1994. A Great Year for Movies

If you were asked to pick your top ten movies of all time could you do it? In less than one minute? I mean reel them off, not in any particular order, but quickly?  Give a list of ten movies without having to think too hard about it?

It’s not easy is it? But I can do it. With a fair few notable mentions for those movies which I love but didn’t quite make my top ten.  And of that top ten, three of them were made in the same year: 1994.

Why 1994? I have no idea. I probably went to the movies a fair bit in that year but I only saw one of the three in the cinema. I have subsequently watched all three of them many times.

Why am I writing about this now you may ask? Well even if you are not asking that question I will tell you. I just watched one of them (again) using a free service from our local library. It’s like a Netflix style thing and it is free using your library membership number and password. Fantastic! In fact I may just cancel Netflix (as it is becoming increasingly crap anyway) but I need to see just how good this library service is. A quick look tells me it has a few old movies that Netflix does not…

The three movies from 1994 in my top ten are: Pulp Fiction, The Shawshank Redemption and Leon

Leon

The one I watched on that library network was Leon. Also called Leon. The Professional and it is possibly French film director Luc Besson’s best film. It stars Jean Reno and Natalie Portman in her film debut (and before she disappeared up her own backside). But for me Gary Oldman steals the show as the corrupt cop Stansfield. He is absolutely fantastic. It is one of those movies that contains certain scenes that I can watch again and again. That scene with Gary Oldman in particular, is out of this world. What a great performance.

“I like these calm little moments before the storm. It reminds me of Beethoven.”

Brilliant! It is my honest opinion that he should have won an Oscar on the strength of that one scene alone. And here it is on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=elx5n_uIEEM

Speaking of memorable scenes… That site also has the 1979 movie The Wanderers. A bit of a surprise as that is a difficult movie to find these days in any format. For anyone who knows the movie that one great scene is worth watching again and again. That scene is still available on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B2OGNhKILBQ

Oscars?

None of my three 1994 movies won any Oscars for the acting. Pulp Fiction won a screenplay award and I think that was it. A few acting nominations but no winners. Forrest Gump won most Oscars for that year’s films. I like that film but it’s not in my top ten.

Also in 1994 one of my favourite Aussie films was made – which I have mentioned before: The Adventures of Priscilla Queen of the Desert. That one won an Oscar – for best costume. No real surprises there eh?

First Teeth Lost

Dani lost his first teeth today. Finally. I suppose that is some kind of milestone in his young life. They were pulled out by a dentist. A robbing bastard of a dentist to be exact. No longer a full set of baby (milk) teeth. Mind you, the two new lower incisors were already there growing behind – like a shark!

Tooth Fairy vs Ratoncito Pérez

In the UK (Anglo world in general) the tooth fairy comes for your lost teeth. In Spain it’s a mouse. A character called Ratoncito (little mouse) Pérez. Not sure who gives the most money per tooth. Is it the fairy or the mouse? What is the going rate these days for a milk tooth?

Dani informed me that in his old school in Madrid, Ratoncito Pérez left one of his friends some Lego under the pillow. Lego! That’s more than the one or two dollars I had in mind. That’s settled then. No mice getting in here tonight. Mouse traps set and fairies only.

Forget the tooth fairy. These people are thieves. 

I thought that his four lower front teeth needed to come out but in the end only two. It cost $360 for two teeth pulled. In fact, just twisted slightly, hardly any effort. It would have taken less than a minute to pull the other two FFS! Now it will (probably) need another visit (2 hours +) and of course, more importantly than that, another $360. What a robbing bastard!

I have been in the wrong game all my life. I wonder if there are any online dentistry courses I can take? Or maybe jut learn it off YouTube? I am sure there are dentistry Apps! There’s easy money in pulling teeth. First lesson: Tying string to door handle!

Finally, a Trip to The Jenolan Caves

Looking down towards the Blue Lake, through Carlotta’s Arch

After being closed due to the covid lockdown and then more recently the heavy floods, the Jenolan Caves are once again open to the public. They are currently open but still with a limited capacity. However, we managed to book a night and a couple of tours there for my birthday.

Secluded Limestone Caves

The list of Jenolan Caves tours. Only three were open though…

It was quite cold when we arrived – about 2ºC – and there was definitely an Alpine feel to this secluded spot.

Only three caves were open to the public and we visited two of them. Btu looking through that list it is easy to see how you could spend a week here exploring the caves.

