Around Tamworth

I picked up an out of date tourist guide magazine form the information centre – which was closed due to the holidays. It was from 2019! They had left them in one of those magazine holders for people to take. Better than nothing but still. Almost three yours old!

Not to worry. As well as Tamworth the magazine had features on three town in the region. To the north was Manilla and Barabba while to the south was Nundle.

Barabba was a bit disappointing. I know it was bank holidays and so almost everything was closed but it seemed quite run down. There were quite a few empty and boarded-up shops. But it still has its moments…

The clock tower with the recently refurbished Playhouse Hotel behind.
Old Court House in Barabba

Barabba does have some nice shops…

One thing that makes Barabba worth a visit is the silo art just outside the town. The Water Diviners was painted by Sydney artist Fintan Magee in 2019. It took 4 weeks and 280 litres of paint. It’s another one on that Art Silo trail I posted about in the past.

The Water Diviners by Fintan Magee. Barabba Silo Art

Apparently places like Barabba have traditionally used water divining as a method of finding water in dry seasons. I always thought that was all mumbo-jumbo. Is it real? Or not? Please tell me if you know.

Manilla

In between Tamworth and Barabba lies the tiny town of Manilla. I liked Manilla a lot more right from the off. The main street (only business street really) just seemed to be more packed with shops etc – even if most were still closed for the hols. Despite being a quiet holiday there seemed to be a bit of a buzz to the place. Part of the reason I think is that there are three large pubs (hotels) on the main street. Really character buildings. The sort of architecture I love in small towns.

Shops on Manilla main street
Manilla main street

I ventured into one pub and had a long chat over a couple of beers with the owner. Interesting. Knowing what I know now I would have booked to stay in a pub/hotel in Manilla instead of the motel in Tamworth.

The Imperial Hotel, Manilla
More from the main high street

The clock-tower crossroads had all four corners covered with classic old building. How can anyone not like these?

On one corner the post office
Opposite the post office the Royal Hotel
Across the other road form the post office is the Post Office Hotel !
And in the last corner of the crossroads is the old Bank of New South Wales.
Yet another classic old boozer. The Court House Hotel. Sadly closed down (for now)
An old school building. Tiny

Nundle

Smaller than either of the above two, is the tiny town of Nundle. Barely the size of a village in UK terms but there are still plenty of places to stay there. A couple of motels, a large Bed & Breakfast house and a camp site. There is also the town pub/hotel; The Peel Inn.

Old Nundle Post Office
Even a tiny town like this has good swimming facilities.
Nundle Town Hall/Council Offices

Nundle is home to a working wool mill. Working for 51 weeks of the year that is. Not this one! Bloody typical. That saying: “Timing is everything” could have been written for the trips we have made in Australia…. The wool machines were silent but they were all on display – see photos taken from the shop section above.

Wool spinning machines
Another view of the machines
The wool dying area

As small as it is, Nundle was popular. Lots of people turned up for the day and the pub was packed at  lunch time.

The Peel Inn, Nundle
The pub in Nundle even had those Western movie saloon doors…

I noticed something at the town hall/council offices. These two photos show the memorial plaques for those from Nundle who died in both world wars. Incredible how such a tiny place lost so many of its young men in those wars. Like so many similarly small places in Australia. It never ceases to amaze me.

First World War Memorial
Second World War Memorial
A 1940s Chevrolet Lend Lease truck.
The old truck belonged to the wool mill

Tamworth

So, Christmas Day is done. No time to waste. Head off out of Sydney before the idiots claim some new “cluster” that will forbid us all from venturing out of the city. Or some such garbage.

Heading north up the New England Highway the scenery looked familiar. Like old England in fact. You could easily think you were driving through England apart from the occasional dead kangaroo at the side of the road that reminds you where you are.

Several hours later

Passing through the small town of Wallabadah, almost in a mental cruise control, I noticed a sign for something called The Frist Fleet Memorial Garden. Curiosity took over so I pulled in to take a look.

