Film Review – Papillon (2017)

Not to be confused with the 1973 film version of Papillon starring Steve McQueen as the French convict Henri Charrière; this 2017 version totally passed me by when it first came out.

I recently spotted it on DVD in the local library – and given that the 1973 version is highly ranked in my top movies of all time – I thought, ‘OK I will give it a go’.

I seemed to recall putting something in a post about the original McQueen movie and so I watched this new version. And in fact I did mention both way back in this post (click here… ) when talking about classic great escape movies.

Papillon 2017

Unfortunately this movie, while quite good, was always going to be compared to the 1973 film. You just can’t help it. What did the film makers expect? Well, sure enough, on that basis, it was just not as good as the original.

It could have been better because the original movie was not without it’s flaws. The annoying Dustin Hoffman as Papillon’s fellow convict Louis Dega for one thing. But what does the new version go and do? It puts Rami Malek (aka Freddie Mercury) in the roll of Dega. Not nearly as annoying but certainly less convincing. He just doesn’t feel right in this roll.

The Plot and Lost Opportunity…

The 2017 film starts by trying to show us how Papillon lived – and let’s not forget,  stole – in the 1930s Paris crime scene. This was a divergence form the original movie but (for me) was the poorest part of the new film. The plot is then almost exactly the same once the prisoners leave for the French penal colony of French Guiana. Why wouldn’t it be? (you may well ask). Because it is all taken from the book of the same name, the autobiography by Henri Charrière; “Papillon” himself.

Well actually it isn’t. As is usually the case with films and books, the book is quite different. And often much better. (I also found the book in the same library. More on that one in a book review to come…) In the real story the character of Dega is not a constant presence. I understand that casting Dustin Hoffman in the roll in 1973 meant that he was going to have plenty of script. But the new version did not need to do that. It could have introduced new characters and phased Dega out of the picture. More true to the book.

In short the book is way too long and drawn out to be made in to a two hour (or so) movie. But herein lies the problem with the remake. It makes no attempt to use different sections of the book. It still ends at the same point when Papillon escapes Devil’s Island. Papillon made himself a lovely sack of coconuts (so to speak) for that escape, but that was by no means the end of his tale. I was hoping that the new version would go into some detail of the events that followed the jumping into the sea clutching his ‘bunch of coconuts’. But it didn’t.

The only difference is the 2017 film then jumps to the late 1960s when Charrière flies back to France to hand over his handwritten manuscript for publication. And that’s it! What about the (best part of) 30 years in between?

Critique (in as much as I can be bothered)

Papillon is played by English actor Charlie Hunnam who is not a bad actor, but he is also not Steve McQueen. And again, it is impossible not to compare the two. The film sets and general acting are fine but the overall this 2017 movie was a missed opportunity.

One fine example is the second (and longer) term Papillon spends in solitary confinement. Who can forget the state of Steve McQueen in the 1973 film when he had served that punishment? But that was not what happened. The real story (in the book) of how he came to get out of his second spell in solitary actually makes for far more interesting cinema.

All that said, I would expect newcomers to this story to enjoy the 2017 version. The real life based tale is a compelling one after all. But I would urge them to watch the original film also.

The best thing that came out of this remake was that it inspired me to finally get around to reading the book. I will give this 2017 movie 2 stars (out of 5). But my tip to anyone who has watched the McQueen version of this movie is to just read the book instead.
In fact, everyone should read it.

Gunnedah to Bourke

There are several routes you can take from Gunnedah to Bourke. We took the quickest and most obvious one but it was still an interesting journey.

Narrabri

First place we passed was Narrabri. A town of around 6000 people and some interesting old buildings.

Is that an Art Deco McDonalds?
Pub in Narrabri
Narrabri Old Gaol and Museum

We were fortunate enough to catch an old second hand book shop before it closed down. They were giving books away for free – but really asking for any donation. So we paid a small amount and left with a handful of books each.

Australian Telescope…

Just over 20km west of Narrabri is a place of astronomical importance to Australia. This is the home of the Australian Telescope Compact Array (or ATCA for short). This is called the Paul Wild Observatory. It is an array of six antennas, each 22 metres in diameter, used for radio astronomy.