It is so secluded I had to ask our first guide how the hell this hidden valley was discovered. It turns out that authorities were looking for an escaped convict who had been in a chain gang working not too far away. It seems he had taken shelter in the valley realising how remote it was but in order to survive he had also been stealing from farms not that far away. He was tracked from some of his crime scenes back to the caves area. Then the cave systems were seen and the rest (as they say) is history…

On the ‘Six Foot Track’ that goes all the way to Katoomba

There are some huge stalagmites in parts of the cave
Folds of rock like sheets hanging to dry or large curtains.

Formations

Everyone knows that caves like these have stalactites (the ones that grow downwards) and stalagmites (the ones that grow upwards). But what I learned here was there are other formations called straws and shawls. The straws tend to hang down but are small in comparison to a typical stalactite. They are exactly like the tubular drinking straws, if you broke one off you could drink through it.

Also there were plenty of “shawls”. Water at the roof of a cave does not always form drops. Sometimes it trickles down a rockface, depositing a narrow strip of calcite, that eventually grows into a thin sheet at an angle from the wall. Shawls often contain interesting folds and can look like hanging sheets, curtains or even rashers of bacon. I don’t recall seeing these formations in other limestone caves we have visited. Maybe I just wasn’t paying attention? But at Jenolan caves these formations are plentiful and some are huge.

The Caves House hotel
Heritage listed ‘Alpine’ retreat

Caves House is an icon of Blue Mountains accommodation.  Built in 1897, NSW Government Architect, Walter Liberty Vernon, as a true wilderness retreat.  He designed it using the alpine, picturesque  ‘Federation, Arts and Crafts’ style. Caves House is on the NSW State Heritage Register.

I started to wonder which cave systems were the biggest/most visited etc. I wondered if the Jenolan caves were on any “top ten list” (or similar). After a quick look online I found out that this cave system is nothing compared to the Mammoth Cave in Kentucky, USA. That one covers around 80 square miles of limestone caves, with a network that gives it the title of the longest cave system in the world. 365 miles of the cave have been explored to date. That takes some beating.

That said I think the Jenolan caves are the best that I  have seen (so far). They are said to be the best of their kind in Australia and I would have to agree with that.

Getting there?

There is a saying that one of the best parts of a journey is the getting there. Something like that anyway. I beg to differ. And this journey is one example of why. The direct and shortest route was closed. It has been closed for some time after storm damage, rock slides etc… We had to take a longer route to get to the caves. It added another hour or more to the journey time. Not the worst possible outcome but with a moaning seven year old in the back seat…

At least we got to pass through and see a couple of out of the way places en-route; the small village of Tarana and the town of Oberon. Also on arrival the descent into the valley is quite spectacular from that side. Bends so tight you wouldn’t fit them on a hair-pin!

Duck Billed Platypus

Another great reason to visit the Jenolan caves was always to see the nearby Blue Lake. Sadly the Blue Lake is basically no longer there. At least it isn’t blue but full of gravel and access to it is closed off. Again the heavy rains caused so much flood damage and washed so much crap into the lake they have closed it off and it is now undergoing repair works.

The lake itself was home to possibly Australia’s favourite and certainly oddest animal; the duck billed platypus  – or simply platypus. We were told that some burrows have still been seen but it remains to be seen of the animals will continue to make the Blue Lake home.

Bloody hell! If it’s not covid it’s the weather.  Hopefully the Blue Lake will return to its former glory and with the main access road re-opened we will just have to try again.

57 Years Old

Today I am 57. It’s a number that always make me think of the food manufacturer Heinz. From when I was as young as Daniel I can remember my mum telling me it was something to do with the Heinz company having 57 varieties of tinned and bottled products. Back then I couldn’t even begin to imagine myself reaching 57 years of age.

Heinz 57. Why 57?

Thinking about it now I am turning 57 it seems a bit odd. There would have been a short time when they probably had 57 products on the market. But that number would have soon gone up (or down) as new products were brought to the shelves of shops. In fact, by 1892, four years before the slogan was created, the Heinz company was already selling more than 60 products. Somehow “Heinz 60” just doesn’t work does it?

Henry J. Heinz – the founder of the food company based in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania, USA –   introduced the marketing slogan “57 pickle Varieties” in 1896. Apparently he was inspired by an advertisement he saw in New York City for a shoe store boasting “21 styles”. The reason for “57” is actually not known for sure. Heinz said he chose “5” because it was his lucky number and the number “7” was his wife’s lucky number. Although “7” is generally considered a lucky number for many people so it could just be that.  Whatever the reasons, Heinz wanted the company to advertise their large choice of pickles and foods.

