Double Film Review – Ghostbusters: Afterlife & Spider-Man: No Way Home

In one of the last weeks of his school holidays we spent a week in Jervis Bay, probably my favourite coastal location. The weather was not good for the holiday-makers and it rained several days but that was good news for the wonderful, small picture house in Huskisson…

Open for a night time screening – the wonderful Huskisson Pictures

Neither of these two movies is exactly ‘hot off the press’ but they are still recent enough for this kind of review. Anyway here goes…

Ghostbusters: Afterlife

Forget the Ghostbusters female remake. That’s if you ever saw it. This movie followed the grandchildren of one of the original ‘busters’.

The “ghost” story side of things was pretty much as per the original movie. There’s the gatekeeper, the key master and Gozer the demonic evil one. The ghost hunting and attempted busting was done by teenagers however this time. With a little help from the past…

The Ghostbusters had long split up. Their services no longer required. But  Egon Spengler – perhaps the geekiest ‘buster’ – had spent the intervening years working on something huge in a remote farming area near a spooky looking old disused mine and mountain. When Spengler mysteriously dies his estranged daughter inherits the property and moves there with her two teenage kids . Finn Wolfhard plays an awkward teenager (called Trevor) while his sister Phoebe (played by McKenna Grace ) is as much of a geek as her deceased grandfather. The ghost of her old grandad guides her to find some of his work and she somehow manages to figure it all out quickly.  I know… But it kind of works overall.

Paul Rudd (aka Ant Man in the Marvel universe) makes a decent appearance as the geeky teacher who just also happens to be a big fan of the old Ghostbusters.

It was definitely much better than I expected. But then my expectations were on the low side. Naturally, Dani loved it. It would have been just OK had the film-makers decided not to reintroduce the original ‘busters’. Thankfully they made a welcome appearance at the climax of the movie. Dan Aykroyd, Bill Murray and Ernie Hudson played their old characters. Along with a hologram of the late Harold Ramis (as the deceased Egon Spengler). None of this is a spoiler alert really as you know before it starts how it will end – more or less anyway.

The special effects are obviously better than the original movie but they are not over used. The old ghostbusters mobile – the 1959 Cadillac Miller-Meteor Sentinel (aka The Ectomobile) – is found in one of the barns and Trevor gets it running. There is even a kind of cameo reappearance for the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man (or rather men in this case). If you liked the original two movies then you will almost certainly like this one.

Spiderman: No Way Home

If seeing the first Ghostbusters movie helps with watching and following the Afterlife version (above), then the latest Spider-Man story definitely requires knowledge of previous Spidey movies. All of them in fact. Because the latest actor to play the web-slinger (Tom Holland) meets and teams up with the two previous stars Tobey Maguire (star of 3 Spider-Man movies between 2002 and 2007) and Andrew Garfield  (the star of 2 movies in  2012 and 2014).

Following the previous Spider-Man movie, the web slinging hero has been unmasked and the world now knows he is Peter Parker. In an effort to turn back the clock Parker enlists the help of that master of mystery, Dr. Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch). The Dr. has some old spell that can cause everyone to forget that they know Spiderman’s true identity. But it is never that easy is it?

All three versions of Peter Parker meet up when the spell conjured up by Dr. Strange somehow goes haywire (with more than a little help from Parker) and alternate universes get mixed up. Characters from these parallel universes come to life in the present/new Peter Parker’s world. This not only includes the “other” Spider-Men but all the super villains they battled. This means that the Green Goblin, Sandman, Doc Oc, The Lizard and Electro (man) all appear and eventually begin to cause chaos. All villains are played by their original actors too so this is a ‘Who’s Who’ of Spider-Man films…

Together the three Peter Parkers manage to come up with some kind of anti-villainy serum that counteracts the bad side of each of their arch enemies. (Yes that part lost me a bit too.) Then they collectively battle the villains so they can inject and (effectively) cure them of their evil ways and thoughts.

