Bondi Mermaids Painting

Historical Paintings from Bondi

Way back in July of last year I wrote a post about two old statues that were known as the Bondi Mermaids – click here for that post. The remains of one of the “mermaids” is still on display at Waverley library in Bondi Junction. Recently there has been an art exhibition at the same library by local artist Janine Hall. She paints historical images of scenes in and around Bondi Beach (and Eastern Suburbs beaches in general).

Here is a snapshot of one she painted which really caught my eye. This is the classic, and now long gone, view of the Bondi Mermaids:

Bondi Mermaids by Janine Hall.

The exhibition is due to end any day now but you can catch Janine’s work on her website: https://janinehall-art.com/

I have recently seen letters in local magazines from people asking if a campaign can be started to bring back the mermaids. It seems they were a firm favourite with tourists and I am sure that such a great photo opportunity would certainly be very popular again.

Down and Out in the Red Centre

At the end of last week Dani and his grandmother went on a trip to the very heart of Australia. They visited the fabled sights of Ayers Rock (aka Uluru) and The Olgas (aka Kata Tjuta) in what is more or less the dead centre of the country/continent. I will bring you more on this ‘trip of a lifetime’, but first here is the bad news…

Just after checking out of the hotel, with bags packed, the hotel receptionist told Dani’s grandmother that their flight had been cancelled. Just like that and pretty much as last minute as it gets. (They actually still had a few hours which was going to be spent going on a camel ride – I think – but still…)

Dani in the “Red Centre”. Just about as remote as any place on the planet.

Move over (SL)EasyJet and Ryanair… There’s a new kid on the block

The offending company is JetStar. They are at least as shit as EasyJet and Ryanair (both of which have been covered in this blog’s pages in the past). In fact for JetStar, cancelling flights is just like charging you for an upfront seat with more legroom. They do it as a matter of day-to-day business.

Now, as regular readers will be aware, Dani’s grandmother does not speak very good English. She called me immediately (after not getting an answer from her daughter – Dani’s mum – who incidentally, had booked the trip). She put me on the line to talk with the hotel receptionist who was not much help. She was only the messenger and as we know, those poor souls should not be shot. However, I did manage to secure some information. A telephone number for JetStar and the fact that the hotel would put them up for another night if they could not get on another flight.

Here’s the problem… 

First of all phoning JetStar (or any similar company) is almost an exercise in futility – a bloody waste of time. By the time their automatic answering system bounces you around you have to wait hours to actually speak to a human (if they still employ any). So I didn’t bother with that one.

Instead I told them to jump on the hotel courtesy bus and get to the airport as soon as possible and speak to a JetStar representative in person. Dani could translate if/when required. So off they went…

JetStar cancelling flights is not always such a big deal, providing those flights are between major cities (of which Australia only has a few). At least they (pretend to) have inter-city flights every hour or so. Therefore a cancelled flight in Melbourne would just mean waiting a while (maybe a few hours) until they put you on another flight to Sydney. But Ayers Rock airport is literally in the middle of nowhere. As ‘in the middle of nowhere’ as it gets. Anywhere on the planet! It isn’t exactly around the f*cking corner is it?

Missing a flight in (say) Melbourne is nothing by comparison. There are buses and trains to Sydney as well as plenty of flights. Heck, I could even drive there overnight if I really needed to. There are options. JetStar have one flight per day from Ayers Rock airport to Sydney – and they fecking cancelled it! If it had been me there with Dani I would have taken it all in my stride; but it wasn’t. So I will admit that I was a little worried.

As they were heading for the little outback airport I checked on the JetStar website for their other flights out of Ayers Rock that day. There was one to Melbourne in a couple of hours. At least in Melbourne there would (should) be plenty of other flights into Sydney. I began making a fake booking on their website which told me there were plenty of seats on that Melbourne bound flight. I called them up and told them to insist that they are allowed on that flight to Melbourne and then ask JetStar to put them on the next available plane (from Melbourne) to Sydney.

Long story short: They made it onto the Melbourne flight and had to wait a few hours in Melbourne airport before getting another one to Sydney. A bit of an adventure but also more than a little worrying for us all.

Mocking sleeping rough in the outback. Before it almost became reality…

Just a footnote to this little tale: JetStar’s email to Dani’s mum said there was no flight out they could catch that day. But they did offer the same route (via Melbourne) the following day. It was only by my going through the booking process that I discovered that they did actually have quite a few seats on that same day’s flight to Melbourne.

About 11pm we picked them up from Sydney airport. Thankfully a relatively painless ending to what could have been a lot more stressful; or worse.

If there is a moral in this story…

What can I teach my son from this little episode? My advice to him would be that in life (in general) you have to trust companies like JetStar just about as far as you can throw them. Never rely on them and do as much as possible yourself to resolve any such situation.

I will write another post about their actual trip hopefully with some good photos. I may even get Dani to write something about his adventure… Yeah. That would do him some good to get it down on paper (or laptop).