Th gardens are set out almost like a graveyard. Headstones listing the names of those in the “first fleet”  are spread around the grounds. Grouped by ship. There were eleven ships in that first fleet. Also not all were convicts. In fact many were soldiers. Together these people were the early settlers/colonists/invaders (depending on your viewpoint).

The First Fleet Memorial Garden in Wallabadah
The names of each ship’s passengers are carved in tomb stones
…both convicts and government employees
Their descendants would go on to build the Australia we know today

It seemed an odd place to have this memorial. Apparently it is the only such memorial that names all those on the first fleet. That surprised me. I would have thought there was something on The Rocks in Sydney since that is where they landed. Anyway, it turns out that the man who built this memorial – Ray Collins, a descendant of one of those first arrivals – received support from the Liverpool Plains Shire council and the place has since become a bit of a  meeting point for first fleet descendants.

All the names are on either side of the information board

It seems that other places Ray Collins tried did not support his vision. All a bit odd but I do understand why. Sadly these days, the “first fleet” is seen more as an invasion force than pioneers. It is a politically sensitive topic for many. That said their descendants basically paved the way for the formation of the Australia we know today. An Australia that has attracted many people from all over the world and continues to do so. The first fleet deserve some credit for that surely. Their descendants certainly do. Fair play to Liverpool Plains Shire council I say…

On To Tamworth

On entering Tamworth from the south the first thing you see is the large arena for livestock and equine events. Including Rodeos. Shortly after you pass another one of those “Big” Australian things. This time it’s the Big Golden Guitar.

The Big Golden Guitar

Tamworth is the country music capital of Australia. The Big Guitar is a much larger version of the golden guitar trophies awarded at the annual country music festival. A bit like the Oscars for country music over here. The trophies stand just 22cm tall whereas this “Big Golden Guitar” stands 12 metres tall.

There is more to it than this, but here in a nutshell is how this all came about:
The local radio station made a country music show when popularity in the genre had fallen with the arrival of rock ‘n roll in the late 1950s. It proved so popular that the people involved decided to run the annual country music festival. The town soon became known as the Australian capital of country music. That festival celebrates its 50th year in January.

Hollywood Boulevard has its Stars…
Tamworth streets have the Golden Guitar winners plaques.

Architecture

Tamworth seems to be quite an affluent city. Although it was the holiday period and most things were closed you can see that there is a thriving town centre. There are also plenty of fine examples of architecture from the period when the town first grew, as well as art deco designs.

The Art Deco designed Central Hotel.
The very grand Tamworth Post Office
Courthouse Hotel Pub
Tamworth station
Station
Small museum on the platform
When they built the stations there was always a nice hotel/pub opposite.
The Tamworth Hotel (opposite the station)
Post Office
Town Hall

Tamworth was built on agriculture and livestock. It sits in Liverpool Plains Shire in a large flat valley. You get a good perspective of the location from the nearby Oxley Lookout.

Tamworth as seen from the Oxley Lookout

Not all of the architecture is old or art deco.

An old council building
Right next to a new and ugly council building

Can We Predict The Future For Our Kids?

Can we predict the future for our kids? The short answer is “no”. Of course not. But maybe there are some small things we can confidently predict. Here is one thing I can safely say will come true…

That 70s Sound…

Being born in the 60s I first started getting into music at an early age. A little younger than my son is now.  It helped having plenty of aunties and uncles (some not that much older) who had the money to buy all the records at that time. So every weekend when we went to visit my nana I could play their records and get to know some of the bands and songs that were not always played on radio and TV.

Now I wouldn’t be a very good dad if I didn’t share the sounds from that greatest decade of  music with my son. “Which decade is that?” you may well ask. Well, the 1970s of course.

Fortunately for Dani I have an iPod packed with all sorts including everything you need to know about the sounds of the 70s. Let’s just call it “A young person’s guide to great music”.

