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

Parkes Elvis Festival

A Weekend at the Parkes Elvis Festival.

The 20th-24th of April saw the return of the Elvis Festival to the small town of Parkes NSW. Last year’s event was cancelled (you know why & I refuse to mention it…). This year the event, which should be held in January, was postponed till April (because of the same bloody thing). As I pointed out after my visit to Parkes in January, the event is normally coincides with “The King’s” birthday, January 8th (he would have been 87 this year). As it turned out the weather was great but definitely cooler than January. I am sure that was a great relief to those wearing the Elvis suits and wigs…

In fact, we never spent the weekend in Parkes. We had to stay in Orange which is just over an hour’s drive away because everything in Parkes itself was fully booked up. Accommodation for this festival gets booked out a year in advance (at least). We were not the only ones staying in another town. We saw several others in our motel. Still, it was a good couple of day visits and enough to leave us wanting more…

“Before Elvis there was nothing”
John Lennon

Carnival Atmosphere

There as a great carnival atmosphere all over the town. The pubs were generally packed and the two stages ran a constant stream of tribute acts either directly Elvis related or 50s/60s themed. The main stage was in Cooke Park with the smaller “Memphis satellite stage” set up on the main street through the town (Clarinda Street). All acts were free to watch as were many others playing in the pubs or just on the streets.

Elvis texting

There were some concerts that you need to book and pay for. Some of the more famous Elvis impersonators played gigs inside certain locations. I am sure these would be first class performances but they were all booked out. But because there were so many good free shows it did not matter.

Even kids bands were playing all over the town

We arrived midday on Friday. On the Saturday, being a lot closer, we arrived fairly early but still missed half of the parade down Clarinda Street. It also meant we couldn’t really get a good vantage point but it was still fun. Mostly a parade of Elvis impersonators, classic American cars (from the 1950s and 60s) and anyone who just wanted to dress up and take part (I guess).

The Parade….

Annual Theme

Each festival has a theme. This year it was the 1968 movie Speedway (which I am sure I have seen but can hardly remember). It stars Nancy Sinatra opposite Elvis. So while the men were dressed as Elvis there were many women dressed in 60s flowered dresses with white boots – like Nancy in the movie.

Self explanatory…
The women dressed like Nancy Sinatra in the Speedway movie
Previous Festival year themes on display at Elvis Central…

The Memphis Mafia Mobile

Next year the festival will be in January again so it will be hot. Visitors may be pleased to hear that the theme next year is Blue Hawaii. Or at least that is what I read somewhere in the town. Shorts and Hawaiian shirts it is then…. Ideal for a hot summer weekend in January.

Classic Pink Cadillac Coupe de Ville

Around every corner you keep bumping into people in full Festival gear

There wasn’t a shop, bank or office that hadn’t made some effort to get involved in the spirit of the Festival…

Outside the Parkes Library
Elvis custard tart. Everything and anything Elvis themed…

Elvis beermats

You don’t even have to like Elvis to have a good time – although it helps. It’s an excuse for a town-wide festival that’s part fancy dress, part booze-up, part music festival and part classic car show.

I’ll just let the photos do the talking…

One of the varied acts on the main stage
This singer came all the way from Japan and was excellent.
More of the “Japanese Elvis”

Unable to remember where this Elvis was from but he was so good.

Dani looking Elvised-out!
The “Scottish Elvis” in his tartan attire

We tried. But he didn’t want to dress up. At least he tried it on
Stage set up in the beer garden of one of the pubs
Dani and the Pink Cadillac
Great to see the young generation taking part.
This guy is called “The Kiwi Elvis”. And he was very good.

Incredible detail on these old cars

Not all Elvis lookalikes. But don’t judge a book by its cover. This guy is a good singer.
Main stage complete with large screens

See also: parkeselvisfestival.com.au