Sunday, October 22, 2017

Indoor football starts again...

A summer awaits of indoor football - I think they play 14 games in all. Here's a photo following Thunder and Lightning's first game..


Canberra Capitals

Canberra Capitals are Canberra's female basket ball side. They've enjoyed success in the WNBL having won the Premiership no less than seven times. Unfortunately the last of those wins was in 2010 and the last few years following the retirement of super-star Lauren Jackson have been a bit barren.

Sporting attention in Australia's capital city often turns towards the Canberra Raiders (rugby league) or the occasional Aussie Rules (AFL) game at Manuka. Of course there's also two or three decent games of cricket a year. In that respect the Capitals are a bit of a niche market. We'd seen them play probably four or five times at their old home of the AIS (though they also played a few games at Tuggeranong in Canberra's South).

For this season though the games are being held at Canberra's Convention Centre in the centre of town. The idea appears to be to build interest by having a sporting code in Canberra's centre - a precursor to the stadium that may or may not be built nearby in the space currently occupied by the somewhat ancient 'Olympic' pool.

Being predominantly set up for concerts makes the venue a bit odd. Seating is all on one side of the court, though in fairness the seats (being concert seats) are quite probably the comfiest (and cheapest) I've sat in for any sport, anywhere!

In the game we went to Canberra played Melbourne (and sadly lost by 29 points) so the game was all a bit one-sided. I took Audrey along with one of her friends and the two girls enjoyed the spectacle. Canberra have some good players, including captain Natalie Hurst who never stopped running. It was a nice afternoon out and they do their best to build an atmosphere. I hope the team continues to improve, it would be good to see their success return to the Capitals.
Managed to capture a three pointer on its way in!

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Walking to school

When I was about Audrey's age I used to walk to Warstones, my primary school in Wolverhampton. It's probably a similar distance from our current house to the kids school - a ten minute walk. For the last couple of weeks I've been encouraging A&E to walk on their own but they've been reluctant preferring either to jump in our car or ride/walk with me. They've never actually walked on their own until today, but this morning was beautifully sunny and seemed ideal.

I offered to take A&E's bags in the car while they walked and I could then drop their bags with them when they arrived (I could then drive on to work).

They set off towards school. I got caught up in a few of the mundane chores that fill my life. I had a shower, put some washing out, tidied away the breakfast things and loaded the dishwasher. In all I probably took 25 minutes or so. I suddenly felt guilty as I'd promised to drop the school bags and I imagined A&E waiting impatiently for me in the playground.

Quickly, I chucked their bags in the car and set off. About 2/3rds of the way to school I spotted two little figures. They were strolling along, Eli studying the fencepost, Audrey tugging on her brother's hat. They were chatting and laughing as they walked.

It was impossible to get cross with them. Somehow they'd extended the length of their walk - they were certainly in no hurry. They'd successfully navigated the zebra crossing and were basically enjoying the sunny morning.

I waited in the school carpark and they spotted me and ran the rest of the way to join me. I gave them their bags and they headed into school. Crazy (but beautiful) children. It reminded me how hurried my life is and how I cajole them to keep up when we're walking anywhere. No wonder they complain having seen their 'natural' pace!

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Audrey with Holly

Here's a picture of Audrey with Holly - the biggest horse at her riding school. Holly is a Clydesdale and absolutely massive (no I don't know how many hands) Audrey hasn't ridden her (yet!) but she's a really beautiful horse.

Wish you were here

Eli played touch rugby last week. He's suddenly got so tall and gangly. I watched him play with the biggest lump in my throat as I know his Mum would have loved to have seen him. Audrey has a big dance performance this weekend and I know I'll end up in tears for the same reason.