So how does all this tie in with confidently predicting my son’s future (a small part of it at least)? Well, while we were driving around on a week’s holiday recently he was sat in the front passenger seat picking different songs off my iPod. He went for the ones he and his young friends like such as Bon Jovi. Then as he was flipping through the list of artists I noticed one I thought he should listen to. I told him which album to select and then the first track. He played it.

I never for one moment thought that he would like it but I wanted to gauge his reaction. He knew the band’s name and has heard one of their other famous tracks. He was bored of my selection less than a minute into the track. Then after a few minutes more he was asking if there was any singing. There was. But not much. The track lasted over 13 minutes and at the end of it he was almost begging to listen to something he knew; “with singing!”

I confidently told him that when he is older he will love that track – and the rest of the album. He was not convinced. I, on the other hand, know this to be true. And so my dear readers, do you. So, yes. I really can predict at least one small part of my son’s future.

That track was Shine on You Crazy Diamonds (parts 1 to 5) and the album is Wish You Were Here.

I am sure you agree that I am correct. When he is older he will love it. You see. Predicting some things in your kid’s future is really not rocket science is it?

Another Diamond Geezer…

During the same journey he wanted to play the whole of Black Sabbath’s Paranoid album. He had heard the title track (it often appears on TV and in movies – like Kong Skull Island for example). He had also heard War Pigs and Iron Man as I had sort of rediscovered those tracks and had played them recently. Now he pretty much likes the whole album, Rat Salad, Fairies Wear Boots and all…

I told him the band members’ names. The flamboyant Ozzy Osbourne, Bill Ward, Tony Iommi and last but not least, the fantastically named Geezer Butler. He took it all in and Black Sabbath have another fan for life. As we all know, once you get into these kind of songs there is really no going back. You can’t unlike them; even years later. After all, it’s not Justin Beiber or The Spice Girls we are talking about is it?

Atom Heart Mother? Agh!

During another drive he flipped through the Pink Floyd albums on my iPod. I have them all although I don’t particularly like them all. Quite a few are barely OK and I haven’t listened to in years. One of those is Atom Heart Mother. For any partial or non-Floyd fans out there, it’s the one with the cow on the album cover.

I made him a deal. If he listened to the first track all the way through, without moaning, then he could chose the next five songs. He bought it!

Now most casual Pink Floyd fans will be aware that Atom Heart Mother is a single track album. And it goes on for over 50 minutes. Fifty minutes!!! A ‘concept album’ I think they used to call them. Yeah, I know. There was a lot of drug experimentation going on in those days. Much like now in fact, only now it’s with supposedly “legal” drugs (hahaa!)

Dani had the last laugh though. He put on Sabbath’s Paranoid. Again. I do still like most of their songs but so many times in the space of two days was a bit much. He loves that album. Hahahaa…

And as for Ummagumma? (another Floyd album with a single track of over 40 minutes). I threatened him with that one when he was being annoying.  It worked.

And Finally…

I will just take this opportunity to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Warrumbungle National Park

Last year when Daniel and myself travelled north between Gilgandra and Coonamble on our way to Lightning Ridge, I noticed the mountain peaks to the east, sticking out of an otherwise flat landscape. I wrote about that in a post back then – read that one here.

I clearly remember thinking that I had to look up those dramatic looking mountains and add them to our list of places to visit.  Well, this year – again on our way to Lightning Ridge – we made a dedicated trip to the Warrumbungle National Park.

Warrumbungle National Park

The word warrumbungle means crooked mountain in the local indigenous Gamilaraay language. And that’s exactly what you see here. Even from some distance the craggy peaks and weird spires dominate the landscape. All thanks to the region’s past volcanic activity that has produced some unusual lava formations.

The park is definitely home to some spectacular mountains.  It was named as a national park in 1957 and was added to the country’s National Heritage list in 2007.

Clear evidence of extinct volcanos is everywhere to see…

We stayed to the east of the park in the closest (small) town of Coonabarabran. A mouthful in itself. Try saying that after a few beers. But this is the town to live in if you are interested in astronomy.