Meanwhile Dr. Strange left (the new) Peter Parker with a box of tricks that could send them all back to their own universes. Confusing but clever. It works. It was not as difficult to follow as I thought it would be. Dani also managed to follow the multi-dimensional plot.

Naturally Dr. Strange’s magical powers are needed to help Parker right at the end. I won’t spoil the finale but I thought it was the right ending and leaves it all open for Spidey’s return.

Compared to other recent Marvel super-hero movies this film was great. Also after all the super-duper suits and gadgets Peter Parker had been given by Tony Stark (aka Iron Man) the web slinging teenager had lost a bit of his authenticity – for me anyway. Thankfully from the way this one ended it looks like future Spidey movies will be back where they should be.

Ratings

I would give both movies 4 stars out of five. Both enjoyable and definitely worth watching especially with the kids. If you haven’t seen the two original Ghostbusters or the previous Spiderman movies however I would probably recommend watching them first.

A Great Album is 50 Years Old This Year

This year marks the 50th anniversary of a great album. One of my personal favourites and one my son has recently taken an interest in.

We were driving back from a trip and Dani was scrolling through the list of artists on the iPod. Then as the names of the bands and singers moved up the car’s display screen, one caught his attention. A group I had convinced him to listen to some weeks back.

Oh Hawkwind. (Pauses) They are off their trolley.
(Laughing) And then some mate. Good album though. Put it on.
O
K.

Then, after a few of songs

Why are they always going on about space?
Well it’s what they do. And the album name gives you a clue too.
Have they ever been in space?
No. Well, maybe in their imagination after using hard drugs.

Dani laughed. Meanwhile I am now a little concerned as to how he even understood that little joke. Did he really get it? Anyway, the conversation continued.

Are Hawkwind still going?
I don’t know but I wouldn’t be surprised. The line-up would have changed many times and Lemmy (Bass guitar) died recently. Maybe others have died. They will probably be all in their late 70s and 80s but I would not be surprised if they are still doing concerts. They never really stopped touring.
Ok. We can find out later.
Do you like this album?
Yeah. It’s OK. Quite good.

So there you have it. Approval from my 8 year old son. And then it hit me. This album was recorded in 1972 so this year is the 50th anniversary. Technically the anniversary date is still a long way off as it was recorded in December 1972 (at two different concerts) and it wasn’t actually released until May 1973. But still. Half a century old!

Space Ritual

The full title of the album is The Space Ritual Alive in Liverpool and London but everyone knows it simply as Space Ritual. This was the fourth album by the band, Hawkwind. It seems that there is only one member from that famous line-up still alive. As with all long established bands they have had many different line-ups.

Their genre has been described as space rock, psychedelic rock, progressive rock and hard rock. But I think it is none of those. Hawkwind would certainly not be classed as ‘normal’ – whatever that actually means in this context. But their songs are not too heavy nor overly ‘progressive’ as many were at that time. Surprisingly easy to get into actually. If you give it a chance. Even Lemmy’s bass riffs are somewhat melodic…

And yes. They are still touring. They had plans for concerts last year. Although… you guessed it. That bloody virus…. At least they have rescheduled most of those dates for 2022. Including the Hawkfest (usually held in Devon). Having seen them perform several times I would advise anyone to keep an eye out for their next gigs… They have even been releasing new albums at a rate of 1 per year over the past 6 years.

Two Years in Oz

We have now been in Australia for two years. Wow! Two years! Where did that time go? Well I am going to tell you… But of course you can guess as you will almost certainly have been through the same…

Believe it or not…

Today marks the two year anniversary of our first full day here. Almost all of that time has been under the bullshit covid – formerly known as coronavirus – regime. Yes the whole two years. They hadn’t started closing pubs and shops etc but they had just announced the first cases of “coronavirus” in New South Wales. I had forgotten that it had already effectively started when we arrived but fortunately I did write a post two years ago when all this was bubbling away on the news. See that post here.

