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

Two Days in Canberra – Day Two

Royal Australian Mint

First visit of the day was to the Royal Australian Mint. Interesting for a number of reasons and very popular. The free entry probably helped. Being the Easter holidays the actual factory was closed but you could see where all the manufacturing – minting – takes place. And it was all very well explained by our guide (optional but has to be pre-booked). Also we were not allowed to photograph the factory floor.

The guide explained the history of coins in Australia. When coins were in short supply in 1813, the British government sent 40,000 (so called) ‘Spanish dollar’ coins to the colony. The then Governor (Macquarie) had two coins made from each one. An ingenious idea carried out by one of the convicts – William Hershell – who “minted” the two new coins.

The “Spanish Dollar” coins were actually silver 8 Reales coins. Also referred to as “pieces of eight” – generally, as well as in the famous pirate-speak. It was called “dollar” because it was the coin/currency that the United States dollar was based on.

Interestingly, William Hershell was convicted and sent to Australian penal colony for the crime of forgery. How ironic that he effectively saved the colony’s economy by minting, or basically inventing, these new coins. The donut shaped (outer) was valued at 5 shillings and came to be known as the ‘Holey Dollar’. Meanwhile the centre piece was valued at 15 pence and were called ‘dumps’. All the new coins were stamped with “New South Wales”.

Souvenir Coins…

Dani minted his own dinosaur (collectors) dollar coin – at a cost of $3. So although entry was free, just about every child (and enough adults) paid three dollars for the privilege!

We also bought another “collectable” coin. An ‘AC/DC’ 20 cent coin. There were a few different designs. The rock band is famous all over the world but being from Australia the Aussies are particularly fond of them. Of the several AC/DC 20 cent coins on offer we bought the one with Angus Young playing the guitar in classic pose.

Dani’s self minted Dinosaur coin and AC/DC 20 cent coin set in a mock vinyl disc.

Who wouldn’t want a coin with Angus on one side and the Queen on the other? Anyone? Nah, thought not…

I think everyone who visited the Mint really enjoyed it. We certainly did. Yet oddly enough, in this era where our leaders are pushing towards a cashless society, this place will almost certainly close in the near future. And to me, that is not progress; it is sad.

Australian War Memorial 

The Australian War Memorial lies at one end of the city’s ceremonial land axis. Stretching from Parliament House on Capital Hill all the way to the cone-shaped Mount Ainslie. There is no continuous road linking the two points, but there is a clear line of sight from the front balcony of Parliament House to the War Memorial. Likewise you can see Parliament House from the front steps of the War Memorial.

View down ANZAC Parade up to Parliament House

This is Australia’s national memorial to the members of its armed forces and supporting organisations who have died or participated in wars involving Australia. It opened in 1941, the memorial includes an extensive military museum. Entry is free but you need to pre-book your visit. It was certainly very busy when we were there…

The military museum full of interesting facts and real equipment from some recent wars. Such museums are never exactly happy places but this one was quite interesting and had a lot of objects from all sides involved in the conflicts.

The commemorative area is situated in the open centre of the memorial building, (including the cloisters to each side and the Hall of Memory under the building’s central dome) and the sculpture garden is on the lawn to the west. The heart of the area is the Hall of Memory, a tall domed chapel which houses the Tomb of the Unknown Australian Soldier’. 

View from the chapel doors. Cloisters on both sides
Lists of names from all conflicts on the cloister walls.
Domed Chapel

Close to sundown we stayed for a well attended last post ceremony. These occur every day but have not been open to members of the public for most of the past two years. (You know why… I am not even going to mention it.)

Inside the chapel (wide angle lens view – apologies)

Capital Brewing.

To end the day we visited another craft beer brewery. Capital Brewing. I had tried one or two of their ales (bought from the local beer sellers) but never really equated their name to their location. Doh! I know. How dumb is that eh?

Anyway, we paid a visit to their relatively large premises outside of the city on our last evening in the area. The outdoor space apparently holds up to one thousand people. The building is big enough too. A relatively large scale operation as these things go. Definitely worth a visit.

Once again I went for the tasting paddle of four beers. Personally I rate the Bent Spoke beers (see previous post) slightly better but Capital Brewing’s ales are pretty good.

And that was the end of our two days in Canberra. Onto the next stop. This time the relatively short drive into the Snowy Mountains for a couple of days…

Two Days in Canberra – Part One

A well planned city

The building of Canberra only began from 1913. It was a completely planned city, well laid out and designed. Unlike most (much older) capital cities that have just evolved over centuries or have been bombed and rebuilt using dodgy architecture etc…

In many ways it helps that there was lots of land available and the population remains relatively low for a capital city. Still only around 400,000.