One of the telescope domes at over 1100m as seen from the visitor’s centre.

This area is also known as the Astronomy Capital of Australia. The Siding Spring Observatory lies at the eastern edge of the park at an elevation of 1160 metres. The site was chosen due to an average 70% clear nights. Perfect for astronomers.

The park is also home to a 22-metre radio telescope owned and operated by the CSIRO but operated remotely from Narrabri. We visited that Narrabri radio telescope site last year – see here for that post.

Up to now, I would rank this place as joint best I have visited in New South Wales – along with the equally spectacular (but quite different) Mungo National Park (See posts on Mungo National Park here and here)

Let’s Dance by David Bowie – That Classic Video.

Back in 1983 a music video was made in Australia for David Bowie’s latest song Let’s Dance.  Those were the days when the music video was as important as the song. Or even a bigger deal. In this case the video became something of a classic and every bit as famous as the song. The three main locations were the Carinda Hotel bar, Sydney and the Warrumbungle National Park. You can easily find the video on youtube and other sites.

Scene from the Let’s Dance video when the girl puts on the red shoes
The same scene now, almost 40 years on.
Dani with the classic video backdrop

The bar in that video…?

The plan was to visit Carinda – taking a 100km detour on our way to Lightning Ridge – and take in the famous Hotel there. Location of the opening scene of the music video and also setting for an annual David Bowie Festival to honour the music of the ‘Thin White Duke’ himself. However, the weather put a stop to those plans. Would you believe it? Heavy rainfall had closed roads into Carinda. Not the last time on this trip that the weather would thwart us.

Another trip for another day…

Volcanic Landscape

Here are some more photos of the fantastic views in Warrmbungle National Park.

Another volcanic looking peak
“Split Rock”. The exploded remains of a volcano

That famous backdrop to the David Bowie video again

Who the Hell Likes Sprouts? (incl. Recipe)

With Christmas fast approaching now seems a good time to mention that classic Christmas dinner vegetable – the humble sprout. I am talking about Brussels sprouts here. Not any other type of sprouts like bean sprouts etc…  So, who the hell like them? Well, amazingly, my son does. I suppose it’s a good thing when your kids like some vegetables, but sprouts certainly weren’t on the list of those I expected him to like. As for myself? I seem to have developed an unhealthy liking for the vegetable that is (usually) the scourge of kids everywhere.

We know (or at least we think) that sprouts are healthy, right? But liking them? Is that healthy too? It seems an odd food to actually like. Recently I have eaten them at least once a week and have discovered that you can eat them raw in salads… (See below for recipe)

Who likes sprouts?

“I like sprouts” is not a phrase you are likely to hear much is it? But having (kind of) rediscovered the humble sprout, I actually quite like them. Is that normal? It must be an age thing right?

Age. It’s just a number – so they say. But do our taste-buds change that much in middle age? Bloody hell! At this rate someone will buy me a packet of Werther’s Originals for Christmas. Nah. Still don’t like those Werther’s things… Yet!

Personally I was never one of those kids who really hated vegetables. I always ate my vegetables at dinner. Even sprouts. Maybe sometimes a little begrudgingly; but I ate them all. A bit of mum’s gravy usually helped wash the medicine down (so to speak). For most people that I know, eating sprouts means Christmas dinner. Maybe some other date for a family festive meal like Easter, Thanksgiving (USA) or similar. But rarely more than two or three times a year.

For me this is a new thing. Not just eating them but liking them. But Dani also quite likes them. That’s a good thing of course. We do not have to force vegetables down him. He just eats so bloody slowly!!! He doesn’t genuinely like them – in the same way as say, chocolate – but he tends to like them enough to just get on with it. Sprouts more than most other vegetables oddly enough.

How Healthy are Sprouts?

So, how healthy are sprouts? It seems that they are packed full of fibre, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Vitamin C is found in many fruits and vegetables, but Brussels sprouts are one of the best vegetable sources available.