Also they were talking about delaying the kids’ start of school year two year ago. I blogged about that one too, in this post – here. They didn’t delay that school start but then they closed schools for somewhere between two and three terms over the past year. That’s almost a school year! Daniel started school almost two years ago and on Thursday goes back to begin his third school year in Australia. Again they have been talking about delaying the school start. I think in Queensland (or maybe some other state – really don’t care any more and am not following the “news”) they are actually doing just that. Stupid wankers!

Meanwhile Dani is grounded for the final two days of his school holidays. Such is life eh…

One State Only

As for travelling we had hoped to visit my cousin and his family in New Zealand; that land down underer – to quote that classic comedy series The Flight of The Conchords. But we have not even been able to leave the state of New South Wales within Australia let alone travel outside for almost all of the two years. And anyway New Zealand is even more mental than Australia when it comes to covid. No sooner do they announce an easing of travel restrictions than NZ close their borders again. Totally nuts!

We have managed to see plenty of great places in NSW however and of course there really are plenty more to see. In some cases we have made return visits to our favourite spots. So it has not all been lockdown and gloom. In fact far from it. I have to look on the positive side. The first “lockdown” was more of a mock-down. Many shops stayed open and it only lasted a short while before the pubs reopened etc… Of course we should all be realising why that was now.

Then last winter they really went for it. Of course that was to force – I mean persuade – people to get vaccinated for something that was barely a threat. Anyway now they are after the kids so what the hell this our third year here will be like is anybody’s guess…. We shall see. But it seems no different back “home”…

Australia Day?

Tomorrow is Australia Day. Can I be bothered? Probably not. The whole thing just seems like a chore for Australians so why should I bother?  There is something so false about tomorrow’s “celebrations” that just pisses me off. It is so hard to put into words. I heard the authorities have cancelled the parade in Melbourne, but I think things are still going ahead here in Sydney. Maybe I will find an ‘Invasion Day’ protest and see what goes on there… Probably neither. Not exactly a party spirit for celebrating our 2nd anniversary here is it? I know.

Again, looking on the bright side (or trying to), Dani enjoys school and has made a fair few friends so we just all need to get everything in perspective and keep on carrying on….

On that note, I have a post to write about a 50 year anniversary of one of my all time favourite albums. If I don’t do that today I may spend part of tomorrow (Australia Day) writing it.

Children DO NOT Need the Vaccine

I first wrote this post back in August, during the middle of the most unnecessary over-reaction in the history of Australia – the pointless lockdown. I wasn’t sure when I should post it but now seems a good time. That lockdown was all about getting people vaccinated. And the intention was to “roll out the vaccine” (yes they still use such salesman-like phrases) to the youngest ones among us. Last week (10th January) the Australian national and state governments began vaccinating kids as young as FIVE !! Yet the media frenzy was all about a n unvaccinated tennis player entering the country. You could almost smell the subterfuge. Something is wrong in the land down under.

Why on Earth…?

Read the title again. Read it out loud. CHILDREN DO NO NEED THE VACCINE!

Why are our governments pushing to give the covid vaccine to children?  It’s a fair question to ask. What do you think the answer would be if you managed to get face to face with one of these “leaders”?

They cannot say that it is to protect them from the virus. Because children are not dying from the disease. That is one of the few well known facts about this odd virus. There are any number of reasons why that may be the case, but it remains one of the few things that we all know to be true. And we have known it right from the start of this so called “pandemic”.

My advice would generally be to avoid the news. But of course I realise that is not the case with most people. So here is a bit of advice you can easily follow…

The next time you see, hear or read anything in the media about vaccinating children (or even young adults) just listen to the way the conversation is directed. You will (and I can guarantee this at least 99.9% of the time) hear the media person or the “medical expert” turn the conversation around to vaccine safety. They will talk about how rare blood clots are. They will tell you that children have even less chance of dying from these vaccines. It’s all about the safety of the vaccine. NOT the fact that children do not even need the bloody thing. If you are still paying any attention to the news these days please try it.

Why is this?

So, why are they spinning the debate into a vaccine safety thing? Well first of all if they get into the real conversation that they should be having then whole argument about vaccinating children just goes away. Vanishes. Vamoosh! Gone! Because (as I stated above) all data and everything we know since the discovery of  this virus tells us that it does not kill kids. Plain and simple.

