning the gun on himself. Aaron is set to return to the city after the funeral but Luke’s parents ask him to stay and investigate the circumstances of the crime.

Falk is continuously harassed by the people of the town. It turns out that in the past he and his father were forced to leave the town when Ellie (a friend he was romantically involved with) died in the river. A river which is now completely dry.

Faulk is guilt ridden as he lied about his whereabouts all those years ago. The story jumps back to that time throughout the movie as the pieces finally start to come together. 

Spoiler Alert?

I will not spoil it, but I will say that the ending was a little surprising. Then just when you thought it was over there is a final twist. Several people fall under suspicion including Gretchen the fourth of the close school friends. One obvious suspect is eliminated only when Faulk recognises the final and main clue. 

Critique

This is a murder/mystery/thriller/drama – all in one. It is not fast paced but it still manages to keep you on the edge of your seat. The Dry is an excellent example of a low budget movie that require zero special effects. What makes this a such good film is the excellent story. Not too complicated but intricate enough. On the 5 star system I would give it 4 out of 5. 

Even the corny scene I was half expecting, never came. The one where the skies open up with a torrent of rain towards the end of the movie breaking the drought just as the crime is solved. 

I can definitely recommend The Dry. This is the best movie I have seen at the cinema for some time.

Lightning Ridge Part 3 – Where Mining meets Art

As mentioned in previous posts, artists seem to be drawn to these remote and sometimes desolate places. Desolate they may appear, but there are many underlying factors in these outback towns that inspire artwork. One man only began his artistic journey after working an opal mine. This is his story.

The tale of The Chambers of The Black Hand.

Ron Canlin, a former Royal Marine originally from the UK, came to Australia in 1982 and bought an unwanted mine and tried his hand at opal mining. He only managed to eek out a basic living from the mine but is a classic example of those who came and stayed. Then one day while working in the mine he began to carve into the relatively soft sandstone rocks with an old butter knife. He soon discovered that the rock was easy to work with and so kept carving until he had produced his first sculpture.

One of the first carvings

Minions and other animation..

Some carvings are painted

Interesting…not sure what this one is of

Colourful

The whole thing just mushroomed from there.  Ron managed to turn his relatively worthless mine into a most unusual underground art gallery, full of sculptures. The result is The Chambers of the Black Hand. A series of rooms, nooks and crannies where you can find dinosaurs, famous actors and singers as well as three dimensional copy of well known works of art such as the Sistene chapel and Last Supper. Everywhere you look these creations leap out of the walls.

3D version of The Last Supper

The Fab Four

They have added a number of “Where’s Wally” characters for the kids to try and find. You can clearly see one with the Beatles above. Some carvings are large and grand, copying the originals they were obviously based on. Others are tiny. Then there are plenty in between covering a full range of topics from animals, cartoon characters, super heroes and celebrities of stage and screen.

Star Wars is well represented

Mr. Vader carving another tunnel with his light sabre

Too wide to get in one photo…

Sistene chapel comes to life in 3D

Life size Lion

For me there are obvious similarities with the salt mine near Krakow in Poland. I still think that was one of the most incredible places I have ever visited. Now I can add this one to that list.

Another classic reimagined. David?

Dani with fellow apes

Welcome to the Egyptian Room

Dani particularly loved the Pharaoh’s sarcophagus

Due to this covid thing the self-guided tour was basically a one way walk through. But once you have stood in awe at the sheer number and variety of carvings you are sure to want to go around several times, as there are bound to be things that you missed. I took loads of photos as I walked through. Some a little too hastily that ended up too blurred. The ones in this post are just a sample…

Super heroes

Sense of humour from the guys at the Chambers of the Black Hand

Another one Dani loved. Ned Kelly.

Elvis has left the mine…

Superman overhead

The possibilities are endless and the underground gallery is forever expanding. Canlin looks for inspiration in pictures from books and newspapers. He then digs out a new space in his mine with a jackhammer, renders a wall and then begins carving the new exhibit. The working sandstone surface is perfect. Stable but easy to carve.