Historic Times – Global and Personal

The Queen Passes

It’s been an odd few days. As I am sure the whole world knows by now, The Queen passed away late last week. It is sad news. Queen Elizabeth has been the only constant in terms of world leadership in my lifetime. The same goes for the vast majority of people. 70 years as Queen is truly incredible, regardless of where you stand on the monarchy.

I am no monarchist but nor am I anti-monarchy. There are arguments for how the monarchy could be improved I am sure, but there is nothing anyone can say to convince me that having an elected president is any better. Far from it if present day experiences mean anything.

The best argument I ever heard on the subject however is pro-monarchy. It deals with the argument people use when talking about how wrong it is for someone’s son or daughter to inherit so much (especially the crown). As parents don’t we all want our children’s future to be better than our own? Richer, even easier perhaps?

Whether dirt-poor or the richest people in the world, it’s what we all strive for. Right? In recent generations our parent and grandparents became property owners and we all want to inherit that. And pass it on to our own offspring. We also look for any way to avoid any inheritance taxes. That is no different from royal lineage. Yes, there is far more money at stake but with that comes a lot more responsibility. It is doubtful that any royal critic would want such responsibility, let alone be able to deal with it.

I would definitely like to hear from anyone who has a good argument for scrapping the monarchy. But be prepared to back it up with what you would replace it with. Then again, I may be arguing that case myself in the near future. I don’t have a great deal of confidence in Prince Charles – now King Charles (hard to get used to that). But let’s see…

First Communion

This Sunday my son took his first communion in church. The place was packed. Not for him of course. There was a whole year from the local school associated with the church plus several others like Dani. Naturally all of their families were in attendance.

At the church

It was not only myself and Dani’s mum there for him. Dani’s Spanish grandmother is here visiting and she timed her trip to coincide with his first communion. Suffice to say we were all proud of him.

Now, similar to above with the ‘royalty question’; I am not a religious person – but nor am I anti-religion. As far as belief in an all-powerful being goes I suppose I just don’t have that faith that (I am told) it takes. Equally however, I do not believe in any “Big Bang” theory. I really don’t want to go into a full blown theological discussion because, well… I just don’t care either way. It really does not bother me how we all got here. I don’t know and I am quite happy believing that nobody else knows either.

In the meantime I have no problem with my son being raised as a Catholic. When he is older he can, and will, make his own mind up.

Dani and the very long 1970s Chrysler Imperial

Planning Permission?

Sandwiched in between the two events (both historic for me) described above we went for a long coastal walk over the weekend. In all it was about 15kms. We took Dani’s abuela with us and although she appeared to struggle to keep up at times she completed the walk. Well done to her!.

There were several photo opportunities but this particular one grabbed my attention:

Who thinks this building would get planning permission if built today?

Anyone who has walked along the coast in these part will be aware of the land erosion clearly visible in all the dramatic cliff faces. There are clear signs of massive erosion on the cliff facing the building (just below where I stood to take the picture). Oddly nothing like as bad just below this large building.

Can you imagine trying to get planning permission to build this block of apartments today? I doubt it would happen but not because the design is seen as some 1970s monstrosity. Just imagine the planing permission meetings and all the health and safety reports that would be required! Never mind the time to pore over them all. There would be far more input from geologists and “climate change experts” than from architects and engineers.

I say ‘monstrosity’ as that is how so many of these buildings are described in our supposedly more enlightened times. Although I happen to think it looks great. Location as they say is everything…  I wonder how much longer this building has left? Again, feel free to comment.

Australian Federal Elections – 3 months on

General Election (‘Federal’ election here in Oz)

Last May Australia held its federal election (general election in UK). Three months on and the results and fallout are already comedy gold.

The winners were the old opposition. It’s obviously their turn. The “Labour” lot (similar to Labour in UK, PSOE in Spain) beat the “Liberals” (Tory in UK, PP in Spain). The two party system is alive and well in Australia. Did someone say “party”? Well there are those who wish to gate-crash said party.

Incredibly the Green party took just under 1.8 million votes. That amounts to just over 10% of the overall vote. Amazing eh? In a country known for it’s extensive mineral wealth – and yes that includes “fossil fuels” – there is at least 1 in 10 voters who would seemingly be happy to see the country turn into a third world basket case. Because that is almost certainly what would happen if the “green” party ever won an election.

Of course this green mania is rather trendy these days. I mention above “at least 1 in 10”, but in fact there were plenty who voted for what can only be described as ‘plastic greens’, who have been labelled “teal independents”. Yes teal; that delicate shade of greeny-blue-ish… whatever (who cares?)… They are supposedly independents who are concerned about climate change. They managed to win something like 6 seats with approximately ¾ million votes. That’s almost another 5%, taking the green-ish tinted vote total to some 15% of the electorate. To use that now well known social media three lettered acronym – WTF?