However, the vaccine safety argument is one they can have because it is one they can win. Or at the very least throw out convincing arguments. I am vey sceptical about this whole thing but even I will agree that there is an incredibly small chance of having a serious side effect and even less of dying from these vaccines. But that is not the point!

That is not to say that I or anyone else should not worry about the longer term effects. In these early days such long term effects are unknown. It’s really that simple. They could turn out to be nothing or they could be really terrible. We will know in a few years I suppose. Fingers crossed eh…

A little perspective…

But the initial vaccine safety thing? That is an argument that I will not get involved in. Quite simply, because I don’t need to. And that is because there is absolutely no need for children to have the vaccine. If you want to get into statistics and figures, then the chance of covid killing your kids is less likely than any number of things you allow them to do every day. If you do allow your 5-11 year old children to be vaccinated then please -I beg you – do not let them:

  • go out on their bikes,
  • go near plants where bees may sting them, (around 12 a year die from bee stings!)
  • go surfing (more killed by sharks in Australia in past year than kids killed by covid)
  • go swimming
  • cross a road
  • put anything in their mouth – including food!! (choking causes 11% of child deaths under 8 years of age)

But don’t worry… Really

OK, I know that all this may seem melodramatic but it is just a list of some of the things that are statistically far more likely to kill a child than this virus. Don’t worry about any of them though. In fact just don’t worry. Life has always been full of risks. The only problem is when you start worrying about them.

What did that U.S. president once say in the 1930s? “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” (That may not be 100% accurate but it was something like that.) Whatever else Franklin D. Roosevelt may (or may not) have done, that saying is as true today as it was (or may have been) then.

Even more importantly, do not worry the children. Tell them that the virus is not dangerous for them. Above all, do not allow them to be frightened by media nonsense which is all just pressure to push more vaccinations.

Here’s hoping that enough parents can see that their young kids do not need these vaccines.

Parkes – The Elvis Capital of Australia.

The town of Parkes lies 355 km to the west of Sydney but just under 100 km from Orange. Dani and myself passed through Parkes on the train to Broken Hill just over a year ago. But you see absolutely nothing on the train as the line sits on one side of the town. It wasn’t until months later that I actually bothered reading up on Parkes and found out what it is most famous for…

The Elvis Festival

It all started in 1992 at the Gracelands Hotel when the owners (Elvis fans) decided to host an Elvis Presley themed dinner night at the hotel. Over that dinner things were discussed that turned it into an annual event which grew and grew over the years. It eventually became a huge event taking over the whole town and is now a big tourism boost for Parkes.

Elvis Presley statue in Cooke park, Parkes.

The festival is held on the second week of January to coincide with the “King’s” birthday (January 8th). Although this year (as well as last) the festival did not take place due to bloody covid restrictions (Grrrr.…). At least this year it has been rescheduled for April. All the hotels are already fully booked with long waiting lists if anyone drops out. I know because I checked….

Elvis statue at the Gracelands Hotel
They all died young… This artwork also at Gracelands Hotel

Various examples of Elvis inspired artwork decorate the town, sometimes where you least expect it. Not that many but just enough…

More Elvis inspired artwork

Even one of those rhino statues – made and distributed to gain support for the Taronga zoo save the rhinos thing – has been given an Elvis suit.

Elvis the Rhino

There are quite a few pubs in Parkes which will obviously go down well during the Elvis festival as they host various Elvis based shows and concerts. Here are some examples…

Cambridge Hotel
Broadway Hotel
Commercial Hotel

It’s down an the end of Lonely Street (or so I thought)…

With a motel named Gracelands, I expected there to be another hotel name in the town. I asked someone in a pub if there was a Heartbreak Hotel. My question was wasted. She looked at me as if I had just grown a second head. Clearly not knowing what Heartbreak Hotel meant (relating to Elvis). Over in Memphis, the King of Rock & Roll turned slightly in his grave. Well, I guess not everyone in the town has to be an Elvis fan.