Older, Wiser, Richer?

I saw a couple of phrase the other day that seems to fit reaching the Heinz age. ‘The older you get the wiser you get’ – and I suppose that one is true. But they also say that as you reach retirement age you should be more financially secure. To that one I say this:

When I was young I was poor. But after decades of hard work, I’m no longer young.

All that may change now. Dani bought me a board game . Monopoly! He loves it. More on that one to come…

NAPLAN Week

This week was a hectic one in school. Dani’s school year (3) did their first NAPLAN tests. I had no idea what it was all about even though I did read the email from the school.

First of all what does it stand for? I knew it had to be an acronym so when the school email clearly assumed we knew what it was (when we didn’t), I had to look it up.

It stands for: National Assessment Program – Literacy And Numeracy (NAPLAN). the three-yearly sample assessments in science literacy, civics and citizenship, and information and communication technology (ICT) literacy, and participation in international sample assessments.

The Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) is the independent statutory authority responsible for the overall management of the Australian National Assessment Program, in collaboration with representatives from all states and territories and non-government school sectors.

NAPLAN is an annual assessment for all students in Years 3, 5, 7 and 9. It tests the essential skills for the kids to progress through school and life. The tests cover skills in reading, writing, spelling, grammar and punctuation, and numeracy. These assessments take place every year in the second full week in May.

So there you go. Now you know as much as me.

Some of the parents were getting worked up about it but I was not bothered. This is for the national government to see how those age groups overall are learning – or not! I think they have similar things in UK schools now (definitely not when I was in school!). I think they may be called SATS? Anyway, I was not worried and nor was Dani. I will probably write something about the results – if we ever get to see them…

He said it was easy. But then he has said that about other tests in the past and not performed that well. But as I am sure I have mentioned before I can see that his reading and writing is quite good so I am not really concerned. I am particularly impressed with his spelling – for  seven year old – what with English being a complete bastard of a language when it comes to spelling!

 

White Cliffs – Part Three

To the east of White Cliffs, a little way past the cemetery, the road turns to an unsealed outback road. A 30-odd kilometre drive took us into the Paroo-Darling National Park. This is genuine outback landscape.

Paroo Darling National Park

Some of the roads were perfectly passable. Even the emus were crossing…
But then after the rains we had some were only passable in a 4×4 vehicle

There wasn’t plenty of wildlife but the emus were out in force.

A family of emus keeps their distance in the bush

The Paroo-Darling National Park is huge. Over 178,000 hectares. There is plenty of space to tour, either in your car or walking. However after the recent heavy rains some roads were not passable for our two-wheel drive vehicle.

With all this space there is always a chance you will find an old abandoned vintage car. It seems to be a thing in these parts…

 

Sheep station at the edge of the national park
The young kids raised in this harsh environment grow up to be tough farmers.

Working Mine Trip

Dani and myself had been in opal mines in Lightning Ridge but Dani’s mum had not. This mine trip in White Cliffs was a fully operational mine that took visitors only at certain times/days. We got to see the mechanical digging machine followed by a chance to chip away carefully at the new workface.

I say “we”  but it was really the kids on the trip, and Dani was one of those that got to try his hand at unearthing a fresh opal underground.

The mine owner and guide. Informative, entertaining and funny
Dani inspecting the rock with his torch
Entering the mine
Not looking like he wants to enter this abandoned area
The latest live work face
The way up to the surface for the excavated dirt
Outside the mine

There was plenty more to this trip and the mine owner was more than willing to share his expert knowledge and walk us through all parts of the mine including those that had caved-in. It was very well attended too.

Making a couple of travel mates…

It’s always good for kids to mix with other kids even if they are not exactly the same age. In White Cliffs, during the mine tour, Dani was lucky enough to meet two brothers aged 11 and 12. They were really nice, well-mannered kids (I wish I could say the same about Daniel!). They too were on an outback adventure holiday with their mum.

Dani gives the thumbs down to the ice cream. But he really enjoyed the company of these two older boys.

I think they found the extremely talkative little seven year old a bit comical but they were very tolerant of him and great company for Dani on our last night in White Cliffs.

From here is was on to Broken Hill. A return visit to one of our favourite places for Dani and myself.