Of course we kind of all knew that anyway right? We’ve always known it. When your mum tells you to eat up all your vegetables (‘because they are good for you’) when you were a kid it made sense even then.

Just as well I like them then. All that remains is to try a couple of new sprout recipes including a raw sprout salad. And here goes…

Raw Sprout Salad

Here is the raw sprout salad recipe I (more or less) made up on the fly with what was available…

Mix the following ingredients in a bowl:

Tin of tuna
Half a small tin of sweetcorn
Sliced stick of celery
One large sprout thinly sliced
A few sliced sun-dried tomatoes

To finish…
Sprinkle of pine nuts
Sprinkle of sesame seeds
Drizzle olive oil
Splash of apple cider vinegar

Bingo! And this is what it looks like:

There really is raw sprout in there… Look closely!

OK, as this was my first raw sprout meal I only used one large sprout. But it was fine. Next time I will use more. Despite most of the ingredients coming out of tins, jars and packets it certainly sounds and looks healthy, right? Well, that’s what I am telling myself anyway…

Changeable Weather (but it’s NOT that other thing)

Exactly two years ago, large areas of the country were being ravaged by bush fires. By the time we arrived almost two months later, the fires had stopped. This year there have been floods (as recently as yesterday) and flood alerts remain in place in many areas.

It just goes to show that even down under the summer can be hot and dry one year and wet the next. The reservoirs are full. Almost unheard of. While it may be a wet summer (so far) it certainly isn’t cold. But not as hot as it was this time last year when we were just coming out of a short heatwave. Changeable weather down here, just like what I am used to from growing up in the UK. But please don’t get me started on that “climate change” bollocks!

Just today Dani had a surf lesson cancelled. The sea was too wild for lessons we were told. I suppose they meant for beginners and kids. The really good surfers seem to go out in all weather. He was actually disappointed – which is a good thing. The sky was overcast and it was windy. But then a few hours later it was warm and he was jumping in the swimming pool with other kids from our block.

Soon we will head off for a break out of Sydney. When asked where he wanted to go Dani said without hesitation, Lightning Ridge. It will be our (Dani and myself) second visit there. It will be a first visit for Dani’s mum however. The place obviously made an impression on the boy. I of course loved it too.

I am sure there will be plenty more on all of that to come….

 

End of Year 3 – Last Day of School

Dani finishes school today and starts the long summer holidays. End of year 3. That’s two full school years he has done here in Australia.

Another school year over…

I don’t remember anything about his last day of school last December. I only wrote a line or two about it. I only recall that it was an incredibly warm few days leading up to it. (See that post here.) Whereas this year it is cool and cloudy with a chance of rain and/or storms all week. At the end of that post I wrote that we would be taking a trip to Lightning Ridge. Dani has repeatedly said that he wanted to go back there again this year so we have booked a few days in the exact same motel. That previous trip to Lightning Ridge was a boy’s trip. This time Dani’s mum will be coming also.

Overall he has settled in very well to life down under. Kids that age generally do of course. He enjoys going to school as much for the socialising as the learning experiences. The latter varies somewhat as interest in real school stuff ebbs and flows. Again this is natural in kids that age. All in all I am happy that his education is coming along nicely.

There have been a couple of covid inspired blips on the whole school thing. There is no way any parent can say that has not affected their children. I have said it before and will continue to say it. That remote schooling online is no substitute for being in a classroom full of others the same age. Kids need to mix with their peers as much as they need to learn about history and geography. (No idea why those two subjects popped up – it could be any – but you get the point right?)

This school year he managed to lose several items of clothing even though his name was written on the tags. But he wasn’t the only one. Most of his friends have done the same. It’s just a thing for boys that age.

Next Year?

What will the next school year hold? Dani moves up to year 4 at the end of January.