About a week ago the news broke of how one particular teal independent politician just happens to own plenty of shares in Australia’s oil and gas companies. What a coincidence eh?. It turns out that she (for it is a female member of parliament) claims that by being a share holder in these (supposedly) ‘terrible’ (my choice of word) companies, that she can act as some kind of insider agitator. What a hero eh? (or should that be heroine? who cares?)

Yeah, right love! Pull the other one and f*ck off! I can’t remember her name but you could easily find it online. Besides they will probably all be at it. Do as we say, not as we do – typical politicians.

Right now energy companies (including all the oil and gas lot) are making huge profits. Hey, great investment, don’t get me wrong. But please spare us the usual politician’s bullshit. She – no doubt just like all the other “teal independents” – is nothing but a chancer.

The Great ‘Scomo’, Master Illusionist (Hey presto, Abracadabra and all that…)

Another crazy story that has been in the news for some weeks now (it seems longer) is about the outgoing prime minister (Scott Morrison – aka ‘Scomo’) As well as being PM this man somehow managed to hold 7 ministerial portfolios during the “pandemic”. He is getting slated by media and opponents as, apparently, this was all done in secret.

Between March 2020 and May 2021, Morrison appointed himself to – get this –  the health, finance, industry, science, energy and resources, home affairs and treasury portfolios without the public’s knowledge, and in some cases, without alerting the existing minister.

So somehow this oaf of a bloke managed to be PM and hold seven other senior minister’s position simultaneously and nobody noticed? Really? So when anything was mentioned about (say) the ministry for health or treasury nobody thought to ask who is in charge of that one? I know the world’s attention was diverted by that virus thing back then but please…!

Surely people noticed that the Prime Minister was also in charge of (say) the health ministry, or energy ministry or any of the others…? You really can’t make this stuff up.

“Hey weren’t you also at the energy ministry meeting the other day? And aren’t you the prime minister?”
“Blimey finance minister, you look just like the industry minister I spoke to only yesterday and you are a dead ringer for the PM mate.”
“That bloody science minister is about as useless as the prime minister. He even bloody looks just like him!”
etc…etc…
(words apparently spoken by nobody, EVER!!!)

I describe him as an “oaf” because if you listen to any media criticism of the man you would think he was totally useless and semi-literate at best. You know they way they assassinate someone’s character when they think they need to be voted out?

Let me say that I am no fan. Far from it. But if he really managed to pull that off for such a long time and until after he was voted out, then surely this man is some kind of genius (relatively speaking of course – compared to those around him in parliament house). Surely he is just the kind of magician any country needs to lead it. Pulling all kinds of rabbits out of hats, as politicians often (metaphorically) promise. This man actually seems to be able to do such crap! And the country voted him out! Incredible eh?

But only just eh…

In fact ‘Scomo’ actually got more votes than the incoming PM (another chancer who leads the deceptively named ‘Labour’ party). But because of the way the system works, he lost. Not unlike the voting systems in other (so called) democracies.

And here’s another thing. Voting in the Australian federal elections is compulsory. Yet the turnout was just under 90%. So, at least 10% really couldn’t care less, despite it being illegal not to vote. Look at that another way: For every green voter there is another who doesn’t give a toss.

It will be interesting to see what happens during this new government’s term in office. How far will the green agenda go? Will anyone in the media ask any of the politicians what they think the Chinese are going to do with all the coal they import from this country? What do the “teal independents” think they do with all that coal, I wonder? Use it to carve little coal figurines?

Don’t hold your breath waiting for the media. Ask them yourselves.

Moving House (Again) & Our Old Friends the “Property Managers”

Last weekend we moved house again – well, apartments. I quite liked the old place but we had no choice. The owner wants to live there and has plans to renovate the place. Under the terms of the lease we were given 3 months notice a couple of months back so needed to find a new place to live.

As luck would have it there was another (almost identical) apartment on the floor below. Same building. Great. That is the one we managed to get. It meant we didn’t really need to hire a removals company or even hire a big van. But it then meant we needed to shift everything ourselves. Never easy but we managed to do it quickly without having to dis-assemble the bigger items. No issues really… Apart maybe from our old friends the property managers/estate agents/realtors (whatever you want to call them). Oh yeah, they were on form...

Definitely the Easiest Job in Sydney

Some time ago I posted a blog about what I thought must be the easiest job in Australia – see that one here. I stand by that belief. Maybe not necessarily in Australia – hard to know with no experience of small towns here – but certainly Sydney. And the bunch of wankers we have had to deal with for this move proves it beyond any doubt.

Now You See Them…

We went to the agent’s office to sign the lease agreement. In the reception there are some 30 odd business cards to choose from. So called “Sales Agents” and “property managers” and “Directors”. The “property manager” for the new place was on hand to make sure we signed everything we needed to.

We also needed to return the keys from the old apartment once we had moved all our stuff. Naturally we wanted someone to confirm we had returned everything correctly and there were no issues. Only fair eh? Considering we had just signed about 50 pages of documentation. But when we wanted to see the person in charge of the property we were leaving? No chance.