White Cliffs – Part Two

I quickly realised when I wrote the first White Cliffs post that this place needed at least two articles to do it justice. That’s the thing about places like White Cliffs (Lightning Ridge and Silverton also). As small as they are there always seems to be some quirky thing to see and photograph. And of course the surrounding scenery helps…

Quirky White Cliffs

One thing you can be sure of in these kind of places is that there are always good examples of the quirky or even crazy (in a nice way) nature of the people who live and work in them. To outsiders all of these outback mining towns have a certain level of craziness. ‘The largest unfenced loony bin in Australia,’ is how one person in Broken Hill supposedly described the town of White Cliffs. I see what he/she meant.

In White Cliffs some of the ‘highlights’ include several toilets dotted about the opal fields.

Nobody’s Toilet
Everybody’s Toilet
Somebody’s Toilet

There was another one called Busybody’s Toilet but I can’t find the photograph of that one.

Right in the heart of the town/village/hamlet*  there is an interesting type of art gallery. I think it was called Doug’s Place but I cannot find the information anywhere. Someone decided to make use of the number of railway line nails that were left lying around the outback.

Doug’s Place? Or whatever it was called… Let’s take a closer look…

A little bit of blacksmith-ery and welding and the result is a lot of unique little ornaments cum sculptures. Most of which can be bought. Just about every possible theme is covered. Below are just a few examples, there were so many more…
(* – delete as you see fit. Personally I think it is barely a village.)

Combat sports
More combat

Railway nail ‘people’ working on the railway
Taking a ‘selfie’

Dani loved this one of Ned Kelly

A larger sculpture of Ned Kelly.
An old fashioned deep sea diver

For something so simple it is easy to spend some time just walking around staring at these odd works of art. I am sure we still managed to miss a lot of them. There are also a large collection of old bottles which might interest a bottle collector. They are not exactly laid out on display but littered about the place.

There are even some Kama Sutra models
Buy your own nails and make your own…
And here is how to make them…

Then there is the ‘Stubbie House’ built with some 60,000 stubbie bottles. It operates as a shop and art gallery but sadly it was closed while we were there. For those who do not know a ‘stubbie’ is a small, squat beer bottle. It gets hot in White Cliffs so there would have been no shortage of used beer bottles. Still, you would think it would be easier to build a house with normal bricks.

The ‘Stubbie house’, in the wonderfully whacky White Cliffs
Built with thousands of old stubbie bottles – and a fair bit of mortar it has to be said.

Cemetery

The cemeteries in these frontier towns are always interesting. Not in a morbid sense but in an historical way. The cemetery at White Cliffs has that mix of first settlers and pioneers buried alongside recently deceased opal hunters.

There’s a little more to come of White Cliffs and the surrounding area…

By The Way…

This is the little railway nail sculpture we bought… in action.

Mother’s Day to be Partly Spoiled

So this year’s Mother’s Day in Sydney (and NSW in general) will be at least partly spoiled by the NSW government. All thanks to two – that’s 2 (only one more than ONE!) – cases of covid (apparently) being found in some part of Sydney. The state government are imposing some further restrictions for a three day period. Masks are to be worn for the next three days on public transport and shops and in pubs and restaurants, but of course not when eating or drinking. It just makes life a little more difficult doesn’t it. And the new rules will include this Sunday. All for these two supposed cases. Of which we know very little. Like are these people dying? Are they even ill? Is it just that they have anti-bodies (naturally or otherwise)? Who knows? Nobody in government or most of the media ever asks these questions. Frankly I couldn’t care less. I just wish these people would grow up.

I tend to get most of my news from the radio these days when I am driving. When I heard about the new “covid restrictions” being imposed the following story was about the vaccines. It reported that there had been six (that’s 6 ! Four more than 2) cases of blood clots from people who had recently received the vaccine. But the news reader simply read that part out and moved on to something else. After a few minutes on the previous news item of the 2 covid “cases”. Unbelievable isn’t it? Sadly it’s true and it’s happening. All too often.

At least here in Australia there is an alternative voice in the media which does ask the questions I posed above. Sky News Australia articles can be found on YouTube as well as the TV. They do try to show up the government’s knee-jerk reactions – and more.

Actually, I have just remembered. This Sunday Dani has another birthday party. In one of those activity places with games and trampolines and climbing frames etc… Usually packed full of germ ridden kids spreading and exchanging their bacteria like a load of two legged viruses in a petri dish like environment. Sounds great! Wonder if it will be cancelled?

Free Beers and Free Medicare

NSW Gift Voucher Scheme

The state of New South Wales has implemented a cash giveaway scheme to inject some money into the local economy. It is called ‘Dine and Discover’. We got ours a couple of days ago. I guess other states are doing similar so called ‘stimulus’ schemes.

