So much for this: UK Influenza Pandemic Preparedness Strategy 2011

I just found this in my list of Blog draft versions. What you see below I wrote back on 2nd April shortly after the UK had ushered in the first lockdown and major panic of this ridiculous Covid-1984 thing.  Almost nine months later I found it, re-read it and added some comments in italics, just as a way of marking how well my predictions and thoughts back in April were. Take a look…

Amazingly you can still download that “strategy” document from the link (below). Surprised it hasn’t been taken down? I am.

UK Government Document from 2011

Unreal. This document is the one and only government document that addresses what will be done during a flu pandemic. The whole strategy was done in response to the (first) SARS scare in 2010. Remember that one? When various governments and the World Health Organisation tried to frighten everyone. Saying that there was going to be a pandemic and millions were going to die? That one didn’t work did it? But they learned a lot from it as clearly this one did work (for them).

They produced this strategy document in case it happened (again). I would urge you to take a look at it and compare it with what the government actually did:
https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/213717/dh_131040.pdf

Some Examples from the Strategy Document…

Sections 4.18 to 4.22 look fairly calm don’t they? A calm and logical approach that you might expect from our leaders. Not a headless chicken approach. Right? Well keep reading…

Section 7.4  – under “Business as usual”  – basically says that the government wants the country to carry on as normal as long as possible while taking basic precautions. Also that there are (or were) no plans to close borders stop gatherings…

Yes. It really says those things! In other words, Don’t Panic! (But panic they did!)

Sections 4.12 to 4.17 discuss facemasks and respirators. (At the time I had no idea how they would cut straight through this plan and force everyone to wear the mask muzzle.)

There was even a mention of emergency powers in clause 7.30. In this clause the strategy says that even if emergency powers are enacted they will only last for 30 days. In fact it goes as far as to say that such emergency measures are “designed to be time bound” to those 30 days.

Compare that with what happened…

That’s 30 days of emergency powers. Not 6 months and definitely not 2 years!! They didn’t even try to implement these measures they just leap-frogged them and jumped straight in to emergency powers overriding the 30 day rule in section 7.30 for f*ck sake!

At the first sign of it being a pandemic the government should have used what they already had at their disposal. But they didn’t. There was a huge knee-jerk reaction. More follow-the-leader and copying other countries’ actions instead of trying to implement what they already had in place. – since 2011!!! The government panicked. Massively freaked out and fucked us all over. How can that not be deliberate? (I am claiming this one! I was and still am 100% correct on this.)

As for the new ‘Coronavirus Act’ – yes they really do call it that – it gets much, much worse. In place for 2 years (if they wish) with a review after 6 months. But get this. They can change it to whatever ministers want it to be at any time during the so called ‘crisis’. Basically it is carte-blanche for totalitarian governance. With no further parliamentary agreement they can suddenly declare that you can never leave your house. Not for exercise nor even to buy food. Obviously they would have to have some rationed delivery service in place otherwise people would just tell them where to go (in no uncertain terms). But the point is they can do this type of thing at any time. Such is the extreme dictatorial power they have just given themselves. (If I had published this post back in April you may have laughed at this point. Who’s laughing now?)

This really is a bad time for liberty and freedom. Many have warned against it. I guess we will have to ride it out and see which way it actually goes. For the time being at least. I think they have seriously misjudged people’s patience. But then maybe that is the whole point. Maybe this is just a test. Pushing it so far just to see what the reaction of the people will be? (I think I was spot on with this one.)

Maybe this is some kind of push towards this ‘zero carbon’ economy they have been talking about? I really would not write off anything at the moment. Whatever it is, it will surely start to become clear – or unravel – in the next few weeks. (Aha… almost ten months on and we are still nowhere nearer knowing what is really going on. In fact the governments – some more than others – have stopped trying to be honest and are just making things up as they go.)

You really never know. These are very testing times..(Well that part was correct.)

Old Dubbo Gaol

Definitely one of the two places you must visit in Dubbo is the Old Dubbo Gaol.  Here is an account of our visit to the Gaol…

Old Dubbo Gaol

Now almost surrounded by modern building the Old Dubbo Gaol is yet another insight into the early world of Australian crime and punishment.