Like all telescopes the rule of thumb is the bigger the telescope the better the range and signal. For radio telescopes, the larger the dish the more detail can be seen (or heard). But having a dish of (say) 100m in diameter is not practical. So, these dishes are connected as if all small parts of a much bigger dish. This compact array mimics a dish of 6km in diameter. The five dishes at this site are mobile while the sixth dish is fixed and located 5km away. The five mobile dishes move on railway track that is 9.6m wide and 3km in length.

The original array can still be seen on the drive into this observatory. Almost hidden by the trees, rusting and only the frame structures remaining.

Remains of dishes from the old telescopic array

We then made our way over to Walgett to pick up the B76 road to Bourke. That road took us through the town of Brewarrina.

Brewarrina

The town of Brewarrina has a small population of not much more than 1000 inhabitants. As soon as we drove into the place I noticed some familiar artwork in the form of murals.

Several examples of John Murray’s artwork can be seen around the town

Back in 2019 the Brewarrina Shire Council came up with an art project initiative to add a splash of colour to the town and improve the community’s mental health. The resulting artwork and indigenous culture has brightened up the town and (according to what I have read) the people who live there.

Local children were asked for their input about local culture, indigenous stories and what Brewarrina meant to them. This information was used as a brief for artists John Murray and Jenny McCracken. John Murray we already knew from Lightning Ridge and Dani recognised his artwork immediately.  Jenny McCracken of course painted the water towers in Gunnedah – see previous post – and is (I discovered) an internationally renowned  mural artist and Australia’s most highly-awarded pavement artists.

Both Murray and McCracken are non-indigenous so they painted in their own style. The local children then added the finishing touches with traditional dreamtime painting. The results are colourful murals on what were once drab grey or beige walls.

Even the public toilets got a fresh new look

Brewarrina Traditional Fish Traps

Brewarrina sits on the Barwon river and there is an excellent example of ancient Aboriginal fishing traps. The traditional fish traps at Brewarrina are made up of almost a half a kilometre long complex of dry-stone walls and holding ponds on the river. These fish traps are the largest group recorded in Australia and are cleverly arranged to allow fish to be herded and caught during both high and low river flows.

The Brewarrina fish traps
Aboriginal fishing traps on the Barwon river

The Brewarrina Aboriginal Fish Traps is historically and culturally a very important place. It was listed on the New South Wales State Heritage Register in August 2000 and added to the Australian National Heritage List in June 2005.

Sadly Brewarrina, like many other small towns we would see on this trip, is somewhat in decline. The main industry of sheep farming was set up by using boats on the Darling Murray river network back in the late 1800s. The railway line that followed in 1901 was closed in 1974. While farming still exists there are far fewer people passing through the town than in the days of the paddle boats and railways.

One thing I note of when reading about Brewarrina was it was the home of the first Indigenous published author – one Jimmie Barker. I must look out for his bookThe two worlds of Jimmie Barker : the life of an Australian Aboriginal, 1900-1972 – as I think that is just the kind of book I will find interesting.

Brewarrina Hotel. Classic example of a hotel in small town Australia

We only planned on passing through Brewarrina on this trip as we would stay a few nights at Bourke. If I passed this way again I would stay in Brewarrina and see more of the area.

Next stop Bourke; the so called ‘gateway to the outback’.

Heading for the Outback – via Gunnedah

Flashback to January 2nd. Day one of our big road-trip and a long drive from Sydney to Gunnedah. A distance of 450km taking about 5 hours. We started early which seemed to make leaving Sydney fairly easy. But it did rain most of the way.

The route took us north close to Newcastle, then inland along the “New England” highway, passing places called Aberdeen and Scone; all still in New South Wales.

Scone

Other places we passed through include Willow Tree, Muswellbrook and Curlewis. None of which I had ever heard of. We stopped in Scone, named after the Scottish town, for breakfast. Scone is a farming area but it is also famous for breeding thoroughbred race horses. It is known as the ‘Horse capital of Australia’ and there are plenty of stud farms to prove it.