Toilets above ground if you need them

One to frighten the young kids

Is this that famous sculpture The Kiss?

A different type of KISS

 

‘The Ridge’ – Part 2

The Unusual Allure of ‘The Ridge’

I have been lucky enough to travel to some great places. Dani has been even more lucky to do some of these trips at such a young age. Some places, often well trodden tourist spots, really grab your attention through their sheer beauty or magnificent scale. Places with huge rivers, mountains and waterfalls, beautiful unspoilt beaches, or wild dense forests or jungle teeming with wildlife.

Then there are places you visit that can give you the similar feelings or even a sense of belonging, without having anything you can physically relate to. Lightning Ridge, this tiny pioneer mining town, is one of those places.

There is definitely something about ‘The Ridge’, that attracts so many from lots of different places. Some arrive planning a short stay and end up staying there for the rest of their lives. Others decide to come to live and work here having only read about the place.  Ask them to explain why and they will struggle to tell you. But there they stay.

Art

Artists tend to be drawn to such places. John Murray is one such artist. Creator of Stanley the Emu and famous local painter of outback scenes. He has a gallery in the town and it is well worth a visit…

John Murray’s Art Gallery in Lightning Ridge. Well worth a visit.

Little Shop of Horrors? I think so although I have never seen that movie…

Mural artwork outside of the John Murray gallery

He has even started painting the floor of this side alley…

We will see more of John Murray’s work on various walls in other outback towns. Once you have seen his work some of it is instantly recognisable.

Some kind of robot sculpture… Dani loved it at least.

And of course he loved this one.

Murals

Other artists leave their mark on big outside walls. The mural painter is as much a part of Australian outback life as the miner or the farmer. Here are some examples from the Ridge…

Can you spot my dwarf amongst this mural?

An Aboriginal themed mural

Artwork on the wall of one of the town’s restaurants.

Where Mining meets Art

There is another incredible place to see some local artwork. Hundreds of sculptures carved into the rockface of an opal mine. It is called (somewhat mysteriously) The Chambers of the Black Hand Mine. But I think that warrants its own post… So more on that one to come later.

Bowling

We stayed in a motel right opposite the Lightning Ridge Bowling Club. It’s a great place to get a refreshing drink and has an extensive menu with some great value for money meals. Dani also wanted to try his hand at outdoor bowling. SO I asked if we could borrow some bowls…

The locals are so friendly they were almost falling over themselves to find a set of bowls that we could use. We played for a while (in the hot sun) and Dani was hooked. At least until I beat him convincingly hahaa…

Lightning Ridge Bowling Club – of which we were members, of course.

Not bad for his first ever attempt

Artesian baths

They say that a trip to the Ridge would not be complete without a visit to the Artesian Bore Baths. The baths are located on the wonderfully named Pandora Street and entry is free. What’s not to like?

This naturally heated thermal baths  gets its hot water from the great artesian basin, the largest underground water source in the world. It stretches across much of northern NSW most of western Queensland and into parts of Northern Territory and South Australia. The water can be found at depths between 100 metres and up to 2000 metres down. The temperatures range from 30 to 100 degrees C!  At Lighting Ridge the bore water is a constant 41.5°C. That’s fairly warm!

Artesian Bore Baths at Lightning Ridge

Dani braving the hot water

The water was a little too hot for me and Dani but we tried.

Amigos Castle

Among the curious attractions in the area is Amigo’s Castle. This amazing place was single-handedly built by an Italian born man.

He was self taught in the art of construction and it took him from 1981 to 2001. It also houses an art gallery with tours but it was closed when we were there. Not sure if that was due to the covid crap or not?

Amigo’s Castle – located on the Red Car Door Tour

Attraction number 9 on the Red Car Door Tour

Stones were moved into place using 44 gallon drums and planks of wood.

A ‘Castle’ tower

The owner also had a sense of humour…

Street names…

This town gets many of its street names from the its own mining industry. Very similar to Broken Hill in that respect.