Hold on! I recognise that style…
An outback take on Elvis by John Murray the famous outback artist
Other (non Elvis) artwork in Cooke Park

Even the public toilets have Elvis posters
The King and the Christmas Tree. It was nearly 40 degrees!

It’s amazing what a good welder can create with some lumps of scrap metal. Especially if the welder is inspired by Elvis….

Elvis sculpture on the Henry Parkes Way west of the town.

Mr. Parkes

Like so many towns in this part of the world Parkes sprouted up as a gold mining town only to become a farming area once the easily accessibe gold ran out.

Of course the town is named after another famous person, Henry Parkes. Sir Henry Parkes to give him his full title – but I can’t really bring myself to use that word since a certain Tony Blair recently received the same “honour”. Sorry Henry mate!

Unlike Blair, Parkes was a great statesman (as far as we know) and after his first visit to the town (then called Bushmans) in 1873, he secured a new hospital, roads and telegraph lines for the people of the town and they duly renamed it Parkes.

He may not be as well known globally as the ‘King of Rock n Roll’ but he too has a statue erected in his honour in the centre of town… A fitting tribute to the 5 times NSW Premier.

Sir Henry Parkes statue in the centre of town.

The Dish…

Parkes is also a famous astronomical location. Just north of the town sits this large radio telescope operated by CSIRO. With a diameter of 64 metres, it is one of the largest single-dish telescopes in the southern hemisphere. It has been operational since 1961 but has had several upgrades over the years. It is now said to be 10,000 times more sensitive than when it was first built. Wow! That’s what I call ‘upgrades’.

Just like the Outback Explorer train route, Parkes was my launch point into the outback. From here it was north to Bourke via Nyngan – plus a few small towns on the way…

Newnes – The Amazing Story of a Genuine Ghost Town

This is a brief but incredible story of an industrial complex and the town that grew up around it. The town is called Newnes and it became a genuine “ghost town”

Most of the famous “ghost towns” like Silverton (in the far west of NSW) or Hill End (north of Bathurst), were never fully abandoned. Also these places retained a full time population that deals with the tourists that pass through – more so now than ever, perhaps.

Whereas places like Silverton now exist almost as tourist resorts, Newnes is totally different. And yet it is far more accessible than remote outback town like Silverton. It lies only 3 hours from Australia’s biggest city and less than an hour from the (relatively) large town of Lithgow on the western side of the Blue Mountains.

The story starts here, at the entrance to the enormous Wolgan valley.

The entrance to the wide Wolgan valley
Into the valley…

The Wolgan valley is huge. Inside the wide valley are homes, farms and there is even an exclusive $3000+ holiday resort. By the time you follow the Wolgan river to the site of Newnes the sheer valley walls close in to form a narrow gorge.

Soaring escarpments surround the wide valley

Entrance to the exclusive resort called ‘One & Only’, operated by Emirates

A low key yet impressive entrance to the property, the resort is still some way off. This is the road access but it is more likely that visitors to this expensive resort fly in by helicopter.

History

Oil-shale was found in the Wolgan Valley in the 1860s and by the turn of the century several individuals and companies had started work (of sorts) on the main Wolgan deposit. There was actually more activity in the Capertee Valley, north of the Wolgan. However, there was nothing on a major scale until the Commonwealth Oil Corporation (COC), Ltd. started work in 1906.

Mines were established (one each side of the Wolgan river) but it was soon discovered that quality and quantity of shale was not that good and the first mine was soon abandoned.

By the time you arrive at the old site the valley has narrowed considerably

Construction of the main works site was started in 1906. This included the construction of shale oil retorts, various distillation areas, oil storage tanks and washers, plant for the refining of the various finished products, a power station, workshops, etc., These were extensive works and were well built as can be seen by the extensive ruins that stand to this day. It took up to 1911 for the initial stages to be completed and the retorts charged for the first time.