Scone Anglican Church

It turned out that there was no place open serving food. We ended up using the McDonald’s on the edge of town. Most of the small towns we passed through had a McDonalds. Not something I think of as being good for a rural town, but it is the way things are going.

Scone is a pleasant enough little place and could be worth a proper visit for one of the horse racing festivals. One building that stood out for me was the old art deco cinema on the main high street. This beautiful building was being restored. This was taken over two months ago and I have rea that the elegant art deco façade has since been revealed in all its former glory. Another return visit must do…

The Civic cinema in Scone – being renovated

Coal

I knew the area north and west of Newcastle was a big coal mining region. There are several signs of mining and coal fired power stations along the route. I did not know that Gunnedah was so dependent on the coal industry.

Tribute to the coal town’s miners
Gunnedah from one of the area’s lookouts
Farmland as far as the eye can see. But also coal!

Gunnedah is a thriving, smart and clean little town. The wealth generated by the coal industry obviously helps. However, there are many ‘greens’ in Australia who would shut the industry down without a second thought. I won’t print what I think of those types here but maybe you can guess.

Gunnedah Town Hall
Sculptures in a town park

We saw several long coal trains along the way and many small towns have a rail link. If the coal industry is closed down there is no way the passenger trains could pay for the upkeep of the railways in this part of the world. The coal industry is very profitable in Australia. I see no reason to stop it.

Why have I never seen one of these before?

A small kids park near the town centre had an unusual but clever swing. It incorporated one of those baby swings with a normal (adult) swing. The parent can sit facing the baby/toddler while both move together. What a great idea! Why has nobody thought of that before? Maybe they have been around for while, but I had never seen one.

What a great idea.

Koalas and Art in Gunnedah

Gunnedah is also famous for being a centre for koala spotting. We tried al the main spots around the edge of town but had no luck. We did see a fair few of the ubiquitous kangaroos however.

Vietnam war artwork is not something you see very often, but Gunnedah has some. The artist Jenny McCracken painted an old water tower  – after it was converted to a museum – with commemorative murals to those who fought in that war. This has become part of a growing interest in this part of the world – known as the Australian Silo Art Trail.

Another fine example of silo art is the painting of Dorothea Mackellar and an extract from her famous poem “My Country”. This has been immortalized on this 29 metre high, privately owned maize mill in the town. Silo artist (yes that is a real thing now!) Heesco completed the artwork. More on Heesco to come…

Dorothea is famous for writing one of Australia’s most iconic poems, “My Country”. Here is the famous second verse:
I love a sunburnt country,
A land of sweeping plains,
Of ragged mountain ranges,
Of droughts and flooding rains.
I love her far horizons,
I love her jewel-sea,
Her beauty and her terror
The wide brown land for me!
Who says this old dad is uncultured eh?

On to the Outback

By 9pm I was ready for bed. There was another long drive the following morning; some 550km to Bourke, the start of the real outback.

OK, this all happened two months ago and I need to catch up – quickly! So over the next couple of weeks I will add posts for the rest of the outback adventure. I need to hurry. In three week’s time Dani will be on school holidays again and we will be off again…

Orange – Major Fruit Growing Town (but not oranges)

On the way back from our trip to Lightning Ridge we stopped for a night in Orange. As the name suggests this area is a big fruit growing area. Apples, pears, cherries, peaches, apricots, and plums, but oddly not oranges! The reason is simple. The climate is too cool for growing oranges. As the town sits at about 860 metres above sea level it can have regular frost during the winter. Despite that the area is becoming an increasingly popular place for vineyards and hence wine-making.

The main industry is agriculture but there is also a large gold mine about 20km from the city. Cadia is the second largest open-cut mine in Australia, behind the the so called ‘Super Pit’ at Kalgoorlie, Western Australia. The area around Orange experienced a gold rush during the mid-1800s.

We had passed through Orange on the Outback Xplorer train to Broken Hill several months earlier. But the train route passes the edge of town so you never really see anything. This short visit we had a good old look around the town.

First Impressions

My immediate impression once we started walking around the town centre was that Orange is a thriving place. For example, there did not seem to be any empty shops.