The first thing we did was head for the lookout at Mount Ainslie. There was only one decent place at the “lookout” to see the city from. For some reason – despite building and maintaining the roads etc up to this “lookout” – they have also seen fit to allow the trees to grow wild. It is a common thing here in Australia. Kind of annoying – see below for examples…

The classic shot of the city from Mount Ainslie. War memorial in foreground above treeline, ANZAC parade leading to the parliament buildings.
Higher up at the peak of the “lookout” the classic cityscape is obscured by the trees.
Just around the corner this is the “view”. Grrr…

Parliament House

From the “lookout” we went to visit the Parliament House buildings. The last time I was here it looked like this…..

The thin blue line
…but apart from this, the police were low-key

Access to the buildings was clearly prohibited. This time however, it looked like this….

Only a few “protestors” this time. and no police line.

Yes there were still a few hardcore protestors on the field in front of the main Parliament building but no ring of police stopping the public from reaching the buildings. I think some people are just what you might call ‘professional protestors’ or just love to do it. I may not agree with them on all of their grievances but I defend their right to protest about them. Actually this lot were singing some of their own  protest songs which were actually quite good (and funny). At least I thought so…

Dani outside parliament house with Mount Ainslie in the far background

History and Architecture…

The seat of government in Australia used to be in Melbourne when the country’s state united into a Federation back in 1901. The government finally agreed to move to Canberra as recently as 1926. Technically, Canberra as the capital of Australia, is still a few years off its centenary. Unbelievable eh?

The classic view at the front of the buildings.

The buildings are well designed and were only opened in 1988. There are elements of art deco design and other classic architecture. Incredibly perhaps, for something built in the 1980s, it really does not seem at all dated. OK, I know it is only 34 years old, but it seems (to me) that it will not look dated in another 34 years time.

Main entrance hall from above
Main entrance hall – pillars and ceiling
One of the many places to relax inside parliament house
The wooden interior design uses woods no longer available commercially.
Almost art deco but different…
Marble stairways

The two houses are obviously based largely on the British system but have their own Aussie identity.

Inside the Senate
Inside the house of Representatives

You can wander around on your own or take a guided tour. We took a guided tour which always gives you that little bit of extra information. Like the upper level of the public galleries you can see with glass windows. Those areas are for school trips (especially young kids) and the glass is soundproof. Obvious when you know eh?

They have even made a LEGO model of the buildings. Who doesn’t love these things?

LEGO model of the Parliament

And if you look carefully, around the back, tucked away in a kind of small courtyard, you can see this…

The magic money tree… You see, it does exist.

Yes. It’s the mythical money tree. It really does exist! Sure enough right now, with Federal elections just a month away, the politicians are stripping this tree bare. Whoever built this model certainly had a sense of humour.

National Art Gallery

Not much to say about this really. Not my cup of tea let’s say. Dani was bored too. But we played along as Dani’s mum really wanted to see it. The highlights (and that is pushing it) are here…

The Bent Spoke – A fine craft ale brewery

I noticed this place after the protest back in February.But as I had to drive back to Sydney I couldn’t really partake. This time however….

Nice engineering inspired sampling paddles. Someone probably suggested using the spare bits left over after installation. I liked them.

My verdict on this little brewing enterprise is a definite thumbs up!. I tasted four beers on the sampling paddle – Barley Griffin, Sprocket, Hop Buffalo & Stratus – followed by a schooner of Crankshaft ale. The Bent Spoke lies just off the main bar and restaurant area – called Lonsdale Street – in the heart of the CBD.

There are so many of these little breweries now in Australia. Ever town however small seems to have one. But you won’t hear me complaining. Unless I can’t get to sample their wares…

Moby Dick vs Rat Salad

Moby Dick vs Rat Salad

Now for those of you who do not instantly recognise what this post is about, allow me to explain…

The first reference is nothing to do with Herman Melville’s famous novel about a big white whale. Nor is the second item anything to do with a new dish being served at the Wuhan markets that will potentially lead to another “pandemic”. (Although both are completely plausible.)