Meanwhile the 50km railway line that linked the works with the main western line (near Lithgow) took only around one year to complete. Despite many problems that was an incredible achievement. It would take at least 12 months just to get the planning approved today – without laying a single length of track!!!

The railway line still recognisable – just
The platform is all that remains of the station
Some of the old rolling stock

The town (named after Sir George Newnes, the chairman of the C.O.C.) was also built to house the workers and their families. The town grew to a population of 1,600. The company built a brickworks adjacent to the refinery area where most of the “common” bricks used for the plant construction were made. The company also started a coal mine to provide coal for use within the plant. This coal was found to be a good coking coal, so coke ovens were built and a spin-off business in metallurgical coke was established.

Long row of coking ovens
Coking ovens still fairly well preserved
Close up on one of the coke ovens
A sense of scale…

Problems

The C.O.C. had bought out its only opposition in the area; the New South Wales Shale and Oil Co., Ltd. The purchase price of this going concern was only £50,000 and this should have sent warning signals to the C.O.C. considering the much larger amounts that they were already spending on their as yet untried properties at Newnes.

This one was clearly visible but it is easy to trip over such pipework
Amazing to see how nature has reclaimed this piece of land
Large stairway being consumed by the bush
There are old metal installations everywhere, mostly hidden but not all

The large wall from the top of the works

By late 1911, after spending some £1.6 million, the company was experiencing trouble with their Pumpherston retorts, (a Scottish retort). Expensive modifications were needed to fix the problem, but attempts to raise the money failed. The C.O.C. went into receivership and, with industrial unrest making things even worse work at Newnes stopped in February 1912.

During 1914, the C.O.C. entered into a joint venture with John Fell & Co., Ltd., a company with years of experience in oil and Australian oil-shales. The retorts were modified and operations resumed. Fell avoided new developments at Newnes, concentrating on using and improving what was already available. The coal mine was reopened in 1916, but the coke ovens remained idle.

By 1922, costs forced Fell to close the oil-shale mines. In 1923, he started processing imported oils at the Newnes plant, but needed coal to work the power station and some of the plant. The mining unions had “blacked” the works until oil shale mining resumed. Work restrictions had limited the supply of oil-shale from the mine to a point that made operating the refinery uneconomic. Fell had no option but to abandon Newnes. Changing technologies and the increasing demand for fuel for cars had also made the Newnes plant obsolete.

Old machinery sits next to former shops at the town site

By the late 1920s, the mining leases at Newnes were held by a bloke called Mr. A.E. Broue. The “Shale Oil Investigations Pty. Ltd.” company was formed and acquired the rights to the oil-shale works. However, it soon became apparent that the new company was mainly interested in “investigations”, rather than actual production. So, Broue decided to go it alone. Unfortunately, Broue had no capital and soon got into financial trouble after only a short period of mining.

This was now the Great Depression and pressure was mounting on the Commonwealth Government of the day to do something about unemployment. It was decided to use £43,000 to reopen Newnes. Work began in mid-1931 using the No.2 mine and the workable sections of the oil refinery. Production was mainly gas oil but motor car fuels and kerosene were also extracted and sold.

Following a change in government, emphasis again shifted away from production back to “investigation”. Work ceased at Newnes in March 1932.

In 1934 a body called the ‘Newnes Investigation Committee’ recommended the abandonment of Newnes and the establishment of new mines, works and town in the Capertee Valley. Rather than use some of the Newnes works and the railway, it was decided to instead build a pipeline to transport the finished oil In 1938 work commenced on these plans and the new industrial complex was born in the Carertee valley. That place was called Glen Davis.

Remains of dwellings
Some larger remains

With the decision to establish Glen Davis, most of those people who still lived at Newnes finally left. Many parts of the Newnes works were recovered and shipped to Glen Davis for re-use. The Newnes railway was pulled up and a petrol pipeline laid in its place. In 1946, what was left of the works was sold for scrap. Most of the privately owned buildings had been removed by their owners, while the old company buildings were readily sold due to the short supply of building materials during and after World War II. Recovery of material continued into the 1950s, while a few buildings still stood until the early 1960s.

