Start of School Holiday Adventures – Dubbo, NSW

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

Sydney to Dubbo

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

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

Dubbo

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

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

Dubbo in general…

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

Hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil. But plenty of great ales at the Monkey Bar, Dubbo.
That Hazy IPA looks more like a jar of honey… But tasted great.

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

The Old Bank bar in Dubbo

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

There are several examples of large mural artwork around Dubbo.
Aboriginal art at the Dubbo Library
Or just any other form of wall paintings…

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

The old fire station, Dubbo.

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

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

Bowling

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

Plenty of people play bowls in Australia.

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

Movie Review – The War With Grandpa

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

Plot – in as much as there is one…

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

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

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

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

Conclusions

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

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

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

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

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

Cooking Camp

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

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

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

Cooking Camp results. Delicious bread and a very sweet cupcake

Summer?

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

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

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

Stanley the Emu Welcomes You to Lightning Ridge

Dubbo to Lightning Ridge

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

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

Stanley the Emu

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

Stanley the Emu – 10km from Lightning Ridge
At Stanley’s base… his creators made their mark.

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

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

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

An impressive sculpture. Well, I thought so.
The VW Beetle used as the main body of Stanley.

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

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

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

Email Mania

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

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

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

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

 

TV Show Review – Buddy Thunderstruck

I am not sure how or why I never heard about this one until very recently, but it definitely needs sharing. The kid’s TV series on Netflix called Buddy Thunderstruck is the new favourite for my son. And I love it!

Buddy and his co-stars are stop motion puppets. The style of filming reminded me of the old road safety films featuring Tufty the squirrel. Admittedly only British people over a certain age would get that. For anyone else out there just think Fantastic Mr. Fox – that 2009 stop motion movie.

Premise

Buddy is a bit of a hometown hero in the town of Greasepit. In his own mind however he is a total legend; and that is the key to its comedy value.

Netflix billed the show as the ‘outrageous, high-octane adventures of Buddy Thunderstruck, a truck-racing dog who brings guts and good times to the town of Greasepit’. Yeah. That about sums it up. It is very funny and definitely as much for adults as it is for kids although it is certified as PG (parental guidance)

Buddy is some kind of alsatian-like dog who races trucks and thinks he is above the law and sort of lives in his own celebrity bubble. His mechanic and side-kick is a ferret called Darnell who sports an Elvis-like quiff and sideburns.

Buddy Thunderstruck. Legend (in his own mind at least).
Scene from one of the shows.
Darnell – Mechanic and side-kick to Buddy.

Whatever adventures and disasters the two get involved in, Buddy always emerges as the blameless hero. Even when he has brushes with the local law enforcement.

Sayings and Style

With sayings like “Fart nugget” and “I’m going to customise your butt crack” it was never intended for young children. Apparently, it was aimed at tweens (erm, ok) and teens but should appeal to most adults.

It looks like they only made the one series which is a real shame. It is easily the best kids TV show I have seen for quite some time. This line from one of the episodes sums up the fast-paced, mad-capped style of the show: “This is a fight to the death so if there’s any children in the audience put them on your shoulders so they can get a better view.”

There are 12 episodes plus an interactive special to be found on Netflix. Check them out. Even though it is three years old the offbeat nature of the show is a refreshing change in these PC times. I am sure you will have a good laugh…

What a Scorcher! I never saw that one coming.

Yesterday was officially the first day of summer – in Australia. OK, I know it really isn’t the first day of summer geographically or whatever other way you look at it but here in Australia that’s what they do – start seasons on the first day of a month…

Heatwave

Last weekend was the final weekend of Spring and it was the hottest 48 hours in 60 years, according to one news report I heard on the radio. Temperatures rose to about 43 degrees Centigrade (that’s well over 100 degrees Fahrenheit in old money).

We are used to temperatures reaching over 40 degrees (C) during the summer in Madrid but this weekend really caught us by surprise. This spring had been relatively cool with recent temperatures only in the early 20s over the past couple of weeks.

It can get even warmer in Spain if the wind comes off the Sahara desert. In the case of Sydney the hot winds come from the western interior. The hot red centre. Last weekend those winds were enough to push back the sea breeze – apparently. All I know for sure is that it was bloody hot!

Poor Reporting…

In the UK the BBC news reported it as the highest temperature ever!!! Typical BBC lies and bullshit I’m afraid. I am not sure why the media lie about such things. It is a bit like the fires here last summer. Of course there were fires (there are every year) but before we arrived here the news reports in Europe would have you believe that all of Australia was ablaze and the city of Sydney was about to go up too. Nothing could be further from the truth. 