That particular observation changed in an instant after a car sped round a corner where we were waiting to cross, mounted the opposite curb (the one we were heading to) and crashed through an empty shop window. One way to notice an empty shop I suppose. The driver was clearly stunned but OK. He must have just lost control or forgotten where the brakes were? Dani thought it was exciting. I should have taken some photos but it really took us by surprise. Amazingly the car missed the people opposite us waiting to cross. It could have been a lot worse.

This eatery helped foster the Ned Kelly fascination
One of the ‘historical’ buildings on the self guided waking tour
The shop front boarded up following the crash

Apart from that one place of business however, I really didn’t notice any empty shop fronts. All that after the crazy year 2020 everyone has been through. Not bad I thought…

The town has plenty of historic looking buildings and we followed the heritage trail map we picked up at the tourist information. Here are some of them…

Courthouse

I can’t remember what they were or what they were famous for but the walk was pleasant enough. It also took us into Cook Park where there were various non-native trees including some giants.

One of several Giant Sequoias
Cook Park, Orange
Inside the park
A typical leafy street in Orange
Bandstand in Cook Park
Leafy street scene near Cook Park

Pubs. Lots of them!

Another thing I liked about Orange was the number of pubs it had in a relatively small area. Probably the highest density of pubs I have seen so far in Australia. Here are a few photos of some of those watering holes…

The Blind Pig. A gin bar and place to get blind drunk…
Royal Hotel at night
Great Western Hotel opposite the station
Only in Australia?
The Parkview Hotel
Royal Hotel. Another Art Deco pub
The Gladstone pub. Nothing fancy on the outside…
Hotel Canobolas from the cenotaph in Robertson Park

In Australia many of the “pubs” are also “hotels” of course. (Don’t ask me why but I do need to get to the bottom of that one.) So they also serve decent food. There are also a relatively large number of restaurants in the town centre. So it’s a great place to visit just to relax for a weekend of eating and drinking .And that’s before you try the area’s wine cellars.

Museum

Not the best museum I have seen I will admit. But there was an interesting exhibition of propaganda through the world wars. here are some of them.

Dani watching a war-time propaganda film

Model Railway

Matthew Park just one block off the tow centre had the best small gauge rideable model railway set up I have ever seen. But it was closed. You guessed it. Bloody Covid crap again! Anyway this model railway had multiple shunting lines, several routes, two bridge crossings and a “station”. Check it out below…

Dani’s feet put the scale into perspective.

With several routes this model railway is the best I have seen.

Bridge crossing
Entering the mock station

We never saw any of the fruit growing, wineries or gold mining (old or new) on this visit – just the town. But I think it’s fair to say that we liked Orange. Another visit, with a proper plan to explore the surrounding areas, is already in my mind.

Children’s Books and The ‘Cancel Culture’

Here is another of those articles I started writing and never posted (first written in November 2018! Wow!) In this case I think I got pissed off reading something about long since deceased children’s author Enid Blyton. It was to do with more censorship of her books or characters. I really don’t recall exactly. Anyway only last week we have seen another similar thing happening with that old kids favourite Dr. Seuss. He too has fallen foul of the cancel culture idiots. And guess what? I am really pissed off about it.

First here is the original post I wrote about Enid Blyton…

Books, Old and New…

I have recently started reading Enid Blyton to Dani. For those who do not know, Enid Blyton was a prolific children’s writer from the mid 1920s through to her passing away in 1968. Known by just about everyone in the UK and probably most of the English speaking world.

I had recently found a couple of classic Blyton books in a second hand shop. Part of the same series of stories; ‘The Enchanted Wood’ (written in 1939) and ‘The Magic Faraway Tree’ (written in 1943). Both penned before Dani’s nanna was even born. I started with The Magic Faraway Tree. Now obviously ‘The Enchanted Wood’ was the first in this series so I should have started with that one. But before any of you Enid Blyton fans out there jump all over me there is a valid reason: (In typical Blyton style) To my complete astonishment I simply couldn’t find The Enchanted Wood.