No. These are the titles of two rock tracks that Dani has been playing off against each other. He is tying to decide which is the best. There are some similarities. Both are instrumental numbers which lean heavily on the drums. Moby Dick was on Led Zeppelin’s second album released in October 1969. Rat Salad is from Black Sabbath’s third album (Paranoid) released in September 1970. So you could argue that Black Sabbath were influenced by Led Zeppelin. I really have no idea. Although I was around back then I was too young to know or care…

More Sabbath…

Thankfully my son has finally started to venture outside of Black Sabbath’s first and third albums. They are both good albums but I was getting a bit sick of hearing them all the time when we are in the car (as Dani takes control of my iPod). He now listens to some of their second offering (Masters of Reality) and most of their fourth album – Vol.4 (always referred to as Volume Four). Incidentally I always thought Volume 4 was Black Sabbath’s best album. But I have been known to offer alternative views on that one… I have the vinyl copy – somewhere – complete with booklet style photos inside.

The other week we were out riding our bikes and every time I thought I may need to slow down and check that he was still behind me I could hear him happily singing The Wizard to himself as he peddled away. That made me laugh. Definitely one of my favourite Sabbath tracks it has to be said.

Never talking
Just keeps walking
Spreading his magic
(The Wizard by Black Sabbath)

His conclusion?

So which is the best track out of Moby Dick and Rat Salad? According to Dani: The drumming in Rat Salad is best but Moby Dick has the better guitar riffs. But I am sure I will have to listen to them both another few hundred times before we get a definitive answer to the question.

What do you think?

By the way. It’s not all Rock n Roll. Recently he has also been listening to Boney M.
Yes, I also have Boney M’s Greatest Hits album on my iPod. Doesn’t everyone? It’s a far cry from Black Sabbath but definitely a nice change…

Scandal at The Hydro Majestic Hotel

Not long after posting about our visit to the Hydro Majestic Hotel in the Blue Mountains (almost 2 weeks ago) a friend informed me of a scandal that centred around the hotel’s employment policies. It made the news nearly three years ago.

The scandal involved employing immigrants (from countries regarded as poor) on work visas and not even paying them the minimum wage. Yes this can easily happen – and in fact happens on a very large scale. I would encourage everyone to please read the articles (with links) below.

Now, I am no lawyer, and certainly not an expert in Australian employment laws. But I don’t need to be to know that this story is true. As the saying goes; ‘I have been around a bit.’

I know this very practice has been going on for years back in the UK. Through my work over the years, I have regularly had to find places to stay. In one example I stayed in a small hotel for months and so got to know not only some of the employees but the manager. The manager actually told me that the employees did not even receive minimum wage. They were housed in the hotel and the exact same thing happened as in the Hydro Majestic. In that case the employees were from Eastern Europe. The Eastern Europeans have probably moved on, no longer willing to be exploited. But you can bet such places now employ recent immigrants from the (so called) third world.

Even more recently I know of care homes in the UK who have lost local workers and replaced them with recent immigrants. The exact same thing is happening in those establishments. The workers get minimum wage but are housed in houses or caravans owned by the same person who owns the care home. It really is a scandal on an epic scale.

Foreign workers are being exploited while local people cannot find decent well paid employment. It is a classic double-edged sword. And the one thing that should unite every one of us is that wages are being driven down. But do you ever hear the unions talking about it? Or the so called ‘opposition’ party of the day? Hardly. If ever….

Newspaper Items on This Story….

The news items can be seen here and here. These are just two example from the Sydney Morning Herald. There will be plenty of other versions of the same news story and in other newspapers. Just do your own searches.

I enjoyed our visit to the Hydro Majestic but things like this do leave a bitter taste in the mouth. Maybe it was all resolved at this particular establishment? I don’t know. But as I point out above, this type of thing is rife. In every so called ‘first world’ country. Something to think about perhaps, when you visit a hotel or resort of any kind…

Port Stephens

On our first visit to Port Stephens we stayed at Shoal Bay close to the entrance to the port.

At one end of Shoal Bay beach sits an old lighthouse. At the other (ocean) end is Tomaree Mountain. We went for a look at the lighthouse – now a museum and cafe with great views across the bay. It was all closed when we were there however. We then walked the full length of the beach while the sun was going down. The views from the beach are great it has to be said. The following day – weather permitting – the plan was to scale the heights of Tomaree Mountain.

View of the entrance to Port Stephens from the old lighthouse.
The old lighthouse at Shoal Bay
Down Shoal Bay beach from the lighthouse.

Views from the mountain…

The weather seemed OK so we headed off early. Tomaree Mountain rises straight up from the sea to over 160m. It is not a difficult walk up but it is steep in places. As always in Australia the paths are well made and well maintained.