I can see there being more covid related interruptions. The biggest issue I see is that here in Australia the governments and medical authorities have “approved” (I use that term loosely) the covid vaccine for 5-12 year olds. Not something I agree with at all but this is not the time to discuss that one. Suffice to say that I suspect this is why this “new Omricon variant” has suddenly hit the headlines. I have already heard news items trying to convince us that this “variant” is more infectious for children (or words to that effect). The vaccine “rollout” (yes they call it that as if it is something to get really excited about) for 5-12 year olds is expected to coincide with the start of the new school year. It should be interesting. Watch this space…

One big change in year 4 will be that each student has their own computer!!! Agh!!!! As if controlling screen time is not already hard enough. Now screen time is officially part of their schooling! Thankfully Dani has asked Santa for a laptop/PC this year and we managed to find one that was not too expensive (they definitely seem cheaper over here). So that’s killed two birds with one stone.

Finally

So there goes another school year in the life of my son. Another landmark. It’s another one of those “where did all that time go” moments. Life is like that. The older you get the faster things seem to fly by. For Dani it’s just another long year of school gone. Roll on the summer holidays.

Now it’s time to wonder how year 4 will go and how long that laptop computer will last… Not very long I suspect…

A Not So Old Gaol

Maitland Gaol – Not exactly an “old Gaol”.

The gaol at Maitland only closed in 1998 so it doesn’t really qualify as an “old gaol” in the way some of those we have already visited in Australia. But it’s still another interesting insight into the world of incarceration. A big part of Australian history of course. Or so people think. In reality the early convicts were not housed in such buildings – they were none constructed vey early on. The prisoners were allowed to work outside and do as much or as little as they pleased. We found out about early convict life on our trip to the Hyde Park barracks prison – see that post here. The prison buildings were not built till later. But old prisons that remain have been interesting. Dani and his old dad love them – his mum less so…

Maitland Gaol – a little History

This place still looks operational from the outside. The razor wire around the tops of the walls and guard towers, the cameras and lights still in place.

The first prisoners entered the gaol in 1848. It closed on the 29th January 1998 and any remaining inmates were transferred to other prisons. It closed because security did not meet community expectations, conditions were considered unsuitable and the cost of operating the antiquated facility was excessive. Modern prisons are designed to be operated by far fewer guards thanks to the use of technology and cameras as well as the physical layout.

In the early 1990s new modern wings were built. One to house prisoners who worked in the kitchen and another, high security wing, to house inmates who had committed heinous crimes or crimes against other inmates. All of that cost millions of taxpayers money, only to see the place close in January 1998. Exactly the sort of forward planning and value for money we have come to expect from our elected leaders…

The high security wing housed one of Australia’s most infamous inmates. Ivan Milat; commonly known as “the backpacker murderer”. Milat assaulted, imprisoned, robbed and murdered two men and five women in New South Wales between 1989 and 1993. He spent about a year in Maitland gaol before attempting to escape, after which he was transferred to another gaol. He died in prison.

Inside the Gaol

The older wings and cells are not too dissimilar to some of the older prisons we have visited. The newer cells certainly look more modern with stainless steel sinks and toilets.

Gatehouse
Visitors entrance
One of the watchtowers
Grim place. Especially in the rain…
One of the older wings
There’s no equality in prison. Guards can’t smoke, but prisoners..?
A newer wing
One of the not so new cells
The prison church.
The shower block. Soap-on-a-rope strongly advised.
A young offender?

Haunted Gaol?

The gaol is said to be one of the most haunted places in the state. You can pay for the privilege of a night-time ghost hunting tour. Apparently not for the feint hearted. People actually pay for that! Crazy eh?

 

 

Cry Macho – Film Review

The other day I read somewhere that Clint Eastwood wants to be still making movies when he reaches his 100th birthday. Well right now he is 91 years old and shows no signs of stopping. His latest movie – in which he stars and directs – is called Cry Macho.

Eastwood has starred in and directed quite a few movies over the years. It’s easy to forget that making movies is nothing new for Clint. He made his directorial debut way back in 1971 with Play Misty For Me (which he also starred in).