The works of Enid Blyton have come in for a lot of scrutiny at the hands of the politically correct brigade since I first read them when I was a young boy.  They were written in a different time when political correctness meant something more like a politician actually doing the job they were elected to do (if it meant anything at all). The books are littered with phrases like “how queer!”, “very peculiar” and with children named Dick and Fanny (common names back then of course).

Newer issues of the same Enchanted Wood books have the names changed to Rick and Franny. Crazy stuff, especially when you consider that the Dick of Enid Blyton’s most famous series of stories – The Famous Five – remains a Dick (so to speak). So why have they changed the boy’s name in the Enchanted Wood series? There really is no sensible explanation.

The works of Blyton have come under attack several times over the years. From the Golliwogs in her Noddy stories to harmless old fashioned character names. The reality is that Blyton’s books are pure innocence and no harm or offence could possibly have been intended. I just wish people would leave these things alone. Sadly not much chance of that these days. This is the world my boy is growing up in.

Now for Dr. Seuss.

The six Dr. Seuss books and how they have been deemed “offensive”

Last week the works of that classic children’s stories Theodore Seuss Geisel – aka Dr. Seuss – came in for criticism by the cancel culture lot. Yes, the writer of books such as The Cat in the Hat, Fox in Socks and Green Eggs and Ham and many other whacky works of literature loved by young and old alike.

One Example…

McElligot’s Pool? Personally I have never heard of it. But what the hell can anyone find offensive about an Eskimo standing outside an igloo in a kid’s book? Don’t those dumb, ice dwelling, seal smelling, penguin eating scumbags build igloos any more? Oops! Well, there’s the proof. Those Dr. Seuss books that I did read must have had a really bad effect on me…. (That was a bit of sarcasm by the way.)

In case you are interested here is the McElligot’s Pool book read out in a video I found on YouTube…  Maybe you can see it before it is “taken down”…


McElligot’s Pool by Dr. Seuss. The “offensive” bit is about 4:30 in.

Here is another one. Dr. Seuss’s first book apparently, And to Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street. Viewer Warning: disgusting, vile and horrendous levels of racism. Nah, only joking. Totally inoffensive.


And To Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street by Dr. Seuss

Whatever next?

But seriously. Where will this bullshit end? I think I know the answer to that one. I read it in the same newspaper editorial comment in fact. It stated that only five years ago Michelle Obama, wife of then President of the USA Barak Obama, made a big deal of Dr. Seuss and how his books were great for children. The president himself was also a vocal fan of the Doc’s work. Now, only five years on, the new president Joe Biden is keeping his head down while Dr. Seuss is getting slaughtered by the PC/woke brigade. The point being that anything can change so radically in such a short space of time. The editorial suggested that maybe even Obama will be cancelled by these lunatics in the near future.

Interesting isn’t it? Let’s hope these fools end up disappearing up their own arseholes and cancelling themselves in the process.

Bronte Gully and Beach

I wrote this post ten months ago in May of 2020 but for some reason never posted it. I took the same walk today and so I have added a few photos and comment at the end of this original post. Even though last May we were supposedly in the grip of a lockdown (not that there ever has been one really here), it was definitely more crowded than it was today. Very odd, especially considering today the weather was perfect.

Anyway here is the original post…

The weather took a surprising turn for the better today (Weds) so I went for a lunchtime walk to Bronte Beach.

Bronte Gully

The gully is a 3.5 hectare area of natural beauty containing lush native vegetation. The gully leads down steep slopes from Bronte Road and Murray Road to a flat grass park then onto Bronte beach. The area is an green oasis between the urban area and the beach. There are many similar areas of natural parkland all over the Sydney area.

Within 15 minutes (at my pace) of leaving the house I was here at the waterfall.

Bronte Gully Waterfall
Trees in Bronte Gully

Bronte Gully Walk

Bronte Beach & Baths

It takes a few minutes to walk down the gully and onto the open park of grass that lies in front of the beach. Bronte beach is smaller than its neighbour Bondi but definitely less crowded.

The Bronte baths ocean pool is only 30 metres but again it is less crowded than its more well known 50 metre neighbour, Bondi Icebergs pool. What’s more Bronte Baths is free. When open that is. Like most things at the moment this baths was closed. We have managed to swim in this one though not long after we first arrived in Sydney.