Last Day of School

And so today is Dani’s last day of the school year. He never missed a day and only spent one day at home on the “remote learning” Google App thing – whatever the hell it was called. No other kid attended school for as many days. They used to give out some kind of prize when I was in school for that kind of full attendance. Very few ever achieved it I seem to recall.

Hopefully in a couple of days we will be off to Dubbo and on to Lightning Ridge on another adventure holiday. But first I need to sort out the car… Oh the joys of motoring…

Film Review – Fatman

As it is that time of year (well, close enough) I thought I would get into the Christmas spirit and go and watch a Christmas movie. That movie was Fatman.

When I first heard of this film, I thought I might take my son to see it. In some ways it was the type of story that would have appealed to a seven year old kid. But then I found out it was rated MA15+, with a bit of course language and strong violence. And some of the violence was fairly graphic.

Santa’s Base and Business

Mel Gibson plays Santa – aka Chris Cringle – while English actress Mariane Jean-Baptiste plays his wife and calming influence Ruth Cringle. They are based in Alaska not the North Pole so right away you get the feeling that this is not your typical Santa movie.

Chris is upset at the way the world is going (he is not alone there I can tell you) and as a result of all the naughty children, too many are receiving a lump of coal for Christmas. More coal means less toys are required. It just so happens that Santa’s toy building enterprise is dependant on US government subsidies and because of the reduced number of toys being produced the government ends up reducing said cash.

Maybe Santa could have started a side-line business of supplying coal to power stations? Well, if it wasn’t for all those climate nuts closing down the coal fired power stations. Hey ho…

Luckily for Chris’s business, the government wants to use the dextrous elf assembly skills to make components for a military jet fighter aircraft. Yes, that’s right; Santa and his elves are going into the aerospace industry.

Meanwhile…

One spoiled, rich and horrible kid called Billy Wenan gets a lump of coal for Christmas and is not amused. So he hires a hitman to kill Santa. The hitman – Jonathon Miller, played by Walton Goggins – manages to track down Chris Cringle’s address by persuading a postal worker to tell him where all the kids’ Christmas letters get sent to; a P.O. Box in North Peak, Alaska. Actually (spoiler alert!) he cod bloodedly assassinates two postal workers – at which point I was in no doubt that this was not a kid’s Chirstmas movie. Can’t leave any trail though eh?

Incidentally, Billy is played by Chance Hurstfield who looks, sounds and acts like he could play a young Charlie Sheen. Producers and directors take note. If Mr. Sheen’s ways continue and lead to calls for a movie of his reckless lifestyle… But back to the Fatman movie…

Miller follows Chris to his Alaskan base and kills load of US army guards (who are now there supervising the military work remember?) and all sorts of chaos ensues.

Spoiler Alert

Miller blows up the toy/weapons factory and Chris then has to face the hitman in a fight to the death. Miller manages to shoot Cringle in the eye and seemingly kills him. Then Ruth (Mrs. Cringle) pops up and shoots Miller. Chris Cringle, being Santa, is basically immortal so he kind of makes a swift recovery from his seemingly fatal injuries. And they all live happily ever after. Well, sort of…

Not before Chris and Ruth trace the hitman’s job details back to young Billy, who they then basically threaten. If he tries to harm anyone again then he will get it!

Critique

Nuts. Crazy. Mad movie. But it is easy to watch and if you don’t mind movies that are deliberately meant to be silly and over the top (see Bill & Ted reviews) then it’s great. Otherwise you will probably think it is fairly poor or possibly even in bad taste.

It is certainly not for kids and for a Christmas film involving Santa that is a first as far as I know. The violence is quite graphic at times and at one point I thought it was turning into a body-count movie. There are a couple of gory scenes and Santa getting stabbed and shot in the eye? No, definitely not for kids.

For me, it is somewhere in the middle as far as ratings go. So, on that basis I give this film three out of five. If you are worried about the toy factory being destroyed then I can tell you that Santa’s little helpers invoke something called a ‘barricade protocol’. So no elves are harmed in the making of this movie.

By the way…Wasn’t Chris Cringle the name of the store Santa in Miracle on 34th Street? It turns out that is another name for Santa. I never knew that, so this film could also be classed as educational.

