ELVIS – Movie Review

I have never hidden the fact that I am a bit of an Elvis fan. Not one for collecting all of the records and memorabilia etc… but I thought he was a great entertainer. So when this film came out I knew I had to go and see it.

Movie Plot (as if you don’t know)

The movie is written, produced and directed by Baz Luhrmann. It’s a more or less complete biopic of the life of Elvis told through the eyes of the man who became his sole manager, (Colonel) Tom Parker. This man somehow managed Elvis through his whole career. The story of how Elvis rose to conquer the music world is relayed through Parker (played by Tom Hanks) who is on his deathbed in 1997.

Elvis is played by Austin Butler. Not easy (blue suede) shoes to fill for sure but Butler does a fine job overall. From what I have read he also sings (at least some songs) in the movie. If that is indeed true then very well played Mr. Butler.

The story (or plot) is well known. Young Elvis is into his music even before high school and has his own unique style based on various musical influences including Rhythm & Blues, country and gospel. When Tom Parker hears him sing he takes over his career which goes sky high. Then Elvis gets high – on all the various prescription drugs, uppers, downers the lot. He is given drugs to keep him awake or get him to sleep depending on which town he is travelling to for a performance although the film only gets into that late in his career (the Vegas years).

Elvis shocks America – which was incredibly quite prim and proper back in the 1950s – with his gyrating performances. Then he shocks the world. Threatened with prison (so they say) Parker thinks it is a great idea if he is conscripted into the US Army where he serves his time in (West) Germany. Just imagine if he came along a few years later. He could have ended up serving in Vietnam! Now that would have made for some interesting films – fact or fiction.

In Germany Elvis meets his soon to be wife and when he returns to the USA Parker has him making so many movies that he becomes the highest earning movie star (so the story says). But he misses performing in front of a live audience and soon makes a Christmas Special TV show. Following his ‘comeback’ show other outside influencers implant the idea that Elvis should tour Europe and Japan. Parker’s grip on the King of Rock n Roll is slipping until Elvis starts playing big shows in Las Vegas. Through a combination of sweet-talking and pure bullshit Tom Parker persuades Elvis to keep playing in Las Vegas. Elvis’ dream of a world tour is gone but the world just comes to Vegas to see him. The rest, as they say, is history.

There is so much to cover in a movie of a man who lived several lifetimes each year that he was famous. But the movie somehow manages to pack it all in. Largely by featuring several segments of scrapbook montages which handle it very well. Almost documentary style at times. There are times when original footage of his fans is mixed in with the actors during concerts – and it all works well.

In the end his demise is dealt with quite quickly – maybe too quickly. However right at the end there is real footage of Elvis performing on stage (in Vegas) only 3 weeks before he died. An overweight Elvis sat playing the piano while singing Unchained Melody, a real classic. At this point in time he could barely stand on his own feet yet he could still sing a great song perfectly. So much so that he still held the audience in the palm of his hand. Spellbound. The ultimate entertainer right to the end.

Critique

The first thing that strikes you is Hanks doing some ridiculous accent for Tom Parker. I have never heard Parker speak and i doubt many die-hard Elvis fans have either. And even if they had it doesn’t matter. It is both annoying and pathetic.

Now that is off my chest I have to say that as an Elvis fan (of sorts) I liked it. But I will try to be even handed here. I am sure many we saw at the Parkes Elvis Festival in Parkes a couple of months ago – for post click here – will rush to see it. No doubt it will be shown in Parkes cinema at the next festival.

As far as the movie goes it does not paint Parker in a good light at all. He is mostly devious (what showbiz promoters/managers aren’t) and even sinister at times. Not unlike the character of Louis Cyphre played by Robert De Niro in Angel Heart. Probably intentionally so.

Austin Butler was very good. It is a difficult to play such famous people especially entertainers with the stature of Elvis. I won’t get carried away and say he was excellent – judge that for yourselves – but it wouldn’t surprise me if he won an Oscar for this one. Let’s put it this way: If Rami Malik can win an Oscar for playing Freddie Mercury then Butler is a nailed on winner and worth a bet (not that I am encouraging gambling here – that’s just a tip). While the rest of the cast did very well no supporting roles stood out.

The overall production was very good and although the film was 2 hours and 40 minutes long the time flew by. Always a sign of a well made movie I say. Elvis fans will surely flock to see it and there will be plenty for them to debate for sure. As unreal as Elvis’ life was, there seemed to be some poetic licence at times. (I personally don’t know for sure though, maybe older cinema goers would.)

For anyone who even remotely likes Elvis or indeed anyone who simply knows his story, the ending is certain to be emotional. I had never seen that particular footage before.