Bronte Baths

The beach was open for surfers and swimmers only. There were plenty of them too. Like any normal day before this virus started closing things. There were some larger than normal waves today also. Almost 3 metres tall. Which made watching the surfers a bit more interesting.

Waves of up to 3 metres today
Surfers crowd the waves

A very pleasant walk to a nice spot.

10 months later…

I took the same walk today. The beach and rock pool were both officially open (as they have been for some time now) but the area was much less crowded. There were far fewer surfers in the water also. Quite odd really.

Bronte baths rock pool
A wave breaks over the wall of the pool
A strangely quiet Bronte beach


Waves break over the pool wall.

The Real Outback Opal Hunters of Grawin

No trip to Lightning Ridge is compete without a visit to the opal fields of Grawin. This is real outback opal mining country. Probably how Lightning Ridge itself would have been in the early days. Look it up on the map, it really is out there on its own…

The Ridge to Grawin

The Grawin opal fields lies about 30km as the crow flies from Lightning Ridge more or less south-west. But it still takes almost an hour to get there as there is no direct road. Heading south on the main road out of The Ridge there is a small road just past Stanley the Emu. This brings you to the small village of Cumborah. From there you head north for about 17km then take a left turn onto unsealed roads for Grawin. Not only are the roads unsealed from this point they are also quite rough in places. It is manageable in a 2 wheel drive vehicle but low profile cars are likely to take a beating.

Detour door
Some roads seem ok. Others are quite rough.

Grawin opal fields is a genuine example of a living, working pioneer town. It appears more a collection of homes and mines with the odd service industry. But it is still home to enough people with that frontier spirit that built countries like Australia. There is a petrol station and shop as well as several pubs. All built by the miners who have come and gone over the years, or have stayed on.

There is even a nine hole golf course – of sorts.

Grawin Opal Fields mine
Mining activity is all around
Grawin Petrol Station and shop

Orange Car Door Tour

Remember the coloured car door tours set up around Lightning Ridge? If not read the posts on  The Ridge herehere and here….Well the area around Grawin is that fifth car door tour – the Orange doors.

Grawin is on the Orange Car Door Tour. Maps available at the Lightning Ridge tourist information office

We stopped in the famous Club in the Scrub for a light refreshment while Dani bought an ‘opal’ ring for his cousin Susana. (Which reminds me, where did we put that?).

Dani outside the Club in the Scrub
First a pub then a golf course?
The tenth hole is the pub

TV reception for the Club in the Scrub

There are two other pubs in the Grawin fields. One is called The Sheepyard Inn, jokingly referred to as ‘the best baaaaa in the outback’. The third is the even more humorously named Glengarry Hilton. But who is to say that others won’t pop up in the near future. These are classic outback pubs. Great places with great characters and all built by the pioneering miners. I am not saying that I could live in such a place but I would certainly go back in an instant. All of them offer accommodation and hearty meals. as well as cold liquid refreshment.

The miners even thought about the minors when they built the pub.
Water is a precious commodity out here
The best baaaa?
Inside the Club in the Scrub

Outback Pubs

This is classic outback. Frontier stuff. I have read about the first community buildings that different nationalities erect when they settle down to make a new town. It goes something like this: The first thing Americans build is a school, while the English always built a shop first. In this part of the world I guess the first focal point for the community to be built is a pub.

The roads through Cumborah
Completely abandoned old garage.
I wonder how many old car like this are abandoned in the outback?
St. Peters in the Pines church at Cumborah

The road back to Lighting Ridge was the same, via Cumborah. There is nothing worth stopping for in Cumborah. Not even a pub as far as I could tell. Yet in this part of the world there are many similar tiny towns that do have the classic outback pub. The most famous one is perhaps the Carinda Hotel which was used by David Bowie to film the video for his 1983 hit ‘Let’s Dance’.
Check out that pub in the music video on this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VbD_kBJc_gI

We would go on to see quite a few interesting outback pubs over these school holidays.