It’s fair to say that this latest film is not too dissimilar from the last two movies where he played both director and leading actor. Namely: The Mule (2018) and Gran Torino (2008). In both of those movies Eastwood played the old man looking out for an adolescent about to become a man. And yes, let’s say it: The kids are all of another ethnic background. Not a problem, but definitely a theme in these ‘old man helps teenager become a man’ movies he has made.

Cry Macho Plot

Eastwood plays a former rodeo champion, Mike Milo, who was forced to quit the sport through serious back injury. That of course was many years ago. Mike is approached by his former boss Howard Polk (played by Dwight Yoakam) who asks Mike to bring his son back from Mexico. The teenage son, “Rafo” (Rafael) Polk (played by Eduardo Minett) lives in Mexico City with his mother Leta. Is it kidnapping or a rescue? It’s a fair question.

Leta tells Mike that Rafo has gotten into a life of crime and is part of an illegal cockfighting circuit. Rafo’s fighting rooster happens to be called “Macho”. Yeah, I know. It’s a bit much eh?

Leta tells Mike that her son is not going to leave Mexico and Mike heads off, alone, back to the United States. Meanwhile Rafo has sneaked into Mike’s truck and when the two face off the youngster tells the old man that he wants to go to his father. Mike agrees to take him to the border but when Leta finds out she is not happy (although mostly drunk).

Naturally – and this is hardly a spoiler alert – two things happen:
1. The Mexican mother’s henchmen come after Mike and Rafo and make for a dangerous journey north. And…
2. The old man and the teenager form a bond along the journey back to the USA. The two swap stories about their lives and Mike tries to teach Rafo the meaning of being “macho”.

Along the way the runaway pair have to detour off the main road as the Federal Police are checking cars. They end up in some small (unnamed) town where they meet Marta (played by Natalia Traven) who they befriend. And what do you know? They fit right in. Mike ends up breaking wild horses for a local horse trader and he also trains Rafo to ride. Meanwhile Marta and Mike hit it off.

I am not going to add any more as that really would be a spoiler. It’s hardly a classic chase movie. Will they make it? Won’t they make it?  Let’s just say they either do or they don’t…

Critique

I suppose The Mule was an OK film. This movie is too. But just OK. It is really hard to watch Clint in movies now but you still feel that you have to. It’s mostly because of who he is and what he has achieved; less so about how old he is now. If you are a film buff or a Clint Eastwood fan (or indeed both) you are drawn to this movie and probably any more he will make on his quest of being a centenarian film-maker. But sadly it is not easy to watch him these days.

This movie does just enough to keep you interested. Eastwood too does just enough acting to make it passable. But it is clunky, awkward and at best it is corny. The plot certainly isn’t the greatest and there are no twists and turns to speak of. Overall it is fairly average and it is quite difficult watching Eastwood struggle with it all at his advanced age.

The movie is rated M (which means it is for “mature” audiences and not really recommended for those under 15 years of age). In reality I think my 8 year old son might have enjoyed this film more than I did.

I want to give it 1, but I am going to give it 2 out of 5 (**). Not just because it’s Clint. But mainly for that reason. And let’s hope he is still making movies in nine years time. Hopefully better than this one though.

A Rural Farm Stay and the town of Dungog

It was high time we got out of Sydney and I for one was chomping at the bit. Just as well. We headed off for a short farm stay out in the countryside a few hours northwest of the city.

Farm Stay

The farm is on the banks of the Chichester River, in the foothills of the Chichester State Forest, 20 minutes from the small town of Dungog. It is 1.5 hours from Newcastle and 5 minutes from Chichester Dam, State forests and the Barrington Tops National Park. Ideal.