The Dubbo Gaol was erected on the site of the original courthouse. Officially opened in 1887 and closed as a gaol in 1966, it was reopened as a tourist attraction in 1974. Built much later than the first gaols in Australia this was not an original convict residence. It is also not very large. Of course the population has increased but the size of the modern prisons here are so much larger it does make me wonder. Are there proportionally fewer or more prisoners now than back in the 1800s? Does anyone have that information to hand? Can someone  tell me?

Situated just behind the main shopping street in Dubbo the Old Gaol is easily missed if you are not looking for it.

Off the main street down a side path

Old Dubbo Gaol Main Gate

One thing is for sure the punishment back then could be far more severe. The gallows standing in the centre of the grounds are a clear indication of that.

A timely reminder of how punishment has definitely gone softer

Exercise Yard

Cells, Stocks and The Hangman’s Noose

As always in these places the cells look forbidding and scary places. Especially those cells reserved for a bit of extra punishment, where all the light is cut off.

All smiles from a tourist kid but these were grim places

Uninviting conditions in these old cells

Scary characters lurk in some of the cells.

The last person to be hanged in New South Wales was in 1939 – surprisingly decades before the last hanging  in the UK. Before that however it is thought that over one thousand prisoners had been hanged in NSW. Only eight of those were executed at Old Dubbo Gaol.

The gallows in the prison court yard are a forbidding sight. As if that is not scary enough, inside one of the rooms is an example of the Hangman’s Noose.

The hangman’s gallows at Old Dubbo Gaol

It’s one thing being a tourist, quite another having to stay in these things for a long period…

A Hangman’s Noose

Protecting the Guards…

When the prison guards went out on their rounds they would use a special key to turn  clockwork devices known as  the ‘Watchman’s Tell Tale’. The spring inside would be wound up every hour. If this was not repeated the spring would unwind and set off an alarm bell. The alarm would alert the chief prison warder that either the guard had come to harm or was not doing his duty.

The Watchman’s Tell Tale

Some interesting facts…

  • Amazingly the place was set for demolition in 1974 but was saved by the actions of a handful of concerned citizens. Good for them I say.
  • Of the eight men hanged in the Gaol, two were Aboriginal, two were Chinese and one was Danish.
  • The gaol housed women as well as men although there were only a few female cells.

Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow

It was always going to happen. After nearly twenty years of wearing my hair long it all came off yesterday. Not quite all off but ‘grade 3’, which after having it in a pony tail for so long is basically the same as fully shaven.

I thought it was thinning out so decided the best thing to do was cut it all off and have a proper look. It turns out that yes it is thinning out but only a little. A little extreme I know, but after 20 years a new hair-do was overdue. Now I have a mix of grey, blond and dark (ish) hairs and that  makes it appear a little patchy. A bit like my facial hair when I grew that… Dani thought it was all very funny but I can’t persuade him to have the same hair style.

Anyway, I can regrow it. I suppose. It should only take a couple of years to get it back to how it was just over 12 hours ago… Must always remember to wear a hat in the sun now.

In Trouble in the Bulli Beach Rip

Christmas day and Boxing day came and went with little to write about. The weather was poor mostly cloudy and it rained. So much for Christmas on the beach in Oz eh? But then we had a very nice day so off we headed south of the city to Bulli Beach.

Why Bulli beach? No particular reason. It could have been any of the beaches between the city and Wollongong really but it seemed a good place to head for.

Trouble in the Rip

For those who don’t know; a rip current, (usually just called a rip) , is a specific kind of water current that can occur near beaches with breaking waves. The rip is a strong and narrow current of water which moves directly away from the shore, cutting through the lines of breaking waves like a river running out to sea. A rip current is strongest and fastest nearest the surface of the water. It can be surprisingly powerful as Dani’s mum found out.

She decided to take one of his Christmas presents – a body board – for a trial in the surf. No sooner had she started than she drifted off to our right. She wasn’t far out but seemed to be struggling to get back to shore. For a while it wasn’t clear of she was trying to get back on shore or if she was trying to body-board. I know she is a pretty good swimmer so was not immediately concerned. But then it all went on a bit too long…

As luck would have it an experienced surfer was in the immediate area and spotted her and asked if she needed help. He kind of towed her away from the rip current to a from there she was able to swim and walk her way back to the beach. Exhausted by now and only just realising how close she was to disaster.