We had to sign off on a load of keys but nobody was prepared to sign off to say that we had returned them. Anyone of the multitude of “property managers” who were there could have come to the reception and done that but no chance. Nobody was prepared to sign anything. That just isn’t in their job description.

Condition Report

Here in Sydney, like anywhere I guess, the rental property comes with a condition report. The agent produces this and the tenant then has to check and confirm, and also report any findings not on the report.

The “property manager” (mis)managed to produce a report that missed a whole bathroom. Well, to be exact they included it as an en-suite in the detailed section but in the summary stated that there was only one bathroom when there are in fact two. Not a problem and easy to see how that one occurred. Not so some of the others. There were many “defects” and most of them very easy to spot. And yet…

They completed each room including stating that fitted wardrobes were intact and damage free, when in fact there were door knobs missing or broken. They even attached their own photographs showing the doors with missing door knobs. The main patio window to the terrace has two noticeable gaps. OK, maybe not noticeable if you are a “property manager” with selective vision. But the best one was the dishwasher. Not an essential item in life of course but there is one that comes with the kitchen. Under the kitchen section where they needed to state if the appliance was working or not they simply put “Unknown. Needs to be switched on”. They could not even be bothered to find the fuse/switch box and power the bloody thing. In case you’re wondering the dishwater does actually work. Unlike the “property managers”.

Fortunately I Can Still Laugh…

These are not big issues but why can’t these so called “property managers” just get such minor jobs fixed before new tenants arrive? In other words “manage” the bloody “property”! We point out the defects and they will (eventually) send someone to fix them. Meanwhile the property had been empty for two months. It really defies logic eh? In most cases we will probably fix the things ourselves of course. Maybe that is what they want, who knows?

Ultimately it does beg the question: What the f*ck do these people do during working hours?

I said it partly in jest back in February 2020, but now I am convinced. Definitely the easiest job in Sydney (if not the whole of Australia).

Schoolgirl Identifies as a Cat? How to End This Nonsense

A few people (from the UK actually) have recently sent me links to a story  about an Australian schoolgirl who identifies as a cat. Yes, you read that correctly. Just read it back. A cat!

In this day and age it is hard to know if this is a real factual account but with all the other crap that is going on around us I am prepared to believe it. Not that I could ever let it bother me of course. Anyway, for what it’s worth, here are a couple of links to the same story if you haven’t already seen it:

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-11137263/Senator-slams-teen-identifies-cat-Melbourne-school-Ralph-Babet.html

https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/world-news/phenomenally-bright-teenage-girl-who-27800624

How My Generation Would Have Dealt With It…

Now apparently this is in a private school and the girl is “phenomenally bright” (we are told). Who knows? Maybe she is. Maybe she is bright enough to just be ‘taking the piss’. And quite rightly. But this is one silly story about a much wider issue of course. It reminded me of a post I wrote back in May 2018. Here is a link to that full blog post but below I have taken out the main part about identifying as (whoever).

Apologies for the repetition but I must stress once again, that in my day, all this identity shit would have come to  very brutal and very rapid end. We the kids in the school would have destroyed it. Within a week the schools and authorities would have learnt a quick but harsh lesson themselves. That such a load of shit policy is totally unworkable. Pupil power no less.

What I wrote over 4 years ago still applies today, and always will. Here is what I wrote related to this subject, back in May 2018:

What’s in a Name?

I often hear it said how children today grow up or mature faster than when we were in school. How much more aware they are at an earlier age etc… Well; if ever there was an example of how kids today are definitely slower than when I was in school it is this little tale…

I soon discovered that within the school database each child is registered not only with their given name but also with their preferred name. This means they can be called whatever they want. Incredible right? Even more incredible is that the school (i.e. the teachers) are obliged to call them by that name. Seriously! They have to use that ‘preferred’ name.

There were only a few examples of this that I came across. A few preferring to be called what seemed more like a nickname or alternative (real?) name. There was also one gender identity related name change – something like a boy called Robert preferring to be known as Natasha (not the real names).

I will not name the school but it hardly matters. It is my understanding that this is now official policy in all state run schools in the UK. I could not believe how this system has not been totally abused by the kids. Where were these smart-arse street-wise kids? Where are the jokers? The class clowns? Have they really become so dumbed down?

Oh what fun WE would have had….

If you are of a certain age then this will be easy to understand. Cast your mind back to school. Imagine the headmaster announcing in morning assembly (the usual start to every day back then) that pupils can now be referred to by their chosen and preferred names.

Myself and everyone I hung out with would have looked at each other with eyes widening. Grins growing into huge smiles until we could barely stifle the laughter. And then, after assembly, the fun would really begin….

“Right. I am going to be Ozzy Osborne”
“I will be Floyd. Pink Floyd”
“OK. I will be Johnny Rotten.”

“I ‘m Batman and you can be Robin.”