I believe it will be enjoyed by those who like Elvis’ music and those who are not really bothered. I give this movie 4 stars (out of the usual 5).

Convict Trail & St. Albans (Part 2)

This is kind of a Part 2 to the Wisemans Ferry/Convict Trail post (for that one click here…). Crossing the Hawkesbury and heading in a slightly different direction takes you to the small old colonial village of St. Albans.

Wisemans Ferry to St. Albans

There are two ferry crossings at Wisemans Ferry. The first is the twin (bi-directional) ferry service from the north side of the town over to the area of the Devines Hill part of the Convict Trail. The second ferry crossing is a single ferry operation that also takes you over the Hawkesbury but to the other side of a major tributary – the McDonald River – and onto a road leading to the small village of St. Albans.

During the early colonial days the Macdonald Valley was an important agricultural area due of its accessibility by water. The village of St. Albans is surrounded by mountains and sits alongside the Macdonald River. However with the building of the railways and extensive agricultural development further west, the Macdonald Valley’s importance declined. For that reason the valley is often referred to by the locals as “The Forgotten Valley”.

Dani down by the McDonald river on the edge of the village of St. Albans

 The Settlers Arms Inn – Original Village Pub

The fantastic Settlers Arms Inn was built in 1836 from sandstone blocks excavated and cut by convicts. It remains a pub to this day and is a great example of Georgian simplicity.

The Settlers Arms Inn at St. Albans

Even the inside of the Inn still looks original

Around the Inn there are some great examples of classic abandoned vehicles.

An old VW ‘Kombi’
Another of several abandoned classic vehicles in St. Albans
An early Toyota Land Cruiser

Another interesting place is the Pickled Wombat café. Although the sign above the door suggests another name (The Fickle Wombat).

The Pickled Wombat sign
The café, which says ‘Fickle Wombat’ above the door.

The round trip back down the opposite side of the McDonald river brings you back to the double ferry crossing. Part of that road is unsealed but it is easily driveable in a 2-wheel drive car. It’s a great half day trip from/to Wisemans Ferry and you can have lunch or a snack in St. Albans

Classic original architecture in the village
Ferry crossing for the St. Albans road

Plant a Tree, Have a Son, Write a Book – The Book Bit

The Book Bit – Done!

Although technically I had wrote a book last year, I never actually published it. I did finally publish (a different) one last month however. The ‘Write a Book’ part of that well known phrase has been achieved.

I realise it is a very niche subject so I am by no means expecting it to be a best seller – or anything close. But it is out there in the published world and (within reason) that is where it will now stay. A kind of legacy…

Fighting for Immortality

The book covers four huge boxing matches that span the first two decades of the millennium. Each fight involves a top British boxer and their (equally top class) American opponent. The action of the fights and the build up plus the back stories that brought the two combatants together in each of these battles.

Starting in April 2000 in Madison Square Garden New York, New York, with Lennox Lewis defending his heavyweight crown against the man who most Americans thought was the heir apparent; the huge Michael Grant.

The second section jumps forward seven years to MM 2007 and Fabulous Las Vegas Nevada. The story covers the American and arguably the greatest boxer of his generation, Floyd Mayweather Junior as he takes on the popular British boxer Ricky Hatton.

During the fight-week build up to the Mayweather-Hatton clash, another fight was spawned. Two older fighters would face off to decide who was the best at light-heavyweight. Bernard Hopkins met Joe Calzaghe in Vegas and got in to a heated discussion. when Hopkins shouted that he ‘would never lose to a white boy’ the whole world took notice and the fight was effectively sealed. The two seemingly unbeatable fighters met in April 2008 also in Las Vegas.

Finally to June 2019. Anthony Joshua, arguably at that time the sports biggest star, crossed the pond to make his American debut. It was meant to be a coming out party in the USA for Britain’s Joshua. After his original opponent failed several drug tests a replacement was hastily drafted in. That man was Andy Ruiz Jr. an American born fighter of Mexican heritage. Physically the two boxers could not look more different. This would be a walkover  for Joshua, surely? Yet what followed shocked the boxing world and indeed the whole sporting world.

The Book’s Covers

The great artwork on the front and back covers was done by my friend’s daughter (my God-daughter) Emily Rowley.

The book is available on Amazon in most countries so if sports, boxing and particularly the characters in and around boxing interest you, please go and buy a copy. Alternatively of course, if you know anyone who may be interested in such a book feel free to share this post or simply tell them about the book.