An obvious street name for this town…

Silica, the stuff that makes Opals

Another precious stone…

What can I say? Brilliant!

And of course Opal Street.

If you missed it you can read part one from Lightning Ridge here.

Lightning Ridge – Outback Opal Mining Town

When we arrived in Lightning Ridge it was early evening and very hot. It was immediately obvious that this was a real outback town. We had been to Broken Hill and seen the surrounding area including the ‘ghost town’ of Silverton . But up to now there has been nothing quite like Lightning Ridge.

Just off the main road this seems like a road to nowhere. But just a few kilometres more…

Welcome sign at the turn off towards ‘The Ridge’

Lightning Ridge

Back in the 1800s it was merely a farming area. The town is said to have got its name from an early pioneer who discovered the bodies of a famer, his dog and 600 sheep that had been struck by lightning. It is probably an outback myth but soon after the area would no longer be known for farming. In the very late 1800s opals were discovered. In 1905 opal mining started in earnest. Not only is the area rich in opals, Lightning Ridge is the only area in Australia (and one of only a few in the world) known to have the famous and desirable black opal.

From then the place kind of took off, with the help of a largely transient population of would be opal hunters.  Well, it expanded a little. Even today it is still a small town. Even compared to Broken Hill this place is tiny.

A small, quiet town

The Unique Spirit of the place the locals call ‘The Ridge’

Lots of characters have come and gone, some stayed. The folk of Lightning Ridge can be described as inspiring and crazy (in a nice way) but they are definitely very friendly. Many have left their mark in the area which has a unique blend of artistic, surprisingly interesting and eccentric attractions.

Lightning Ridge is as much of an iconic frontier town as you could wish for and we loved it.

The famous Cooper’s cottage. One of the earliest examples of an opal rush miner’s dwelling.

Unlike the other major Australian opal centres – Coober Pedy, Andamooka, White Cliffs –  it is relatively easy to get to and hence attracts over 80,000 visitors each year. This means that it has a a number of decent motels, a good selection of souvenir and gift shops and a few good places to eat. For a real outback town it has a thin veneer of what city-dwellers might call “civilisation”.

Lightning Ridge History mural

Lightning Ridge History mural – detail

Artwork on the wall of one of the town’s restaurants.

Opal mine experience

Naturally the first thing to do was see what an opal mine looked like and learn a little about how these precious stones are brought from the ground.

Typical mining hoist. If you spot one of these, chances are someone is mining for opals below.

Anyone who entered someone else’s mine at night to steal any opals still lying around are referred to as “Ratters”

Great sign above the entrance

Another underground tunnel

Drilling for opals?

Underground and not much headroom in places

The mine trip was interesting if only to see that these places do not need to be deep into the earth. In fact opals can be found only a couple of metres underground and up to about 60 metres. So most mines you can visit are just a flight of steps below the surface.

Most Opal mines are not very far below the surface

The area is littered with heaps of white dirt (called mullocks) that has been dug up. There could still be valuable opals amongst it all and some tourists have been lucky enough to find them. We were not so lucky however but Dani still wanted to try his luck. They call it fossicking in this part of the world (and Cornwall, UK I believe). It means rummaging, searching or prospecting.

‘Fossicking’ for opals. But without any luck.

Car door tours

While ‘The Ridge’ itself is small and compact there are several “Car Door” tours just outside of town. One on each corner of the town plus a fifth one about an hours drive away (more on that one later). The idea is each attraction is marked with a number on a car door (literally) which is coloured according to the route. You have the Red, Blue, Green and Yellow car door routes. Each one takes in different aspects of the town.

Attraction number 9 on the Red Car Door Tour

Blue Car Door Tour

Yellow Car Door Tour

A yellow car door, plus a little more detail…

The roads are unsealed but OK in a two wheel drive vehicle. That said it helps if your car is not too low to the ground – which ours was. We had recently changed the SUV hire car for a different and lower profile car. Not ideal for these areas but we made the most of it.

There is very little chance of any old car door being thrown away around here. Locals use them as signs to mark their property.