#Stop Adani

Australia looks set to build what will be the country's largest mine in Carmichael in Queensland. The mine is being developed by an Indian organisation called Adani and will provide coal to India to generate electricity. The mine comprises five underground mines and six open-cut pits.
The good news is that the mine will provide up to 1,500 Australian jobs and will seemingly boost the economy as the coal is dug up, processed and transported overseas. 
The bad news is that Adani has a history (in Africa) of numerous environmental breaches. It's an absolutely huge mine and situated right alongside Australia's Great Barrier reef. The reef is already in trouble with rising sea temperatures and so becoming neighbour to a vast coal mine isn't exactly going to help its future.
Part of the complexity is that a large train line (about 160km) is required to move the coal and (fortunately) the cost of financing that is slowing the project.
Having grown up in Thatcher's Britain and watching (and supporting) coal miners fighting for their jobs and communities I find myself sometimes at odds with myself arguing that a coal mine which will bring economic advantage to the people who live nearby should not be built.
The world HAS moved on though. Sustainable energies are becoming cheaper and much more viable and the initiative behind the mine seems more about winning local votes that boosting the Australian economy.
Added to that having lived in Australia for nearly a decade I see just how beautiful (and yet fragile) the country's natural resources are. Australians who have never left Australia's shores seem somehow blind to that. The benefit of creating jobs always seems to outweigh the permanent destruction of nature. The Green party is margalised and people who have concerns for the environment are frowned upon.
What makes me perhaps sadder is that in a recent survey 25% of Australians hadn't even heard of Adani and the Carmichael coal mine. A Murdoch dominated media has left them ill informed and so the mine potentially could be built by stealth with the population ignorant of the environmental effects of it potentially until it is too late.
The barrier-reef is a truly beautiful place. I'd like it to be there not only for my children but for generations to come. That's not meant to be a trite and throw away statement either. The Adani mine if built will only have a life span of 60 years but it's legacy will last for hundreds of years. I'm puzzled why something would be built that would wipe out one of the Earth's natural wonders for such short term benefit.
We took part in a march to protest. Even if the damn thing does end up being built I want my kids to know that they (through me) fought against it and understood the consequences.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Short break to Dandenong Ranges

The Dandenong Ranges is an area just east of Melbourne, made up of low mountain ranges and rolling countryside. It's very picturesque and at this time of year (Spring) quite green.
I had a couple of days leave booked during the school holidays and had originally planned to go further to the Mornington Peninsula, but someone at work recommended that the Dandenong's which, as well as being a couple of hours closer to Canberra probably had more on offer for the kids.
Nevertheless it was still a fair drive. We headed down the highway and after a long lunch and meander in Albury as well as a couple of other toilet breaks we reached our destination mid-afternoon after probably around 9 or 10 hours in the car. The kids were excellent passengers and we variously listened to audio books or chatted.
Our first couple of nights were spent in a slightly dodgy motel in Belgrave. It was clean, but fairly ancient. The kids laughed at the TV - Audrey remarking that the tele was older than her (which in truth it probably was).
On our first full morning, we caught the famed 'Puffing Billy' steam train from Belgrave through to our destination (Lakeside). Lakeside boasts a (huge) model train exhibition which was situated in a nearby shed/warehouse building near to the (full size) Puffing Billy station. The model train has apparently been there for 30 years. The owners were fastidious in their attention to detail and the model had everything from airports to hot air balloons. The kids loved the eye-spy they'd set up and delighted in spotting things.
We returned to Belgrave by the Puffing Billy and then rushed to Healsville, a sanctuary focusing on Austalian fauna. Incredibly the place was free for kids during the holidays. Often parks like this are fairly mediocre - a few moth-eared koalas and bored kangaroos, but Healsville was wonderfully set up with great enclosures and loads to see and do. I wish we'd actually given it a lot longer than the short afternoon we did.
The next day we headed to Trees Adventure park, a park which offers a series of obstacles/zip lines traversing the trunks and branches across quite a large area of woodland. Visitors are given a harness and instruction and then essentially set-loose to choose their own route and challenge. Everything was colour coded to cater for under 7s right up to adults.
The kids took to it immediately. They were both more flexible (and probably stronger) than me and certainly less worried about the prospect of crashing through the canopy en route to the floor. We were allotted two hours, but in truth I think we probably stayed four.
Afterwards we left Dandenong and drove to the coast - stopping first in a lovely (almost isolated) spot called Golden Beach where we stayed in a beach hut - a lovely family hosted us (they stayed next door) and then from there drove another four hours or so to Marlo (again a beautiful and very relaxed spot) where we stayed in a spacious motel and feasted on local fish and chips.
Eventually we headed for home. A straight drive north through Cooma. We covered 1600km in five days so it was quite a trip, but really good fun and nice to explore a bit of a different part of the world.

On board the Puffing Billy
The HUGE model village at Lakeside

Treetop Adventures

Audrey flicking her hair in the sea at Marlo!

The sun sets in Marlo (a pelican perched on a telegraph pole)