“I can’t decide if I want to be Bruce Lee or Jimi Hendrix.”
“Steve is already gonna be Hendrix so you will have to be Bruce Lee.”
“OK.”

“You can be Cassius Clay. But if you want to change your name again later to something like Muhammad Ali then that’s fine. And there will be nothing to stop you doing that cos it’s already been done.”

“Excuse me Sir. I am Darth Vader and this is my friend Chewbacca.” (Laughter)

The possibilities are endless. The scope for schoolboy pranks enormous. A school kid’s dream. We would have got it immediately. And yet, right here, right now, they just don’t seem to be able to see it. It’s right there in front of their noses. An ideal opportunity to completely take the piss and they are not doing it. “Why?” you may ask. Are they really that well behaved now? Clearly this is not the case from some of the other things I heard last week.

No: I honestly believe it is because they are so used to being pandered to like this. It is all part of the ‘new normal’ for these kids. They have come to expect this sort of thing too easily and in so doing they now more or less ignore it. It is as if they have been so over indulged that it has killed part of their sense of fun. That mischievous gene – once present in most school kids – is on the verge of extinction. That is only my take on it; but whatever the reason, it isn’t good.

A Typical Day in Class?

“Ziggy Stardust! What are you doing?”
“Sir. Bob Marley and Tina Turner are throwing things at me.”

Then – and this has to be the best one – a blonde girl (probably identifying as Marilyn Monroe) enters class with a message from the Head.

“Sir. The Headmaster wants to see Spartacus.”

Then, right on cue…

“I’m Spartacus.”
“I’m Spartacus.”
“No. I’m Spartacus.”

And so on…

That little social experiment would not have lasted a single day.

Melbourne. Again…

OK. I know I was talking about never wanting to go to Melbourne ever again (see here), but as Dani’s cousins were here I got dragged into it. We spent a couple of nights in Melbourne taking in the city sights (such as they are) and took a day trip over to Philip Island for the penguin parade.

Original ironmongers work on the lights and bridges along the Yarra river
Statues at the docklands plus three corners near Flinders Station
Dani with the most famous suit of armour
The free trams around the city centre are understandably popular
The Lego shop tram was also very popular

Victoria State Library

The Victoria state library is worth a visit. Just for a walk around to marvel at the fantastic Victorian (era) architecture. They just don’t build them like this any more. It remined me a lot of the big city libraries in the UK. Notably the libraries in Liverpool and Manchester which have similar large, round and domed reading rooms. (I am sure other UK cities too.)

The fabulous dome reading room of the Victoria state library
Ground level view
First level
Second level
Top level view

The library also houses the famous suit of armour worn by that most  infamous/heroic/notorious/famous (you choose) of bushrangers, Ned Kelly. It is instantly recognisable to anyone who knows only the slightest piece of Kelly’s story.

Ned Kelly’s instantly recognisable suit of armour

Which brings me nicely on to the next port of call…

Melbourne Old Gaol

The bleak outer walls of the old gaol. Inside was even bleaker.
The old and the new. Changing Melbourne

This is the place where Ned Kelly was hanged – Melbourne Old Gaol. This place obviously never changes. I first visited it back in the 1990s. It is a typical Victorian era gaol with three floors of small cells with small windows. Very grim and similar to the old prisons in the UK. We also did a tour of the next-door holding cell area which only closed in the mid 90s (we were told). That part I do not recall… But here are some photos from our visit.

The kids in padded cell plus other cells

The hanging floor where Ned Kelly met his end.
Dani with one of his heroes (well sort of)
Mug shots. Susana is almost a complete head taller than Dani
Dani at the gallows

Nearby, we passed by the old swimming baths. Nice to see this fantastic piece of history still standing and going strong. The inside remains almost as good as I remember it, with only some modernisation. We only took a quick peek.

The majestic old Melbourne Public Baths

AC/DC Lane

Almost certainly the most famous band to come out of Australia, AC/DC are well-known the world over. So their home city was bound to pay some kind of tribute. They did so by renaming a narrow backstreet after the rock group.

AC/DC Lane. Renamed, formerly known as Corporation Lane

The street has several bars and restaurants and soon became a beacon for wall art (aka graffiti) – although originally done with the best intentions. A bit like the silo or water-tower art we have seen so much of in the countryside. Blank spaces of wall were offered to artists as blank canvasses. Here is the result…

Malcolm Young. Deceased AC/DC guitar player
Just like the silo art some of the work in this area is quite good.

Statue (built into the wall) of Bon Scott, the legendary original singer of AC/DC who died in 1980
Some of the artwork on AC/DC Lane

John Murray’s ‘Elvis Emu’. Just like the one in Parkes for the Elvis Festival

Not far from AC/DC Lane lies Hosier Lane. Another long backstreet that has been handed over to would-be artists who seem to have sprayed crap over some of the better work. It all starts to get a bit messy around here. But the tourists seemed to like it still and took every photo opportunity they could. Odd I thought but hey…

Hosier Lane
This is one example of a complete mess (side street off Hosier Lane)

It is quite something to say that one of the biggest attractions (if that is even the right word) for tourists seemed to be this area of graffiti covered old buildings. But this definitely looked to be the case. There were tourists aplenty, some even on guided walking tours. Some of the graffiti is clearly artistic and I have no problem with it but there is now more that is basically just wonton vandalism. Still there were plenty of tourists taking the same photos as me. And I seriously doubt many were AC/DC fans.