Exam Week Over

Last week was exam week for Dani and his fellow students. Mid year exams. There will be more to come before they finish for the summer in December. Call me old fashioned, but I think it’s a little bit too much, asking kids of that age to do exams. Still, what do I know?

This week the results are rolling in. He has done quite well up to now. Not that I am particularly bothered. Neither is he – which I actually think is a good thing, and here’s why…

Dani is 8 years old but there are some in his school year who are 10 years old. Most are 9. It seems that many of his colleagues have been under some sort of pressure (call it stress if you like) – judging from what he tells me. I asked him several times in the build up to exam week if he was in any way worried or concerned about the tests. He said clearly that he was not. I am glad about that. Proud of him in fact. I don’t want him worrying about school exams at eight years of age.

I asked about the other kids in his class/year. He thought there were quite a few who had admitted to being nervous about the exams. Also based on what he had overheard among small group discussions he got the impression there were some who were definitely worried. I think that’s fairly sad at their age. Is this really the world they are growing up in? I suppose it has always been competitive but not at such a young age – I think.

At that age we hardly had a care in the world. If we did it certainly wasn’t about school and exams. Maybe by doing these exams at such a young age they will just get used to it as they get older. I hope so. That’s too young to be worrying about school exams. They should be enjoying the learning process while being encouraged not to worry about the exams. They have lots of homework which is bad enough at that age. We never had that until we reached high school age. And we turned out fine. Didn’t we? Aha… That’s the million dollar question right there eh? Answers on a postcard please.

And that brings me to news of our first visitors since arriving in Australia. Dani’s abuelos are arriving late Thursday/early Friday. Dani can show them Sydney… That should be fun hahahaa…

The Convict Trail at Wisemans Ferry

The Old Great North Road and The Convict Trail

Last Monday  marked the Queen’s birthday – a bank holiday in most of Australia. So to get out of Sydney (any excuse for me!) but not have to travel too far, we headed up the historic Old Great North Road to the small town of Wisemans Ferry to see what has become known as The Convict Trail.

The Great North Road was built to link Sydney to the fertile Hunter valley in the north. The road was built by convicts between 1825 and 1836. It covers some 260 kilometres (162 miles) across some extremely rugged terrain. To put that into perspective, that’s about 26 kilometres per year or just over 2 kilometres per month. When you see (just part of) the old road and all of its support walls and drainage channels you will realise just how impressive that really is. Certainly impressive enough to be included on the Australian National Heritage List (added in August 2007) and also on the UNESCO World Heritage list.

Looking down on the Hawkesbury river close to Wisemans Ferry.
Part of the old Great North Road as it is today

One of several points of interest for kids on the Convict Trail

A Little History

The road was a real feat of engineering but it was not exactly a success in practical terms. The steep gradients and the lack of water and horse feed along the route meant that it quickly fell into disuse. As soon as there were alternative means of getting to the Hunter Valley, such as new faster steamships and newer roads the Great North Road’s fate was basically sealed.

While much of the road was abandoned, parts of the original route has been overlaid by modern roads for the main route out of Sydney with only some evidence remaining. But once the other side of the Hawkesbury river a large section of the original road can be walked (or cycled) for some distance.

These were small structures. Some on the trail are much larger.
The retaining walls show how much work went into the construction.
Another retaining wall showing drainage outlet

As it was constructed using convict labour this route is also known as ‘The Convict Trail’. Remember; this road was built by hand. We only saw a small part of it, but trust me, it is bloody impressive!

Dani in old leg irons.
Tough times for the convicts. They were incentivised to work hard.
Hangman’s Rock – see main text

Hangman’s Rock was so called as it was thought that this place was used to hang convicts who tried to escape. A noose was hung from a tree above the hole in the rock formation and the prisoner was then pushed through the hole. Well that is what legend says but there is actually no real evidence that this did (or indeed did not) happen. But it was certainly used for something as steps were excavated up into the (mostly) covered area. Whatever this spot was used for it certainly makes for a great point of interest on the trail.

Wisemans Ferry

The small town of Wisemans Ferry sits on the banks of the Hawkesbury river about an hour and a half from the centre of Sydney. As close as it is to the metropolis, it could be a million miles away. The town (originally called Lower Portland Headland) was named Wisemans Ferry, after Solomon Wiseman, who was a former convict.

The huge Hawkesbury river dominates the area and boats are a big part of this town. Especially the ferry services which run 24/7 taking cars across the river. The crossings are free. Well, “free” unless you are a tax payer I suppose…

This was a bank holiday weekend so it was fairly busy. (I guess. I have nothing to measure it against this being the first time we had been there.)