Only a Few Days Left of School…

It is hard to believe that Dani’s school year – his first in Australia – is coming to an end. It really doesn’t seem 10 months ago that we took him for his first day in a new school, in a new county. I think it is fair to say that he has settled in quite well. Kids that age do settle in easily to new environments. Even if they think it is the end of the world having to move schools. Although in this case his new school was at the other end of the world!!

As this week draws to an end he only has three more days left as they finish on Wednesday of next week.

Big Friday

“Next Friday is a massive day dad”. So he told me last week. The reason it was such a huge deal was that the school prize-giving day for various things such as singing and musical instruments. It was also the school House awards. There are three Houses all named after local beaches; Bondi, Bronte and Coogee. When he arrived in the school he was put in Coogee and would you believe it they won the House competition this year. So all members of Coogee house got to go to the cinema on Friday. In the case of Dani’s year they had the choice of swimming lessons or cinema – as Friday is their physical education day. It’s not difficult to know which one most went for is it? Going to the cinema is so much not school, even when compared to going to an off-campus swimming centre.

Which reminds me, I also took the opportunity to go to the cinema on Friday and have a review to post for the movie ‘Fatman’. Watch out for it…

Belt Grading

It was also a big day for the kids who take Taekwondo as an extra curricular activity. They had their belt grading. For Dani it was just his first belt but he was very excited about his yellow belt. Let’s hope he maintains an interest in that kind of activity as it definitely does a lot for youngsters. It is not only great for fitness and self defence but also for discipline.

It turned out that Dani’s grading would not be until Tuesday. Not such a massive Friday then after all…

School Holidays

So now we are at the big summer holidays. He has almost two months off school and some of the places we thought about visiting are once again re-opening and then re-closing their borders. Yes it’s that bloody covid-1984 crap again!

There seems no end to the amount of crap the politicians will come out with. Like the virus really is something we should be scared of – which for the vast majority of the population it really is not. Anyway, we are making some kind of plans for a trip to South Australia but that particular state suddenly seems to have had a load of “cases”. What??!! After ten bloody months? Who are they kidding? It truly is pathetic. Why would the state governments continue to stop tourism into their states during the school summer holidays? It makes no sense at all.

Plans B and C are being prepared as I type. You can be sure there will be a few posts about our adventures. Wherever those may be…

“That Was The Best Weekend of My Life”

How would you define the best weekend of your life? Well here’s what we did last weekend that gave my son reason to describe it in those slightly dramatic words… As only a young child can.

Saturday was Party Day

Although his seventh birthday was over a week before we had organised a little party for him on the Saturday so that his school mates had enough notice. After looking at a few possible venues and activities we went for something a little different. We held the party at a place called Cartoon Kingdom.

A morning of cartooning for the small group of friends he invited. We invited eight but only five could make it. No worries. In fact even better as the kids then had more attention from the cartoon teachers. they generally come to you with all the materials but a our place is too small (too cluttered really!) they were willing to accommodate the small group of kids. Here is a link to their website: https://www.illustrating-man.com/

As it was so different from the usual monkey house play areas these kids go to for parties, I think they really enjoyed it. They all made their own unique cartoon design baseball cap too. Here is the one Dani made… A great party souvenir for the summer sun.

Cartoon Design Baseball cap

After a bit of birthday cake everyone dispersed. But we had another party to go to. So off we went to the apartment of one of Dani’s mums’ colleagues – it was his sons (21st) birthday. That was an afternoon of eating, drinking and playing games. And of course Dani received lots more presents.

From being a little worried about him missing his family in Europe over his birthday I had now gone to thinking that he had far too many presents and where was he going to keep them. There’s no pleasing some people is there? Typical old parent stuff eh..

Sunday

After a morning playing with some of his new toys on a local beach – one was a frisbee – we still needed to make it to the pet store before it closed. We had prepared the small aquarium and now needed some fish to put in it. After a lot of persuasion Dani decided for the small tetra fish. Just as well as I doubt anything else would have survived this long (now 4 days)…

They are in there somewhere… honest

So now he has his first pets. Let’s see how long they survive. On the plus side of course they are actually quite relaxing to watch. I also have learned quite a bit already – having never had tropical fish before, so it’s all good stuff… We are already looking at adding a couple of new fish, a different species.

By the end of day, after practicing some of his newly acquired cartoon drawing skills, Dani laid back and came out with it: “That was the best weekend of my life.”

So there you go. that’s how a seven year old sees it. Funny, and a little over dramatic I think. However, it was quite a busy two days. I’m just glad he like it. How was yours?