It doesn’t have to be on the coloured door tours. The locals love reusing car doors to mark their properties

and another….

Lightning Ridge Cemetery 

OK, I know it may seem that this blog is turning into a morbid tour of graveyards but there is something fascinating about these places; especially in pioneer towns like these. They are historically important places for any town. So please bear with me.

Wall of Remembrance

“Have Bowls Will Travel” – Wall of Remembrance detail

People came here from all over the world once the opals were discovered. The cemetery is testament to that fact. You only have to look at the names on the headstones to see what a universal magnet this place had been for over one hundred years.

Names of the deceased from all over the world say a lot about this place

Some made their fortune while others made little, if anything. But they kept arriving. All with the same dreams. They all mixed in with those already established in the town and helped make the place what it is – still a fascinating place.

Lightning Ridge Cemetery

Film Review – The Marksman

While 2020 may have been a quiet year for most workers, actor Liam Neeson seems to have done quite a lot. It only seems a few weeks ago that I reviewed Honest Thief starring Neeson. Oh; that’s because it was – just over three months ago to be exact.

Neeson stars as Jim Hanson, an ex Marine who now runs a ranch on the Arizona-Mexico border. Not just near the border mind. Oh no. His property runs right along part of the large fence where drug cartels regularly break through to smuggle people, drugs and weapons.

Plot (as much as there is one)

One day while out driving the fence line he finds Rosa and her son Miguel who have just climbed through a hole in the fence. (If only there was a big wall I hear you cry!) It turns out that Rosa’s brother had stolen money from one of the drug cartels and so to really punish him (even after already killing him) they intend to make examples out of members of his family. Before they catch up to him he phones Rosa and basically tells her to run for it.

Back to the border fence. Cartel members headed by Maurico (well played by Juan Pablo Raba) are close behind and approach the fence. Jim Hanson fends them off but in the shootout Rosa is killed. Her dying words are basically you can take everything I have (handing a bag full of money to Hanson) but please take my son to my family in Chicago.

Jim then reluctantly tries to do just that. However, the drug gang enter the USA and are in hot pursuit. One of the gang’s properties in the USA is equipped with high tech monitoring equipment and they manage to track Hanson by following his credit card payments. Meanwhile Maurico and his henchmen follow the leads across the highways.

The rest of the movie is basically a game of cat and mouse where Hanson and Miguel keep just one step ahead. The film’s ending is fairly predictable – so no spoiler alert needed and none given.

Critique

OK there is not much different or great about this movie. In fact nothing. That said it is a typical Liam Neeson easy watch action thriller. Nothing complex going on just basic baddies after some innocent child. While I always prefer more thought provoking movies I also like this genre at times and on that note I give the film two and a half out of five (stars?)

But what about the cartel’s super computer that can seemingly track someone just like the FBI can? And why didn’t they know that Rosa and Miguel had family in Chicago? Come on!!! Please! That’s weak story writing to say the least.

Even worse than that, near the climax to the film, the gang calls what must be their affiliate members in Chicago to look out for Hanson and the kid. These guys then set up lookouts over the main highways into Chicago and when they spot Hanson’s pick-up truck they call Maurico telling him which exit Hanson left the highway. Then they are done? Then they play no more part in the film? Oh nooooo…..

You have to be kidding me. In real life I would like to think that the drug cartels cannot track people’s credit card transactions – although I suspect they may have enough power to access such information. But I also think they would know that Rosa had family in Chicago and would have had their local people camped outside that house waiting.

Not to worry. These type of movies do not really require you to think that deeply. Just sit back and enjoy the ride (so to speak). And on that basis it was an acceptable, and now fast becoming typical, Liam Neeson action movie.

Neeson Update…

I just found out that Neeson has been filming a new movie here in Australia. It’s called Blacklight and also stars Aussie actor – and one of my favourites – Guy Pearce. I look forward to it; but there is another point to all this. While people like us can’t go back to Europe to visit family (or they come here to visit us) it seems that movie stars, cricket players and tennis players can come and go. Anyone not think there are double standards at play here?