Historic Post Office at Wisemans Ferry

Bi-directional ferries at the 24/7 crossing

Solomon Wiseman

Solomon Wiseman is one of those characters who would surely have made his mark in any era of history.

Statue of Solomon Wiseman in the heart of the town

Wiseman was born in England in 1777 and had several jobs including working on barges on the river Thames and being employed by the British government to carry spies to France. In 1805 he was found guilty of stealing wood and was sentenced to death. As was quite common back then his sentence was commuted to ‘Transportation for Life’ in the new penal colony in New South Wales, Australia. On arrival he was almost immediately given conditional liberty and lived with his wife and two sons who had travelled to Australia with him. In 1810 he was given parole and in 1812 a full pardon.

Clearly a natural entrepreneur Wiseman wasted no time and built and ran a shipping business ferrying coal and timber up and down the coast. In 1817 Wiseman received a land grant in the area (from the then Governor Macquarie) and when he learned that the government was planing to build The Great North Road (so the story goes) he persuaded them to build it passing through his land. He later set up a ferry service crossing the Hawkesbury River and in 1827 he spotted the opportunity for the transport of produce and provisions to the convicts building the Great North Road. Unsurprisingly he later became known as King of the Hawkesbury.

Wisemans Ferry Inn. Once the home of Solomon Wiseman, now a pub

Wiseman is buried in the town’s old cemetery a few kilometres downstream from the present day town. Like all of these old cemeteries – especially in these frontier/pioneer locations – there is a lot of nostalgia and history buried here…

Wisemans Ferry old cemetery
The grave of Solomon Wiseman
There is something fascinating about these places…

Melbourne – Then and Now

I first visited Melbourne a long time ago. 1990s. I can’t even remember the exact year. 1994? 1993? Something like that. It must be an age thing… As if that is not bad enough I can hardly remember anything about the place. Last weekend I made a whistle-stop trip over to Sydney’s rival city to see a boxing match.

The “Marvel” Stadium
Glass and steel structures dominate the docklands area around the Marvel Stadium

Melbourne in the 1990s

I only remember a few things about Melbourne from my first visit all those years ago. The old Victorian swimming baths, the Old Gaol and watching my first Aussie rules football match at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG). The rest is a blur apart from one thing. I do recall thinking that I liked Melbourne a lot more than Sydney. Strange thing that eh?

Sydney has the geographical beauty of the harbour and the city beaches but I definitely thought Melbourne was a better city. More ‘liveable’ I think was the term I would have used.

Another thing I remembered was the wonderful tram system that Melbourne had. Somehow the city managed to retain the original (and extensive) tram network while other cities around the world (Sydney included) thought that it was a good idea to rip them up. Progress anyone?

Town Hall
A blast from the past. These classic underground toilets are still going.

Melbourne Now…

Back then Melbourne regularly topped those stupid “World’s Most Liveable City” lists. Not anymore. I thought Melbourne was not a particularly nice place. Again that may seem an odd thing to say but then I am not a fan of Sydney either. My love (‘liking’ might be a better word) of big cities has taken a tumble in recent years. Give me the outback any day!

So what has changed? Apart from myself of course. Well, much like Sydney, Melbourne has grown. Upwards more than anything, from what I saw. Huge new skyscraper-like buildings are all over the city centre. Any historic buildings are struggling for survival. Similar yet opposite to nature. Like new plants beneath the the huge canopy of older established trees in a rainforest, it is the older buildings that seem to be under constant threat. When the real estate value beneath you feet is only a fraction of what can be made when you look up to the sky it is not difficult to see where it will all end. Sydney is going the same way of course as are many cities the world over. It’s called “progress” but believe me, it is not. Oh the cynicism of middle age eh? LOL. But seriously… It is funny how your perceptions change as you get older.

Old and new
More old vs new

The city has lost much of its quaintness (if that’s the right word). The centre never needed to change that much as there are enough new areas on the outskirts that have risen towards the clouds. But it seems there is no stopping the ‘developments’. A real shame because I definitely remember liking the city.

On one corner this old building…
Diagonally opposite was this lot…

There also seemed to be a lack of old pubs. Back in the 90s I would have definitely visited a few (even if I can’t remember them LOL). There were very few in the centre now and mostly kind of hidden. I am sure there would have been more typical corner plot hotel/pubs. Or am I wrong? If anyone knows more about this please let me know.

Some fascinating structures but how many do they need?

A word on the Trams

The tram system is still great. In fact it even has a free zone right in the city centre where you do not need to pay. How good is that for tourists who just want to see the centre? Especially with young kids!