We arrived just in time to feed the farm animals and check for freshly laid eggs. The photos tell their own story…

Farm hand helping out (just as well, the owner was on crutches)
Collecting fresh eggs
Feeding time
One of the farm animals
Dani with his egg harvest

The accommodation was a small cabin with enough mod cons and its own little barbeque and garden area. After feeding the animals then settling in we went to see if there were any free food in the yabby traps. A yabby is basically a freshwater crayfish. We were in luck as there were a few big enough to eat. Plus the owners had collected some larger examples a few days earlier. More on those to come…

Pulling a small yabby out of one of the traps

There is something about camp fires that kids love. I used to love making a fire with my grandad (also a Daniel) when we used to go fishing for the day. Naturally Dani insisted we make camp fires for each of the two nights we stayed here…

Getting the fire started
Full fire late on.
Fresh Yabbies ready for the pot
Cooked yabbies cooling off

Dungog Town

The small town of Dungog sits on the northern NSW railway line so it it is hardly cut off from the rest of the state. Quite the opposite. But it is remote enough (for me). It’s a great name too eh?

It’s a typically nice town of a little over 2,000 people, the sort of place regular readers will know I just love. I think it’s the fact that these places still tend to look pretty much as they were when they were built – which wasn’t that long ago in European town terms. They are kind of trapped in time as (in most cases) there are usually no new modern buildings. There is no need for any in most cases. Take a look at this place…

Dungog Cinema Classic period architecture. Love these places.

Apparently the James theatre (above) is the oldest fully enclosed purpose-built cinema continuously operating in Australia (whatever that means). The Dungog film society holds special events in this cinema and there is even an annual Dungog film festival. I must look out for that.

Original businesses on Dungog’s main high street
Classic architecture in Dungog
Dungog Post Office and phone booth

The town grew up around the timber industry due to the surrounding forests. Later dairy farming became the main industry.

And what about this place? What a find! In such a small town I wasn’t expecting to find a craft beer brewery. But here you go. Next time we will have lunch and few beers off the taps but for now I was happy to take away a few tinnies. And very good they were too. Useful for washing down the barby dinner and the freshly caught and cooked yabby collection…

Tinshed Brewery, Dungog. Find of the year (so far)
As the sign says: It’s Rustic not Rusty

As well as this brewery there are two hotel bars and a couple of classy looking restaurants. Definitely more to explore on our next visit. Another one of those surprise towns in rural NSW.

Rustic Ale. Very tasty!
Tinshed Brewery’s IPA alongside the freshly cooked yabbies

The fresh eggs were great and the yabby catch went down well as a starter before a BBQ. All in all a good day.

Pale Ale. As good as any I have tried.

It’s easy to forget in this day and age that kids are growing up without ever knowing how to use telephone boxes (as we from the UK call them) – or telephone booths if you prefer. Not only that I am not sure he has had a proper look at one before. He loved the ones we saw this weekend. It must be the novelty factor… Personally I think they are great too but I believe they are being phased out rapidly. Not a good idea in my opinion but hey; I am old fashioned like that.

Dani liked the phone booth / telephone box.

Chichester Dam and River

Not far from our farm lies the Chichester Dam which supplies much of the upper Hunter region. It has a capacity of 5,000 million gallons. So said the sign. Old money of course as it was built using the imperial system. It was full so you can safely say there was 5,000 gallons there.

Full up. Just in time for the start of summer.
The starting point for the Chichester river.
Chichester Dam lake

Feeding the King Parrots.

The birdlife in Australia never disappoints. The farm had its fair share of local colourful birds. And they enjoyed being hand fed…

Only eight years old and already has the birds eating out of his hand LOL
One female “king” parrot out of six birds…

The birds with the red heads are the males. The ones with the green heads are female. Female ‘king’ parrots! Odd that eh? Why not “queen” parrots? Let the feminist brigade mull that one over for a while shall we?

Barrington Tops National Park

This is another huge protected park covering over 76,000 hectares. The park is part of the World Heritage Site Gondwana Rainforests of Australia – added in 1986. It was added to the Australian National Heritage List in 2007.

We only saw a small part of it but it was worth it. Another trip to this area is definitely needed as there is so much more to explore.

One of Nature’s swings

Dani posing beside one of the many waterfalls in this national park