We all saw the funny side of it later but it just goes to show how powerful the rip current can be. There was after all, a reason why the safe bathing area complete with flags and life guards, was the opposite side of the beach. It is unlikely Dani’s mum will try anything like that again soon.

Bulli and Its Beach

Bulli is a small commuter town about an hour out of Sydney – although today it was very busy with plenty of like-minded people making the most of the break in the unusually dull weather.

The beach is one of three running up this stretch of coast. It has one of those old fashioned rock pools at either end. Another sure sign that safe swimming may not be the main attraction of this beach? Perhaps.

Bulli Beach Rock Pool. A safer place to swim.

Bulli Beach looking south

We also found this little gem just behind Bulli station. A great little microbrewery and pub. OK, the Christmas hangover didn’t last long eh? But you have to love these places.

Resin Brewing microbrewery and pub

On the route back to Sydney we stopped at one of the lookout points high up on the cliffs overlooking the famous stretch of coast road (including the sea cliff bridge) and Stanwell Park Beach.

View south from lookout

Australian State Premiers Determined to Spoil Christmas

Two days to Christmas and the politicians are ramping up the coronavirus crap again!

There seems to be a political battle going on among the various state premiers. Each trying to get one over on other state leaders – mostly NSW it seems. The only question I have is: When will this bullshit end?

Border Closures – Again!

We will not be able to travel to the places we wanted to visit. Again! Queensland has closed its border to people from Sydney. Ditto with South Australia. We had half planned a trip to South Australia. In the case of Queensland we actually bought a short package trip and now face losing a lot of money as it has effectively been cancelled. There will be plenty of others in the same situation.

We left it late to book in case of something like this. In fact till about a couple of days before the authorities in Sydney announced a “cluster” of “covid cases” at the northern beaches. It could have been anywhere in or around the city really. Who cares? They were just looking for an excuse.

Never as bad as they have made out…

When you look at the ‘key workers’ like those in supermarkets and bus drivers who continued to work all through the year it is clear that whatever this virus is, it is not deadly or anywhere near as bad as they are making out. If it was then the likes of supermarket workers and bus drivers – always exposed to masses of the public – would have been dropping like flies. And they haven’t. How can I be so sure of that? Simple. Because if they had been dropping like flies (whether you take that to mean dying or  really ill), then you would have heard nothing else on the media. Isn’t that correct?

But no such scare/horror stories have been out there. Instead the media hype the non-stories in order to scare the public and give the useless politicians some credence.

It is truly pathetic. But…Hey ho… Or should that be Hey ho-ho-ho? We will have to continue to make our adventures in New South Wales. Hardly the end of the world is it?

Start of School Holiday Adventures – Dubbo, NSW

The first adventure during Dani’s long school summer holidays was a trip to Lightning Ridge via Dubbo. Here is the first part of that trip…

Sydney to Dubbo

Much of this first part of the route is a well-trodden one for Dani and myself. Through the Blue Mountains to Lithgow and then head northwest to Dubbo for our first port of call. We have 3 nights booked there so we should get to see a few things.

En-route to Dubbo we passed through the town of Mudgee. The plan is to stop there at some point for a weekend trip. For now, it was a brief glimpse. The town of over 12000, sits in the path of the broad Cudgegong River valley which makes it extremely fertile ground for farming and more significantly in this area, vine growing and wine making. Definitely worth another trip then…

Dubbo

Dubbo is basically an agricultural centre on the banks of the Macquarrie river some 420km northwest of Sydney. With a population of around 40,000 people, it is big enough to spend a couple of days but there are not many tourist attractions.

The main two tourist spots are the Old Dubbo Gaol and the Taronga Western Plains zoo. Naturally we visited both and there will be a separate post on those two places. But first here is a sample taste (no pun intended) of the town of Dubbo.

Dubbo in general…

As always on these short visits, shortly after you have just scratched the surface it’s time to leave. Dubbo is a pleasant little town with some decent bars. One in particular had an excellent range of ales which change regularly. The Monkey Bar sits behind the main thoroughfare facing the river. Naturally I sampled a few of their wares.

Hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil. But plenty of great ales at the Monkey Bar, Dubbo.

That Hazy IPA looks more like a jar of honey… But tasted great.

Another popular watering hole was an old bank building that has been converted into a bar.

The Old Bank bar in Dubbo

Around the town there are more examples of large mural artwork. This seems to be a common theme everywhere we have been. That Banksy bloke would love it here..

There are several examples of large mural artwork around Dubbo.

Aboriginal art at the Dubbo Library

Or just any other form of wall paintings…

The old fire station still looks almost new and even though it has not been converted into anything it is not open to the public. Really not sure what they are planning to do with it…

The old fire station, Dubbo.

Also because it is that time of year Dani got to meet “Santa”. Although reluctantly it seems. Playing Santa looks hot work in this part part of the world.

It’s enough to make even a true believer think again…hahahaa

Bowling

Still a very popular pastime in Australia the bowling club in Dubbo caught the eye of a young seven-year-old. Dani was fascinated by it and wanted to try it out. He would have to wait a few more days however as we needed to head off shortly after he had taken a keen interest in the sport (or is it a game?). Having tried ten-pin bowling he now wanted to try this “outdoor version” – although they are clearly completely different games. The seed however was already firmly planted.

Plenty of people play bowls in Australia.

More on the Old Dubbo Gaol and Zoo in the next post…

Movie Review – The War With Grandpa

It is less than one week before Christmas and children are all on their long summer holidays. Yet there are only two movies showing in the multiplex cinema that kids can go and see. Go figure! (as they say in the movies). With the weather not being very summery right now we picked one of those two – The War with Grandpa starring Robert De Niro.

Plot – in as much as there is one…

De Niro plays the grandpa who moves in with his daughter’s home and is given his grandson’s bedroom. The sixth grader has to sleep in the attic and is not happy. His dopey mates at school persuade him to declare war on his grandpa. The ultimate goal being to win back his bedroom.

It all starts off a little silly with the kid using his remote controlled car loaded with  a loud music playing phone to enter the bedroom and disrupt his grandpa’s sleep. The prank level ramps up rapidly to the point where both could (and in real life would) be seriously hurt. As these films tend to do.

De Niro is not the only big name in the cast. Uma Thurman plays the boys mother (grandpa’s daughter) while another older actor, Christopher Walken, plays one of those characters that they always include in these stories – the old man’s sidekick who gets sucked into the ‘war’ games. Also the lovely Jane Seymour – I always liked here ever since first seeing ‘Live and Let Die’ – plays a minor role and becomes a friend of grandpa’s.

There is no spoiler alert nor is one needed. You can see the ned coming a mile off if you are still paying attention. For me it was enough that my son was content to sit there munching on his popcorn and laughing at all the silly pranks.

Conclusions

Slap-stick humour features a lot in this movie as it does in most of De Niro’s so called “family comedies”. For adults it is weak if not poor. For a seven year old boy however it was funny. That’s the point with these mediocre movies. You have to remember who they are really aimed at. Once you can accept that it is easy enough to sit back and enjoy (although that may be too strong a word in the case ???) the film.

On the five star rating system I would have to give this movie a 2½ out of 5 (at a push). I would not recommend it for adults but then again… My son loved it and gave it a 4, then later changed it to a 5. So as a parent that’s what you really need to consider.

As these type of movies go it was about average and I wouldn’t expect anything more really. Whereas the modern day animated films like Toy Story, The Minions etc. pretty much guarantee enjoyment for all members of the family; this type of “family comedy” is basically sure to disappoint at least some. I think that is just the way it goes.

What’s that famous saying actors have? ‘Never work with animals or children’? Well Robert, you’ve been in the business long enough. You should know better. It’s about time you heeded such advice. No more “family comedies” please.

On a different note….
I used to think De Niro was one of the great actors. Who didn’t? With his rolls in Taxi Driver, The Godfather, Casino, The Deer Hunter, Good Fellas and many more… But since his close association with that well known creepy pervert Harvey Weinstein I have to admit I am no longer a fan. It’s hard not to question De Niro’s credentials now. And by the way this movie was made in 2017 (what?!) by Weinstein’s company; so think about that one.