But when you give people something for nothing they will always abuse it. You give them an inch, they will take a mile. Take liberties. My hotel was outside the free zone so naturally I would  ‘tap on’ and ‘tap off’ with my travel card when required. Yeah. Spot the tourist eh!

I hardly saw anyone else do it however. I think the locals were genuinely taking the piss! I am sure there are quite a lot doing the right (honest) thing but I never saw many. That free tram ride thing must be costing the city a lot of money.

All that aside however, the Melbourne tram system is probably worth the visit by itself. It really shows how backwards so many cities have gone – even when they think they are being “progressive”.

Not exactly a glowing advertisement for Melbourne tourism eh? Well I just have to call it like I see it. Despite all of the above it looks like we will be making a short trip to Melbourne in the near future when Dani’s cousins come over to visit (with their parents of course). More on that one when it happens however…

Sydney Eisteddfod – School Choir Competition

Dani took part in the Sydney Eisteddfod yesterday with plenty of other children from his school. It was the first time for many of them – Daniel included – after the Eisteddfod had been cancelled the previous two years. Well actually, last year, schools entered the competition by sending in video recordings. But there is nothing like a live event with an audience.

The competitions were held at the Concourse concert hall in Chatswood, in north of Sydney. An excellent venue it has to be said. However the cost of entry for proud parents was a little bit on the expensive side. $25 per ticket! Ouch! I know they are trying to make up for the past two years but that was a bit steep. Then again, it all goes to the upkeep of a great venue. And of course they knew that the parents were going to pay it… Hmm…

Dani’s year 4 choir performed two songs written by their music teachers. They came third in their event. (How many were in their event? Don’t ask…) Overall it was a great experience for the kids.

There were two things wrong with the performance. One was a general problem, I felt. That was, that the accompanying piano was just too loud. It was the same for all choirs. Same piano!

If it had been adult choirs I am sure the stronger voices would have risen above the piano volume. But it was difficult to hear what the kids were singing at times. It was still enjoyable though.

There were signs telling us spectators that photos or video recordings were not permitted. Yeah right!. As if that was going to stop all those excited parents… It didn’t of course. Many were recording it on their phones. But it did stop me – more or less – apart from the odd photo. Here’s the only one worth looking at.

In this photo the Dani is completely obscured apart from part of his legs.

Dani remained almost completely hidden throughout the performance. One eye and the corner of his face just visible. That brings me nicely to my other minor gripe…

Why the hell did they not line up the kids on a height basis? That’s definitely not rocket science is it? Apart from the obvious fact that you couldn’t see some of the children, Dani and several other kids were basically singing into the backs of taller classmates. It never dampened his spirits though. He enjoyed it. They all did. And so did I.

The Concourse concert hall in Chatswood, north Sydney.

It was a great experience for the kids to perform on a big stage, at a great venue and in front of a fairly big audience. They can feel justly proud of themselves.

School Football Match

(Under 10s) Match Report

The (real) football season is in full swing and Daniel is once again playing for his school on Saturdays. Here is the match report from last weekend.

Reddam United vs Waverley Old Boys (and Girls!)
Date: Saturday 21st May 2022.
Venue: Waverley Park synthetic pitch

Off field gossip….

Following a curtailed fixture list last year there was much activity in the close season transfer market. Basically – not to put too fine a point on it – that saw all the best players moving to Reddam City while the (let’s say) not so good players ended up at Reddam United. This unbalanced approach will undoubtedly lead to one team (City) winning the league. But at the other end of the spectrum fans were left wondering if United would be involved in a bottom of the table dog-scrap for survival.

Recent results had seen such predictions bear fruit. City winning by double figure score lines while conceding nothing. United on the other hand had been struggling to even field a team and unable to put the ball in the ‘onion bag’. (That’s the net, or goals, for those of you unfamiliar with the football vernacular.)

First Half

This was the first game of the season that United had fielded a full-strength squad. That is to say, all members were present and correct and ready to play. There would be no borrowing of players from the opposition ranks today (LOL). The away game at Waverley was highly anticipated.

Despite all of the players showing interest as to which position they were expected to play, the game soon descended into chaos. Defence, attack and midfield became meaningless words as everyone but the goalkeepers followed the ball like a flock of sheep being herded by a well trained border collie. There was little action outside of the swarm-like huddle for several minutes but at least the United team were trying their best. The home team were being reduced to only a few attempts at goal and it looked as if the United side were determined to keep the score as low as possible this week.

About half-way through the first half the home team somehow got the ball free from ‘the swarm’ and while the United defence was in disarray the home team scored. Louis, who had been solid in goal, could do nothing to stop it. A cheer went up from the home supporters.