Basically they are giving every adult in NSW $100 worth of vouchers. There are four vouchers each worth $25. Two ($50 worth) can be spent in the hospitality sector such as pubs and restaurants, while the other two are for entertainment and cultural activities such as concerts or entry to certain attractions. The official line is “to encourage the community to get out and about and support dining, arts and recreation businesses.” Encourage? Hardly. Who is gong to turn down the chance of free money? Then again, that old saying springs to mind, “Nothing is free”. It all has to be paid for somehow.

We had to wait a while as obviously when the government is handing over cash – or in this case gift vouchers – for free, then there will always be people eager to wait in line. Personally I think it’s bloody crazy but hey. If it’s there for the taking why not? It will only go to someone else if we do not claim what is rightfully our share of this mad handout. As far as I am concerned my vouchers will be spent in one particular area of the hospitality sector. One that I have already been supporting right the way through this “pandemic” – when they have been allowed to open that is… $50 still buys a few beers over here.

It begs the question: Wouldn’t it have been better not to tank the economy in the first place by forcing businesses to shutdown and then not have to inject wads of cash to get it going again? Just a thought….

Medicare

This week I actually got around to submitting my application for Medicare for Dani and myself. Dani’s mum does not qualify being (full) Spanish, but as I am a British citizen I qualify under a reciprocal agreement for free health care between the two countries.

I wasn’t sure Dani would qualify as his passport is Spanish but after a quick check the ladies in the office said that he did. He will now be on my Medicare card when it arrives. Again it’s free medical care so although we already have private health insurance (a re-requisite to getting the visa) this will be easier to use as most medical places charge first when private insurance is used then you claim it back. With Medicare most (I am told) do not charge as it is covered by the state. We shall see how that actually works in practice. Not that I am keen to use any of the medical services of course.

It wasn’t that I didn’t know about this or that I hadn’t completed the paperwork. It was just that every time I went near the office there was always a long queue just to get in the bloody building. This particular day however there was only a queue inside the building.

Once inside one of the two security guards asked me had I experienced any covid symptoms. I just said “no” but could have easily said something like, “No mate, I have been too ill with TB and the Hep. C hasn’t helped.” I am sure he wouldn’t have known what to say. The world has gone covid nuts. It’s like there is no other illness or ailment. So pathetic.

Looking Forward…

The future does not seem good for us being able to travel out,  then fly back into Australia. Not in the foreseeable future at least (I think). They are not even allowing Australian citizens to return to their own country! I know that sounds bizarre but it is all down to the numbers and how many they can deal with in “quarantine” when they return. Still, I find that failure to recognise their own citizens rights a scandal.

Another Word on ANZAC Day 2021

While we commemorated an excellent ANZAC Day with a fairly large gathering of people, other parts of Australia were not so lucky. In Victoria (that most communist of states in Australia it has to be said) old aged veterans were barred from attending services as the numbers were strictly limited. To 400 – or was it 4000? Anyway the crowd size limit was relatively small. So many veterans and indeed many other citizens were unable to really take part.

Yet later in the same day a crowd of 75,000 attended an Aussie Rules Football game at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (aka MCG). Unbelievable right? The same state officials allowed this to happen were the ones locking out old veterans wanting to pay their respects to their fallen comrades. It beggars belief doesn’t it?

In Western Australia…

Meanwhile in Western Australia (WA) they have recently had a Covid panic. Apparently a few tested positive (whatever the hell that even means these days) in hotel quarantine. I think. Again, as I pay such little attention to the propaganda bullshit news these days I may not be fully accurate with that but it’s close enough. The knee jerk reaction of the WA “leaders” was to close the state border and lock everyone down (again) for several days. This included ANZAC Day.

Fools…

These people are lunatics. Idiots. They allow 75,000 to watch a game then come out with random (new) figures each week for how many can attend a wedding or funeral. And then whether or not they can dance or sing at these events. Really! They must sit around a table once a week while one person selects an event/activity card blindly from a sack (at random like a prize draw) while another presses a random number generator button for how many people can take part in said selected event. At least I hope that’s how they do. Because the alternative is too scary. If they are sitting in an office thinking they are producing these numbers scientifically and correctly then we have truly had it! It is utter madness.

But who are the real fools? The fools who make the stupid rules or the fools who follow them?

Anyway. Time to climb off my soap-box again…For now… Enjoy the week ahead.