End of Summer & School Swimming Carnival

Yesterday – 1st of March – was the first day of Autumn in the Australian way of doing seasons. That is to say that summer is officially over down-under. Not that you would have noticed. The past two days have probably been the best two consecutive days since New Year’s Day. Less rain at least. It has been a particularly wet “summer”.

Swimming Carnival

Today as the school swimming carnival so just like last year the school went to Drummoyne Olympic size outdoor pool. Was that a year ago? Wow! You can read about that one here… Actually, that reminds me; I need to write a book review of Shane Gould’s autobiography. I read it last Easter (ugh!)- ages ago.

Anyway, here is a light-hearted look at this year’s swimming gala… Sorry, carnival.

Covid versus Swimming

This year was different. No parents (or grandparents, whatever) were allowed in to the viewing area. Covid for crying out loud. Agh!!!! Pathetic I know. There were hundreds of kids packed under the shaded area with teachers too. Social distancing (for what it’s worth) would have been easy (despite it being impossible with the kids) for any parents, as there was plenty of space elsewhere. Ah well…

Not to be put off I went over to Drummoyne and found that several parents were pitched up at a fence overlooking the pool, almost under the main road bridge. I got there too late for the freestyle events (front crawl in old money) but I did manage to see Dani swim the backstroke and breast stroke. In the end I got to watch from a decent vantage point and had a good natter with one of the parents who had recently moved to Sydney from Bathurst.

Had the swimming lessons paid off? Well yes. Not just for Dani but for all the kids actually. Certainly all the ones who struggled a little last year had also been having lessons. One-to-one in some cases. So things were not much different this year…

Results…

He came in last in the backstroke but only just. There was very little in it really for all of the racers. In fact due to the amount of zig-zagging he did I think we could claim a moral victory. He could even claim some sort of new record as he covered almost twice the distance of some of his fellow competitors. Well done Dani hahaa…

Next was the breast stroke. Again he finished last but there was stiff competition for that spot from two other kids, each determined to seize the ‘wooden spoon’. In reality Dani came third last – or fourth out of six, which sounds better eh? The reason was that the other two slower swimmers both cheated. The second last kid did so by pulling himself along the lane dividing floats for the final 20 metres or so. I say “cheated” but actually he was probably only saving his own life. Nothing wrong with that I suppose. Basic self preservation. The third last finisher  used the freestyle leg kick to get himself to the end. Under proper rules they would have both been disqualified. But only a grumpy old dad who has just seen his boy cheated into last place would be bitter enough to raise such minor infringements eh? Don’t look at me!

That said, Dani would have finished a lot stronger if he had not spent so much time watching those other two. Still, a proud old dad then left the scene. Dani had said that he didn’t want to do the butterfly this year. He confirmed later that he hadn’t splashed out a butterfly stroke. Almost a shame. That was by far the funniest race last year.

And the one I missed…

Just before I arrived he swam the freestyle (aka front crawl in old money). He says he finished third out of eight which is quite impressive. And I believe him. His freestyle swimming really seems to have come on this year. Bloody typical I should miss it.

 

Film Review – The Little Things

Denzel is back. In his first film since 2018! The Little Things is in cinemas here in Australia and it is a very welcome return for Mr. Washington.

The last film he starred in was The Equalizer 2, a fairly good action movie where he played an ex-agent turned vigilante (more or less). In this latest movie Washington plays deputy sheriff Joe Deacon.

Movie Plot

Deacon seems to be avoiding his past, when he was a highly respected detective in Los Angeles. But when he visits his old stomping ground to collect evidence (pertaining to a case in his new jurisdiction) he becomes intrigued by the similarities of recent murders to an old unsolved case he had investigated.

The film has two other main characters. One is detective Jimmy Baxter played by Rami Malek – famous for looking like Freddie Mercury (and indeed playing him in Bohemian Rhapsody). At first I was unconvinced by Malek and thought the role didn’t suit him. But he seemed to grow into the role and got better as the film went on.

The main suspect is a Charles Manson-like loner called Albert Sparma, excellently played by Jared Leto.