Straight after the goal the Waverley side did a complete change of players. All of their out-field players ran off still celebrating their goal, to be replaced by six fresh pairs of legs. It was like an American Football game where they have different teams for offence and defence (and field goal attempts etc…). Such was the size of their squad. And it seemed that the rules allowing constant limitless substitutions helped… Now that was funny!

United supporters began to think that another rout was pertaining. But capitulation was not in the United team’s vocabulary. No sir! Not this week. This full squad decided to make a battle of it. Urged on by their fans they began to believe in themselves. Sophie and Edie always looking to go on surging runs whenever they could get the ball. Daniel, Charlie and Max managing to confuse the Waverley attackers every time they tried to go forward. Sheer guts and determination were about to bring some success.

Most of the rest of the first half was spent with all of the players still crowding around the ball like a swarm of bees. Then suddenly out of nowhere, a rare attack down the right flank saw a United throw. As the ball flew in over heads it ran into the Waverley penalty area. Then completely out of the blue, United were thrown an unlikely lifeline when one of the Waverley defenders inexplicably picked up the ball. “Handball!” came the cries from the crowd. “Penalty!” shouted (at least) one hopeful parent.

The referee seemed confused. Undecided. Then eventually gave the penalty. Archie, who had been hitting the ball fairly effectively throughout, stepped up to take the spot kick. The crowd went silent in anticipation and for a brief moment time seemed to stand still. A relatively short run up, he struck the ball cleanly and low, to the goalkeeper’s left. It was a textbook penalty kick, but the keeper was equal to it. What a save! The home fans cheered. The United supporters were inconsolable. So close to levelling the score; yet so far.

In previous games this may have weakened the United team’s reserve. But not this week. If anything, it only served to galvanise their individual performances. Damage limitation was not the only option.

Lucy became the proverbial rock at the back, ensuring the United goal would not be threatened for the remainder of the half. Bravely and intelligently holding her ground and making some great tackles whenever the home team surged forward. Several times Lucy held up the Waverley attacks giving enough time for Daniel and Charlie to rush back in support. Some excellent tackles all around frustrated the Waverley team. Archie and Winston both tried to create attacking options but the swarm of players proved too much.

Half time score; Waverley Old Boys (& Girls) 1 – Reddam United 0

Second Half

The second half started off with more of the same. Chaotic swarming of the ball with the odd players trying to break away. Sophie, Louis and Edie did their best to attack while Daniel, Charlie and Archie battled away relentlessly to win the ball. Lucy and Max helped to keep Waverley away from their goals. Whenever the home team broke through Winston was proving unbeatable in goal during the second half, making several key saves. This was clearly beginning to frustrate the home team who were trying to add to their one goal advantage. As the home team looked unlikely to score another goal United found a new lease of life. The United team were suddenly in the ascendency.

At first it seemed to shock them until they realised that the game was actually within their grasp. They began to play ‘the beautiful game’ as it was meant to be. It was not exactly teamwork. That term would imply mastery of enough skill and knowledge of the game to work as a unit. Let’s not get carried away here! But this reporter definitely witnessed a resurgence in team spirit. There was a will to win. A fresh desire to fight for the ball. And it almost paid dividends.

With only minutes remaining Edie broke clear of the defenders. There was no support. Or was there? She did the right thing and charged headlong towards the Waverley goal. Just as the defenders were closing in, she shot long, hard and low. She hadn’t seen Max charging up in support to her right. Neither had the defence. The ball flew/spun/bobbled (and possibl a few other things) just to the wrong side of the left goalpost. Max, who had been bravely covering all areas of the pitch, suddenly popped up at the far post almost getting a toe to it before it rolled behind for a goal kick. It was agonisingly close.

The crowd behind the goal gasped (some groaned) in disbelief. ‘How close can you go without scoring?’ they yelled (or at least thought). And what a great goal it would have been. It was all tales of ‘what ifs’ and ‘maybes’. But sadly, it wasn’t to be.

Waverley Old Boys (& Girls) seemed to be doing their best to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. But that viewpoint would be doing a disservice to the rejuvenated passion being demonstrated by United players. They could sense victory. Or at least the could sense not being thrashed this week! As the clock ticked on there was even a hint of a goal. Even a possible draw! The closing minutes were as tense as a suspension bridge cable. Minutes passed agonisingly slowly for the home team. Whereas for the United faithful it was as if the clock had grown wings. Time was running out. Then after all the excitement the game was suddenly over. And what a game! Low on goals, high on drama. Exactly the kind of all action spectacle to keep the fans coming back for more.

Full-time Score; Waverley Old Boys (& Girls) 1 – Reddam United 0.