Penguin Parade

I wish I had some good photos of these little creatures but sadly I don’t. Most were out of focus or too far away. I honestly remember this tourist trap being really good with lots of penguins and even being able to walk amongst them in the nesting areas. Getting really close to them now is a matter of luck it seems. First of all there were not that many penguins emerging from the sea – at least on the night we went. I understand that number can vary day to day, but I seem to recall there being quite a lot when I first came here all those years ago.

Secondly unless the penguins walk right alongside the boardwalk you don’t get close at all. Is my memory clouded in nostalgia I wonder? I am convinced it was much better than this. Anyway, the kids were thrilled with the few penguins we did see, and as that was the main reason for the trip it has to be considered ‘mission accomplished’.

Sorry but this is the best photo we got. Not great but…

In lieu of any decent shots we failed to take here are a couple kindly offered for upload by the website http://www.penguins.org.au.

Emerging from the sea
Heading for their nests alongside the boardwalk

On reflection I would say that Melbourne really is a more ‘liveable city’ than Sydney. I think it is much easier to get around (suburbs etc included) and that count for a lot. But if someone was to come to Australia for just a few days I would probably recommend Sydney. It is more “visitable” (is that a new word?).

So, will I go back to Melbourne ever again? I doubt it. But as the saying goes; ‘never say never’.

Athletics Carnival and the Dreaded Parents Race

Yesterday was the school’s “athletics carnival”. Sports day we used to call it when I was in school back in the UK. But, just like the ones I remember from all those years ago, it is not just any sports. It is really just track and field athletics.

I had not been looking forward to it since Dani found out there was a parents race. He insisted I take part. Which I did. Reluctantly and under duress. More on that below.

The “Carnival”

The sports day was held at an athletics track near the Centennial Parklands. One side had a large covered seating area for spectators, and of course the screaming kids from each of the school’s competing houses.

They managed to get through a full day of events where every child participated in three track races (100m, 200m & 800m) plus three field events. To finish there was a series of relay races; the teams made up of the best runners from the previous 100m races. It was complete chaos but somehow they managed it. In fact some of it was comedy gold as it was clear that many of the kids had never tried the (more technical) field events.

The long jump was more like a long hop off the take-off board for many (Dani included). But the high jump would have made for YouTube blockbuster footage. I wish I could have sat there and recorded the whole event close up. Hilarious.

It is hardly surprising that the kids had no idea how to do a long jump or high jump. This was the first time many of them had seen or tried them. This whole sporting event had been cancelled the previous two years due to… Well, you know. The “C” word… Heaven forbid the kids might partake in a bit of sporting activity, keep fit in the fresh air, enjoy themselves and pick up a little dose of vitamin D while doing so eh? Who on earth would want that? Just as well they locked them all up and stopped all such activities instead eh? Anyway, I digress… (yet again).

Parents Race

I never wanted to do it. I hadn’t even done any jogging – let alone trying to sprint – for about a couple of months. And I honestly can’t remember the last time I ran 100m flat out. Would my back hold up? (I have had a little trouble recently.) Will I pull a muscle? Could it be even worse?

I expected a little help. I thought may be there might be some kind of age related handicap. I thought a head-start of 5 metres per year over the age of 40 would be about right. That would put me 90 metres ahead of the (official) start line and the youngest competitors. With only 10 metres to run. I would walk this race. Literally (just to take the piss!).

Alas, no such luck. When I suggested it to the sports teacher he laughed. That ‘yeah mate, piss off, we still have the relay races to run’ kind of a laugh. Not even one metre per year. So much for sportsmanship and fair play eh? I was f*#ked and I knew it!

I lined up with 9 others and the race was underway. I started OK (so I thought) until I saw everyone else ahead of me. I just tried to get into a fast but short stride not wanting to pull a muscle. As it turned out it only lasted a little over 10 seconds. No, no, no! I am not claiming some Olympic qualifying time here. I mean, I was about 10 seconds into the race when I realised I was going to finish last.

About the same time (and by my reckoning at the 80 metres mark) I could feel a little pain in my lower back and some muscle where I didn’t even know I had one. (Somewhere between the groin and top of thigh?) Anyway, I had to slow down. The race was already well and truly lost by that point (just in case you were wondering).

It was not a case of how my fast-twitch sprinting muscles would respond. It was more a case of ‘where the hell were they?’