Deacon is haunted by his past and there are subtle flashbacks to a time when he worked for the same department as Jimmy Baxter. Meanwhile Baxter is the new college kid on the block trying to make a name for himself. The two team up after Baxter finds out who Deacon is. Baxter has heard a lot about Deacon and asks him to accompany him to a crime scene, hoping he may spot something.

Baxter is investigating a serial killer whose latest crime resembles an old case that Deacon worked on – a case that still haunts him. Whatever happened in the past cost Deacon his marriage, a heart attack and his (apparent) demotion. Deacon sees similarities in the recent killings with an old case he worked and wants to help. He is advised not to get involved so takes some vacation time in order to make his own enquiries. This leads him to Sparma who works for a local repair store close to several of the murders.

The cautious and cunning Sparma is soon onto Deacon and a classic game of cat and mouse ensues. Soon, Deacon convinces Baxter that Sparma is their man. But desperate to get the required evidence the duo effectively end up stalking their suspect.

Spoiler Alert

It is hard to say much about the movie without giving too much away. The ending reminded me of that 1990s movie Seven. There were definitely some similarities.

The latest girl to disappear is described as wearing a big red “barrette” (which I did not know is a type of hair clip) and this makes an appearance right at the end. But with a clever little twist.

Deacon has been through the trauma of overworking a case and can see that Baxter is in danger of sliding down the same path. His constant warnings go unheeded however leading to the final outcome.

Critique

The earlier comparison to Seven was referring to the ending but could equally apply to the two main detective characters and even the main suspect. That said any comparisons are a little unfair as this movie has a good story of its own. I also made the Manson comparison which is not unknown for bad guys in this type of story. When you see the movie you will not be able to shake that one out of your head – and for that I apologise. It does not detract from Leto’s performance however.

The reason for Deacon’s apparent demotion from detective to local sheriff’s office is kept under wraps until near the end so the suspense and anticipation remains throughout.

This is a decent movie with a good performance that we have come to expect from Denzel Washington. There is an average performance by Malik and a very convincing performance by Leto. Overall I would give this movie 3.5 stars (out of 5).

It is a dark crime thriller (film noir?) that manages to keep you on the edge of your seat for the most part. Worth watching.

Bathurst – A Lap of the Mount Panorama Motor Racing Circuit

This post is specifically to show our lap of the Mount Panorama motor racing circuit (see lower down). But first a bit of background info…

Bathurst

On our way back from the trip to Lightning Ridge we stopped off at Bathurst. Famous for being the oldest inland settlement in Australia, Bathurst is also home to the world famous motor racing circuit, Mount Panorama. It is referred to as Australia’s spiritual home of motor racing. And better still, they let you drive around the circuit. With strict speed limits of course…

Some Circuit

Naturally the speed limits for members of the public are to prevent complete carnage. This is especially true on the second half of the circuit as the track descends down the side of the ‘mount’ like a classic winding mountain road. When you drive this section you soon appreciate how good the drivers are that race here, with no speed limits and lots of other cars jostling for position. As far as I know there is no Formula 1 Grand Prix circuit that comes close to comparison with this particular section. Over the years sixteen competitors have died racing this circuit and two spectators were killed by a crashing car in 1955. They used to have motorbike racing also (since the 1930s) but that was deemed too dangerous. The last motorcycle race here was in 2000.

There is a 174-metre (571 ft) vertical difference between its highest and lowest points, and grades as steep as 1:6.13. The track is a 6.2 km (3.8 miles) long. The track is normally used as a public road (when no racing is on) and there are even quite a few residences which can only be accessed from the circuit.

Our Lap Video

OK, many of you ‘motor heads’ out there will know all about this circuit already. But for all you non ‘motor heads’ (as well as the keen ‘motor heads’) see for yourselves…
[Tip: Turn the sound up!]


Background Music: Motorhead by Motörhead. 

Some Links you may be interested in:
Motorcycle racing in 1968:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lZK7b_as46A
V8 Cars Lap record in 2018: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GVmmEgLu5Ck

Also, this weekend (26-28 Feb 2021) Mount Panorama hosts the start of the Supercar series with the Bathurst 500 event: https://www.supercars.com/mt-panorama-500/