Post game…

Not so much a moral victory for Reddam United; but almost a perfect draw.

After the final whistle you could have been forgiven for thinking that the United team had just won the Champions’ League final. Rejoicing in the fact that they had almost pulled off the impossible comeback. The losing team did not want to leave the scene of their glorious defeat and continued playing with two makeshift teams. Many players had to be (more or less) dragged off the field by parents who had other things to do for the rest of the day. Ah the enthusiasm of youth! If only it could be bottled. Priceless!

What will their reaction be if they ever manage to score? We can only begin to imagine. Dream even. (Pleeeeaase!!!! Just one goal… It’s not too much to ask, is it?)

Well, here’s hoping for better things to come. Next up, a tricky home game at Queens Park this coming weekend against the much-heralded Maccabi Dragons. Will the newly revived United team be able to douse the Dragons’ fire? We will know soon enough.

A final thought: One can’t help thinking that the transfer of just one key player from the all-conquering City side would make all the difference.

Sport in the Rain

Sometimes when you want to take a photo it can be the wrong time of day and the sunlight is not shining where you would like it. Other times the conditions are perfect. Like this one.

The majestic Macquarie Lighthouse.

What does that have to do with playing sport in the rain? Nothing. I took this shot while Dani was getting ready for his second game of football last Saturday. I just thought it was good…

Sports in the Rain…

When I was growing up and started playing sports we used to play in all sorts of weather. We didn’t have much choice really. It usually rained during most of the football season. That’s what happens in the UK in autumn and winter. It was just accepted. You played football, you got wet – or worse still soaked and covered in mud.

Even in school we would play football and rugby in the pouring rain. Covered in mud then into the showers. But here in Australia when it rains they are quick to cancel or postpone kids sporting events. Dani’s football training (before and after school) has been cancelled more times than not this last couple of months. It has been wetter than usual however and some fields have been totally water-logged at times. But not always.

Games too, at weekends, have been cancelled. Last Friday was scheduled for the cross country event at Dani’s school. It rained the day before and more rain was forecast for the race day. But thankfully the school went ahead with the event. As it turned out there was no heavy rain on the actual day. It would have been really harsh on the kids. Last year’s cross country races were cancelled due to…. Nah. I just can’t bring myself to say it. You know why…

I know cross country was a hated event when I was at school but the kids at Dani’s school seemed to love it. But then it was a half day out in Centennial Park. What’s not to like?

This year Dani went in his correct age group and managed to finish in the top 10. Not bad going and not far behind the winner.

That was Friday – This was Saturday

A rain-free day. The first of the week. And two games of (real) football for Dani before we went to watch an Aussie rules football game at the Sydney cricket ground. Sydney Swans vs Essendon Bombers.

The first (real) football game was for his school team at Queens Park playing fields. There are two teams in the league from his school year. Called City and United LOL. Last year the coaches mixed the better players with the (shall we say) not so good ones, so both teams were equally good – or equally bad. This year the coaches have decided, in their wisdom, to put all the good players in the same team – City. Which means that Dani’s team (United) doesn’t really have any of the top players in that school year. Dani is not very good but he tries and is improving (slowly). Incidentally there are three girls who play football and they are all on Dani’s team. From what I have seen so far they are not too bad.

The problem of course, is that while City are thrashing their rivals United are getting stuffed. One team is going to become disillusioned if not totally pissed off, while the (better) players on the other team are not really being stretched. They will not improve. At least Dani’s team should learn and improve as they are playing against better teams. That is, if they do not get completely discouraged.

I missed the first half when I decided to buy a coffee at the Queens Park kiosk after parking the car. It seemed a good idea at the time. Twenty five minutes later, maybe not. I only missed about 5 (or was it 6) goals – for Dani’s opposition. Final score? Maybe 8-0, nobody was keeping score after half time… I think I will do a full match report for the next game. Yeah, good idea that…

That was late morning. After lunch it was game number two. Not the norm. This week Dani filled in for one of his school mates on a local team as his friend was away with his family. The game had been moved due to the rains, to a slightly less water-logged pitch near the Macquarie lighthouse – hence the photo above. I’m afraid to say it was more of the same. Although Dani’s team scored a couple early in the game, they let in far too many. I am amazed that the kids are not totally demoralised. They still enjoy it and still want to do it all again next week.

AFL – Sydney Swans vs Essendon Bombers

The professional game in the evening was fairly good. The AFL games go on a bit too long for my liking – 2 hours play over four, thirty minute periods (plus the breaks). But you can eat and have a beer or three in the stadium and it is all safe fun.