Cooking Camp

Yesterday Dani went to a cooking camp. One of the many things going on around here to keep the kids occupied during their long summer holidays.

He loved it. He made some bread and a cupcake which he brought home. Cupcakes are too sweet for me but the bread was delicious. Not that he is telling us the recipe or how he made it. Some secret baking society or what? All he will tell me is that he did it all himself after a summary from the ‘teacher’, who was on hand if the kids had any questions.

It must all be true because he wants to go again next Monday – and I am sure he would not want to go back if it wasn’t really that good. He does love to do things without interference (we may call it help).

Cooking Camp results. Delicious bread and a very sweet cupcake

Summer?

Speaking of summer… We just got soaked walking back from a kick around in the park. So far it’s been an odd summer as far as the weather goes. I looked at the forecast earlier and it does not look too good for Christmas day. So much for a trip to the beach on that most festive of days… Yes, I know. That’s such a northern hemisphere thing to think about eh? Yes it is, but I thought we might go for an ocean swim if we can. While we can.

Still things can change. At the moment the weather here is changing…well, like the weather!

While this rain seems to want to hang around we may have to go to the cinema and watch a movie…

Stanley the Emu Welcomes You to Lightning Ridge

Dubbo to Lightning Ridge

The long school holidays kicked off almost two weeks ago. We immediately took off for a few days in Dubbo followed by a trip to Lightning Ridge.

There will be posts about all the adventures Dani got up to but first here is a post about another “Big” artwork all the way in the northern (central) part of outback New South Wales.

Stanley the Emu

Australia has quite a few deliberately “Big” monuments dotted about its landscape. I have read about several and we saw the Big Merino sheep sculpture in Golborne (see that one here) on the way to the Snowy Mountains. When we left Dubbo, it was a 350km (just under 4 hour) drive directly north to Lightning Ridge. We made good progress and then Dani finally decided he needed to stop – a mere ten minutes from our destination! This is where we stopped…

Stanley the Emu – 10km from Lightning Ridge

At Stanley’s base… his creators made their mark.

Local artist John Murray had a long standing idea and desire to create a giant emu overlooking the highway outside Lightning Ridge. In 2013 his dream came true.

Stanley the Emu was unveiled to the world in all his rusting glory. The 18-metre-tall emu constructed from more than a tonne of scrap metal, three Volkswagen bodies and a pair of rusting satellite dishes stands proudly by the Castlereagh Highway, about 10 kilometres from town (south) towards Walgett. The long metal pieces for the legs came from the demolished old Dubbo Police Station.

John (Murray) teamed up with Coonamble welder and co-creator Tim Parsons, who constructed “Stanley” on his farming property, “Orwell” near Combara (which is about half way between Dubbo and Walgett).

An impressive sculpture. Well, I thought so.

The VW Beetle used as the main body of Stanley.

“Stanley” is named after a former local police commander called Stan Single, who comes from the Coonamble, Walgett and Ridge region. Mr. Single was later based in Dubbo.

Apparently, a time capsule was inserted into the body of the structure to be opened in 50 years. Which means we still have to wait another 43 years before we know what is inside Stanley.

Seeing Stanley in the 36 degree heat was a very interesting introduction to the town of Lightning Ridge. This was clearly going to be another interesting trip…

Email Mania

In these days of (anti) social media and mobile phones most people hardly use emails any more. It’s all twitter, facebook and instagram (whatever that is). Still not really sure what’s the difference between facebook and instagram???

Not to be put off Dani now has an email account. And at least for now it is a novel form of entertainment. His mum’s idea not mine I hasten to add.

I wonder how long it will be before he gets fed up of it. He has been sending me emails and telling me to check my email account. TELLING ME! Apart from the obvious, I keep telling him that they are not instantaneous and can take some time to get through. Also if you have something to say just tell me… All the usual stuff. But he still loves it. Probably because he has the iPad in his hands. It’s like a dummy to a baby. The (apparent)  soothing effect it has is only equalled by the exact opposite when you finally prise it out of his hands.

That gives me an idea. I will email him to stay calm when we tell him to get off those bloody emails – and hence the iPad. But I have just realised that he will now use “checking his emails” as an excuse to get on the iPad every day. Just when I had told him he was not having it all school holidays. Oh nooooo….