On the walk up to Tomaree Mountain
Half way. Overlooking Shoal Bay

The views from the top are great whichever way you look. The calm Shoal Bay beach sheltered from the worst the ocean has to offer on one side, with several smaller beaches on the ocean side. See for yourself…

View from the top.
View of the ocean side beaches
Both sides. Shoal Bay to the right. Zenith and Wreck beaches oceanside.

Nelson Bay and further inland…

We also made a quick visit to Nelson Bay – a little further into the port/bay from Shoal Bay. Nelson Bay is the most built up area on the southern shore of Port Stephens. Quite a few shops and a marina well stocked with very expensive toys. Boats!

Using Ned to sell pies in Nelson Bay. No threats. Just good pies.
Plenty of money on show at the Nelson Bay marina.

Further into the port is the gap between the south and north shore lines narrows massively thanks to the peninsular called Soldier’s Point. From there we made our way back to Shoal Bay via the long and picturesque Bagnall’s beach and nature reserve.

View east to the port entrance from Soldier’s Point
Bagnall’s beach
The long Bagnall’s beach

Fighter World

The lady at the information office in Nelson Bay gave us a list that they had made of things to do if the weather is a problem. With all the rain this year that was a great idea. One of the places listed was on our way back home, so as we left Port Stephens we visited the Fighter World museum.

Spitfire replica
Dani inside the cockpit of a trainer jet.

Fighter World was a great stop off and it did rain while we were there. Better than that Dani really enjoyed it.

Tail exhaust of one of the jets. Someone working at the museum has a sense of humour.
Dani examines the cockpit of an F-111. A very impressive piece of engineering.

Another trip to Port Stephens is definitely on the cards. There is so much more to see. But after this, our first ever visit there, both Dani and myself still think we prefer Jervis Bay. Perhaps still too early to compare the two places…More to come…

 

 

Stockton Bight Sand Dunes (on our trip to Port Stephens)

Port Stephens – Boy’s Trip

Just before this Easter weekend Dani and his old dad managed to sneak away for a boy’s trip to Port Stephens. It was only a two day ‘reccy’ as I am sure we will all go again in the near future.

Port Stephens is one of those easily accessible holiday places for Sydneysiders. It is about as far north of Sydney as Jervis Bay is to the south. That’s just under 3 hours by car once you factor in the time it takes to get out of the city from where we live (real pain!). Part of the purpose of the trip was just to check out the Port Stephens area. But also it was to do an unofficial comparison between Port Stephens and Jervis Bay.

(Jervis Bay is my favourite location in case you didn’t already know. Search this blog site for the various posts on Jervis Bay.)

Stockton Bight Sand Dunes

The incredible sight of the Stockton Bight sand dunes is something we will have to return to again. The beautiful sandscape is always changing so even the small piece of it that we saw and walked on will not be the same next time. These are the largest moving coastal dunes in the Southern Hemisphere – or so they say. Who decides these things? Anyway they are huge. Next time I intend to do the (only) 4 wheel drive route which covers about 22km of the total 32km long dunes. The Stockton Bight Sand Dunes, in the Worimi Conservation Lands. They run from the Port Stephens resort of Anna Bay to just north of Newcastle (the 2nd biggest city in NSW, and 8th in Australia)  They really are awesome dunes with some parts reaching heights of over 30 metres.

At Anna Bay there is an area where tour operators offer up their little activities. these range from sand boarding to minibus trips onto the dunes and even camel rides.

The camel rides cost $35 per person and the main queues were for a chance of riding the ‘ship of the desert’. A little steep if you ask me as the trips only lasted for about 20 minutes and did not even venture onto the dunes. They went the opposite way in fact.  Onto the beach where the camels paddled in the broken waves. Then turned around and returned to pick up the next lot of punters. Fine if you have never ridden on a camel I guess but otherwise not for me. Both Dani and myself wanted to climb to the top of some of the dunes.

Camel ride returns from the beach
Camel rides are $35 per person!

Dune Landscape

We made our way inland. Just inland from the tour extravaganza there was a little stretch of brush land, even with some wet areas no doubt thanks to the excess rains we have had lately.. But then it was all huge sand dunes. This was the northern end but it was clear that the dunes stretched way south further than the eye could see.

The last of the scrub. Then it was all sand…

There’s a boy in all that sand. Somewhere…
A bit of zoom… there he is
Dani being an 8 year old boy (messing around) LOL
Further inland the dunes are bordered by forest

We returned by entering the beach at the point where 4 wheel drive cars are allowed in and out of the dunes. Then we just walked back along the immense beach to the far north end of the beach to Anna Bay.

The beach is enormous and runs for 32km
Camel train. But the most popular rides do not even take in the dunes.