Final score: Swans  105  Essendon Bombers 47. That was a good win for the Swans. Dani remained quite focussed on the game right till the end.

Would you believe that in the large stadium with a crowd of over 27 thousand, Dani bumped into someone he knew? Actually it was someone we all knew. An older boy from or building who was at the game with a friend. Still. What are the odds?

We got home after 10.30pm and the boy was knackered. As was his old dad.

Sunday…

On Sunday he had his third game of the weekend – again on the field near the lighthouse. Another heavy defeat. I think I am becoming more demoralised than the kids. What are the coaches telling them?

In the afternoon we went to see a film which was being shown as part of the Spanish Film Festival. It was called ‘The Kids Are Alright’ – ‘¡A todo tren! Destino Asturias’ in Spanish. Basically the adults taking a group of kids to a camping vacation site in Asturias miss the overnight train from Madrid. Yeah, I know, I know! Anyway this leaves the kids to fend for themselves on the train. Meanwhile the adults try to intercept the train by any means possible leading to all sorts of daft capers. The film was clearly for kids, but it was stupid enough to keep adults entertained. Dani loved it.

All in all a busy weekend for the boy.

Jindabyne and the Snowy Mountains National Park

More from the Easter Holidays…

After the short stay in Canberra we travelled further south and into the Snowy mountains for a two night stay in Jindabyne. The weather has not been kind to us during Dani’s Easter school holidays but when you are away on vacation you try to do whatever you can…

Jindabyne is the gateway town to the ski slopes of the Snowy Mountains. Like many similarly located towns in the European Alps it has enough places to buy or hire ski equipment and clothing and lots of hotels for tourists. It also means there are several decent restaurants and places to get a drink. There is nothing wrong with the town but it is basically a base to explore the Snowy Mountains. Our first stop was the caves at Yarrangobilly.

Yarrangobilly Caves

Located in the north of the Kosciuszko National Park, the Yarrangobilly Caves lie beside the Yarrangobilly river. They are the third limestone caves we have visited in NSW. (The others being at Wellington and the Jenolan caves.)

After paying the small park entry fee and cave entry fees we took the walk to the far side of the caves via Yarrangobilly thermal pool. The pool is fed by a natural spring with water staying 27ºC year-round. I was expecting a small random shaped rock pool for splashing about or sitting, but no. They went to town on this thing and made it into a full on rectangular swimming pool. Incredible sight in the middle of a secluded mountain park. Dani had a swim in the pool but his parents decided to sit it out…

Then we  followed the Yarrangobilly River back to Glory Arch walk, through the cave and back to the visitor’s centre. The cave we went in was a self guided tour (unlike the others we have visited).

The Big Trout.

I love these things. This one is another classic piece of Australiana. Or, as I recently found out, these things are also referred to as, ‘The Bigs of Oz’.

This is supposedly the worlds largest fibreglass trout. Hard to imagine people around the world striving to better is it? But still… Legend has it that a local angler was pulled into the water while trying to drink a gallon of Guinness (while fishing) and almost drowned. Naturally the man finished his gallon of Guinness and the trout was erected in honour of ‘the one that got away’.

The Big Trout – another of ‘The Bigs of Oz’
Dani and The Big Trout at Adaminaby

Alternatively it is said that the Big Trout was created by artist and sculptor Andy Lomnici (1920-1990) and was erected in this park in Adaminaby in his honour.

I prefer the former but will believe the latter.

Jindabyne

The town is a great launchpad into the two biggest ski areas of Thredbo and Perisher. But as the clouds were growing and the tops of the mountains were becoming less visible we only went so far up. Luckily we found a resort that was still mostly open. Dani tried a spot of archery for the first time. He is no Robin Hood that’s for sure but he gave it his best and managed to hit the centre of the target once. Albeit from close range!

No Robin Hood. Can he get any closer?

In the afternoon I took Dani to the nearby lake for a spot of spinning. That’s not the static bikes they have in gyms – at least that is what they are called in the UK. No. This type of spinning was fishing with a fake fish-like lure.

I taught Dani how to cast off and how to reel in smoothly. Hardly rocket science but he is a beginner. We never caught anything but he was happy to stay there quite some time and displayed surprising patience. When he does catch a fish doing that he will love it.

Fishing on Lake Jindabyne
Patiently spinning away…

Near the lake we did bump into one of Australia’s oddest animals, the echidna. It is a bit like a porcupine or a very large hedgehog, covered in spines. It is also called the spiny anteater and feeds on ants and termites. It is one of those uniquely Australian animals in that it is an egg laying mammal.

The echidna. Egg laying mammal