Industrial Folly? Or Bad Luck?

Was it just a huge con? Did the owners pay for the building of the site or was that all financed by the banks? Will we ever know? I do not claim to know. But the company involved was a successful business and there was coal and shale to be mined. There was definitely oil based products to be extracted from that shale.

Over the years, some of the owners clearly seemed naive at times. Also union actions and political upheaval were a big part of life leading up to the Great Depression. Despite all of that there is something special about places like Newnes. To me these places are the epitome of pioneer spirit. It never ceases to amaze me what can be built in such a relatively short time and in such remote locations. Whatever their faults the people who saw and seized these opportunities deserve more credit than they receive. The ability to just get things built just over 100 years ago puts most modern day projects to shame.

Newnes Hotel

The old Newnes Hotel is the last surviving building at Newnes belonging to the mining period. During the 1940s, the Newnes Hotel continued to operate with some of its trade coming from weekend visitors from the ‘new town’ of Glen Davis who hiked over the valley. By the late 1950s, increased car ownership and better roads led to more visitors coming to Newnes. Thanks to the quaint old Newnes Hotel the area became a popular camping spot.

Unfortunately the hotel original location was on the bank of the Wolgan River. In 1986 during a large flood, the river changed course and damaged the hotel structure. The building was moved by volunteers in 1987, but it sold its last beer in October 1988. Today it is being renovated and restored to its original condition including being transformed (in part) into a museum.

Restoration work is ongoing….
Inside the bar of the Newnes Hotel
The relocated Newnes Hotel

Next to the Hotel are a group of cabins so tourists can stay on the site of the old town. Closer to the industrial complex there are a couple of basic campgrounds. Peace and quiet guaranteed. Even in this real ghost town.

The closure of the refinery and processing works was followed by the imminent death of the town of Newnes. Yet amazingly a similar industrial activity started up in the adjacent valley to the north.  That site – called Glen Davis – will be covered in a future post.

Taree and The Big Oyster

Taree is a decent sized town that sits on the Manning river about 320 kms north of Sydney and about 17 kms from the coast. The town grew mainly from farming and now has a population of over 26,000. The town centre has plenty of shops and businesses but it is not the prettiest town that’s for sure. In fact if they ever write one of those “Crap Towns” books about Australia then Taree may well make an appearance. (Maybe there is a such a book. Does anyone know if there is such a book?)

The Big Oyster

One thing that Taree is (kind of) famous for is having one of those “Big” things that seem so popular in Australia. I have posted about these in the past. It is a strange piece of Australiana where even the most bizarre “big” things have become tourist attractions in their own right. The Big Oyster is one of about 150 sculptures and large structures sprinkled across Australia. It is actually marked on Google Maps, yet it seems to be completely pointless and out of place. As well as being more than a little ugly. But there is a reason for it and sadly, for the town of Taree, it is something not many are aware of.

The huge fibreglass model was built in 1990 to honour the booming oyster industry in the town. Over 3 million of oysters are taken out of the Manning river each year and it is still a thriving industry. It was first opened as a restaurant and themed gift shop, and the public could enter inside it to take in the views from the teeth-like windows. But when that business closed a car dealership took it over and the inside of the “oyster” is now closed to the public.

The Big Oyster is that it was built by the same people who built the Big Merino and the Big Prawn but is hardly as well known as those two well photographed beasts.

The Big Oyster sits above a Kia cars dealership
Some 12 feet tall and 30 feet wide, the Big Oyster is probably a mystery to most people…

Taree Town

There are plenty of shops and a couple of old fashioned hotels (pubs) worth checking out. The riverside setting is not too bad either.

The Royal Hotel has a great beer garden overlooking the Manning river
Classic corner pub. The Exchange Hotel, Taree.

It is unlikely Taree will be on anyone’s road trip list but like so many places there is always something to have a look at. Maybe knowing about the oyster farming would encourage more people to see the Big Oyster and spend a little time in the town.

Not a pretty town but it has its moments…
The old Taree public school building

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.