On the plus side; the oxygen mask I thought I might need at the finish line was not required. In fact I was not even slightly out of breath. Was I really running that slowly? No, I was not. My stamina (lung capacity) was clearly still there but the legs and back simply did not want to play. I think I could have ran a whole lap (400m) at that pace. Could those parents who finished ahead of me? I like to think they would have tired after another 50 metres. Well, it helps to think that. My attempt at a moral victory.

While watching the final (relay) races I caught up with Dani. He seemed disappointed – if not embarrassed. “You came last. You were not very good” was all he had to say. I think I had let him down so tried to put it into some perspective. Mine at least. “Ah well,” I replied, “I was the oldest in the race, by some way.” But he seemed to brush that excuse off quickly.

I suppose that’s another bonus to take away from today. Dani is very unlikely to ask me to join in any ‘parents race’ in the future. But part of me wouldn’t mind trying a similar race again. But only if I had time to prepare properly. I definitely wouldn’t do it again unless I knew I was able to really go for it. Ah… We shall see… I won’t lose any sleep over it either way.

Sydney’s Most Iconic Landmark?

Sydney is synonymous with two iconic man made structures. Everyone the world over will shout them out as soon as the city’s name is mentioned. One is the harbour bridge and the other would be the Opera House. But there is a third. And for me, this one is more interesting than the other two and no doubt has far more visitors. I am talking about Luna Park amusement park.

Luna Park?

OK I know what you are thinking. An amusement park? How can that be compared with the bridge and opera house? Well first of all let me say this. Not only do I think it is right up there, I would actually place Luna Park above those other two. That said, my immediate reaction when we visited was; What a waste of money! More on that contradiction to come. First, let’s look at this fantastic landmark…

The famous Luna Park face
The two lesser Sydney icons viewed from the best; Luna Park

Luna Park – Quick History.

First thing: Get a perspective of exactly where Luna Park is and go to that trusty favourite – google maps. It is located at Milson’s Point right on the north side of the harbour bridge. It is visible from various points on the south side of the bridge (namely The Rocks observatory and Circular Quay in the CBD).

Park employees doing their thing

If you zoom in on google maps you can still see the (original) ‘Olympic Pool’ right next to Luna Park. An old open air, Olympic-sized swimming pool right at one end to the harbour bridge was itself an iconic landmark for many years. The old pool is now being refurbished (work started some time ago) so we never got to swim in the original. But I am sure it will be equally spectacular when work is complete.

The history of that “iconic” entrance mouth
“Coney Island Fun Land” A fun-house as we used to call them
Steep slides inside the Coney Island fun-house
Another attraction inside the fun-house

The park opened in 1935 just a few years after the harbour bridge opened.  Most of the original has been replaced or rebuilt over the years but it has managed to maintain it’s art deco charm and many of (what some might call) the old fashioned rides and attractions.

Top of the Wild Mouse ride viewed from ground level

There is a definite historical feel about the place coupled with that eye-catching retro styling that can transport us older people back in time to our own childhoods. There is certainly something appealing about the park that makes it as exciting a place for adults as it is for kids.

Park employees perform various shows as you walk around

Should we pity the residents who live in this ‘highly desirable’ part of Sydney? Who wants a roller coaster running past your windows and balcony? Then there is the noise and the flashing lights. These apartments must cost millions of dollars. Or is it a case of ‘more fool them’?

You have to feel for anyone who has paid millions to live here. Don’t you?

Luna Park could have been demolished. In fact it is nothing short of a miracle, in a city with some of the most expensive real estate on the planet, that it has survived at all. In fact it came close to disappearing when in the late 1970s most of it was demolished and then rebuilt following protests to save the park. It was only saved when the Luna Park entrance face became an item of national heritage by the National Trust of Australia. The park as a whole was added to the New South Wales State Heritage Register on 5th March 2010. That should protect it for many generations to come (and probably beyond).

Why a ‘Waste of Money’?

OK let’s now address that seemingly contradictory point. We paid in advance. Online. Like pretty much everyone else who was there – and it was busy. Yet when we arrived there was an horrendously long queue to pick up your tickets – actually bar-coded wrist bands to allow access to rides. Although the cost was more if you pay on the day, there was hardly any queue, so effectively you spend less time waiting in line and more time in the park having fun. We waited almost 40 minutes!

Those old school clowns
If the clowns don’t scare you then these fellas probably will

As just about everyone queueing said out loud; “what a waste of time booking online!” You pay up front but lose time in the park hence there is a slight waste of time/money involved. But there is another reason I said “what a waste…!”

Basically, as an adult, it is unlikely that there will be any ride in this park the likes of which you have not been on in the past. It is mainly for the kids. I would have been quite happy to just watch the kids having fun. There is nothing stopping you entering and walking freely around the park. Free entry into a world of nostalgia. Why pay? So for adults it is pretty much a waste of money. But of course there is another side to the story…

As fate would have it Dani is still too small for some rides and there were others where the smaller kids needed adult to accompany them. I was that accompanying adult of course.

So if your budget is tight and you have done these rides before I would say do not “waste” your money. But then there is no substitute for sitting next to your child when it is their first time on a scary ride. Not quite seeing them take their first steps or say your name for the first time but it is up there…

Light Up The Park…

As interesting as the park looks during the day it almost takes on another identity when the sun goes down and the lights come on. The mix of the coloured lights on those 1930s style buildings (and amusements) is sure to make you want to walk around the whole park again.

‘Coney Island’ fun-house lighting up as the sun goes down

Comparing Sydney Icons

Look the bridge is just a bridge. Get used to it. There are plenty of bigger and more eye-catching bridges the world over. It serves a transportation process in a big city. For me that’s more or less it.

As for the Opera House I have to say it is impressive and certainly different. But it is only adults that are impressed. Ask any child under (say) 12 where they would rather visit. Make that under 18 even, who knows? My point is that the Opera House is not necessarily everyone’s cup of tea. Photogenic, yes. But to go inside? Most people who make a B-line for the Opera House to photograph it do not go inside. It may as well be a sculpture.

On the other hand: They just don’t make places like Luna Park any more. It is a place for all the family, young and old. You really cannot say that about the Opera House. Of course both the Opera House and bridge will be by far the more photographed (often together) but Luna Park will have more paying visitors. (A bridge technically does not have visitors in the same way.) And for it to be located smack in the middle of a city of 5 million people!? That has to be near impossible nowadays.

Of course all this is just my personal opinion. Feel free to comment if you disagree… or comment even if you agree…

The Daintree Rainforest

Daniel had studied the Daintree Rainforest in his first school year here in Australia. I distinctly remember him telling me all about it. That was two years ago and he has all but forgotten most of what he learnt but he remembers that after those lessons he wanted to visit the place.

Queensland coastline north of Cairns

The rainforest is named after Richard Daintree, an Australian geologist and photographer. The Daintree region is in the northeast coast of Queensland, north of Mossman (which is itself about 75 km north of Cairns). It covers an area of around 1,200 square kilometres (460 sq miles), which makes it about half the size of Luxembourg. Daintree is a part of the largest continuous area of tropical rainforest in Australia. The tropical forest runs along the coastline north of the Daintree River and grows right down to the edge of the sea.

View to the mountains from the Daintree River

This area is home to salt water crocodiles. These scary creatures live along the coast and spend plenty of time in the Daintree River where we took a kind of croc-spotting cruise. Of course the river and its banks are home to many other animals but everyone was mainly interested in the “salty” (as the salt water crocodile is often called) – the largest member of the crocodile family.  We were not disappointed.

An adult crocodile facing into the river
There’s young crocodiles in these two pictures…
…apparently about one year old. Can you spot them?
A bigger specimen
A closer look

These trips do not throw food out for the crocodiles so they never approach the boats as they have become accustomed to doing in other parts of the country (namely Northern Territory). That means that we don’t get to see them  jumping out of the water like some circus act. As exciting as that can be I do think the Daintree park way is a more natural approach.

An even larger crocodile. Likely to be one of the alpha males
… and here he is close up

Into the ‘Jungle’?

Is a rainforest jungle? Or is a jungle just one type of rainforest? I really don’t know and although I did try to find out I could not find any really conclusive answers. I use the terms interchangeably (rightly or wrongly).

At the top of the rainforest covered mountain

The rainforest itself is similar to others we have visited but definitely seemed a lot more dense. The vegetation is incredible. There could be an animal only a few metres away and you would never see it. As luck would have it, we never saw much in the way of animals…

A basket fern

Basket ferns grow on tree trunks and form their own little environment for other plants to sprout as well as a place for animals like birds, snakes, frogs and insects to live. They thrive at all levels, but when you look up you will always see them struggling for light near the top of the forest canopy.

Basket ferns high up in the canopy

Deep inside the forest
A python curls up on the rainforest floor
Dani above the canopy

The one creature I really wanted us to see was the cassowary. A large flightless bird unique to this part of the world. Not only Australia but this specific part of Australia. Sadly we never got to see one. So, as the saying goes, we need to try again. So here’s looking forward to another trip to the north Queensland ‘jungle’.

Cape Tribulation

The rainforest spills down the mountainside to meet the Pacific ocean. One of the places where this rainforest meets beach experience can be witnessed is at Cape Tribulation.

Cape Tribulation beach
Cape Tribulation

Cape Tribulation was named by Lieutenant James Cook on 10 June 1770 after his ship hit a reef north east of the cape. Later the ship ran aground, on what is now named Endeavour Reef (after Cook’s ship). The ship was badly damaged, but Cook and his crew famously managed to refloat it the following day. Cook named Cape Tribulation because, as he wrote, “here begun all our troubles“.

At one end of the beach there is a great example of a mangrove forest. The word ‘mangrove’ does not actually refer to one specific plant or tree but is a generic term for any plant that can survive in saline waters.

Cape Tribulation mangrove forest

Cape Tribulation beach above the mangrove forest