Wednesday, March 31, 2010

I've nicked this from the Guardian website, but found it funny. The camera operator on the 'Politics Show' has chosen to crop the shot, and reduce the title of the show in the background, to something quite appropriate...

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Out of the mouth of Audrey No.6

I wasn't sure whether Audrey was foretelling new revelations in Somalia, but we shared an amusing conversation this morning where several times, she insisted that, "Pirates fly planes"

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Elijah sporting his new outfit

(it's obviously a favourite with his Dad!)

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Charlie Perkins

I watched a great documentary about Charlie Perkins on TV last night. I knew practically nothing about him before watching the programme, but it was the sort of TV that leaves you with with a lump in your throat.

Having knocked Australian TV in an earlier post I’m forced to retract it (a bit) as it was an excellent show. Unfortunately I discovered that almost everyone at work had watched Biggest Loser (a game show in which people lose weight). How sad.

Charlie Perkins was an aboriginal activist, who in his youth also had trialled for both Liverpool and Man United. He later rose to be Permanent Secretary of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs. He was throughout his career a critic of the Australian Government’s policies on indigenous affairs and seemed to be a man who told it like it is.

What came across was that Charlie was an incredibly sharp and driven man with a dedicated fight for Aboriginal (and indeed human rights). Amongst others he crossed swords with the loathsome former Prime Minister John Howard and Charlie’s death in 2000 seems to have left a real gap in Australian politics and focus (or otherwise) on aboriginal issues.

I’m no expert on aboriginal issues, and am too unqualified and inexperienced to get into a debate about it. Some things I’ve encountered in my life have been easy to work out from a common sense or moral point of view, others less so.

One thing that constantly puzzles me though is why World Vision is Australia’s largest charity (raising $350m annually) and with the Australian public’s help works hard to help children in Cambodia, Myanmar, Thailand and India. They obviously do good work there, but there exists a huge social problem on epic proportions on Australia’s own doorstep.

That said I’m not sure if money really fixes every problem. The documentary made the point that white Australia was both increasingly competitive and increasingly capitalist, two things which stretched the boundaries between white and aboriginal life even further apart.

Canberra where we live is a predominantly white middle class town. Aside from a few rare sightings of people in the tented embassy in town you never see an indigenous person during the course of your typical day/week/month.

If people speak in public in Canberra the speaker gives a token recognition that we are on Ngunnawal land (a tribe long since vanished from the region), and occasionally a country show will dig someone out to blow on a didgeridoo, or do a dance but that’s about it.

I’m sure if we lived in Alice Springs my experience would be different (and probably a lot more depressing) but it’s amazing how people are willing to support a happy smiling children’s face thousands of miles away in Cambodia but not one that’s living up the road.

Every stat you read on indigenous/aboriginal life is depressing, drug use, infant mortality, education, life expectancy.

As I say I don’t have any answers, but having learnt a bit more about him, I’m absolutely sure, the world needs more Charlie Perkins'.


Trevor took a day off on Wednesday to join us (Amy, Audrey, Eli and Amy's parents) on a visit to Tidbinbilla (a nearby nature reserve) just outside of Canberra. We'd only been once before and had been drenched, but Wednesday's weather was perfect. To top it off, there was also a complete absence of flies which can be a pain during summer months.

As it was midweek there were also hardly any other visitors. We enjoyed a barbecue in the company of a family of emus (who fortunately kept their distance) and spotted a large mob of over 20 kangaroos. After lunch Audrey enjoyed a refreshing dip in a cool babbling stream. Here's a few pics...

Monday, March 15, 2010

I'm older than yesterday

It was my birthday on Saturday and so together with Amy's parents, who are staying with us at the moment, we ventured out for a birthday picnic at Black Mountain peninsula.

Amy had made me a lovely chocolate cake and we had rolls and cake near the lake.

There was a big fishing competition going on (a Carp Out) dedicated to ridding Lake Burley Griffin of carp. Ivor, Audrey, Eli and I walked the banks looking at some of the monster carp that some of the fishermen had pulled out of the depths of the lake. Sweetcorn and bread appeared to be the bait of the day.
A friend of mine, Chris took some family pics of us. The blog doesn't really do them justice as they're great shots. (in case you're wondering the one on the picnic rug is one of mine!) Eli was far happier after Chris had gone home!!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Canberra Balloon Spectacular

On Saturday Audrey and I took a trip to Canberra's annual balloon festival. We got there a bit late (6.50am) and a fair number of the balloons take off at 6.30am, nevertheless we saw quite a number getting airborn.

Ballooning seems a nice (if eccentric hobby) and there were the usual ballooning folk together with hoards of Canberrans, a band (which Audrey danced to) and the obligitory sausage-sizzle.

I'm not sure who funds the festival (it runs for a week). There had been relatively strong winds all week, so I'm pretty sure the balloons only went up a couple of times (Thursday and Saturday). I do wonder whether they have to maintain the festival as practically every bit of literature encouraging people to live and work in Canberra contains a shot of 3 or 4 balloons flying over Lake Burley Griffin.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Baby Elephant Story

There's a nice story in the papers at the moment about a baby asian elephant born recently in Sydney's Taronga Zoo. Whatever your view about zoos it's still a nice story.

Porntip the elephant was thought to be dead when he was delivered earlier this week, but when he was actually born, quite remarkably he was alive and had been in a coma during the birth. You can see pictures etc by clicking here.

Objet d'art

Amy very kindly bought me a birthday present of a glass-blowing class at Canberra's fine new(ish) Glass Works in Kingston.

The Glass Works themselves are fantastically situated in an old 1920's power station, so it's really atmospheric being in there during the evening working with hot moulton glass.

It's a four week course, taking us through fairly basic stuff (paperweights) through to bowls and maybe a plate. The two instructors are great and really enthusiastic and the other students are a good bunch too.

Here's my effort from week 1 a (slightly lopsided) glass paperweight. It's also handy having a 2½ year old daughter, who I persauded over breakfast to tell me that it was the most beautiful thing she had ever seen in her life!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Sydney Weekend

Driving the last 30k back into Canberra with the petrol gauge light on was the least enjoyable part of an otherwise very enjoyable weekend in Sydney.

We had journeyed up to Sydney to visit Tim and Hayley and their two kids Alex and Ted. They've just moved into a really lovely house and we drooled over their place which bore virtually no similarity to the shack we live in in Canberra.

It was great to see them all. The kids all got along really well (Audrey and Ted particularly so!) and we spent Sunday at Dee Why beach which was very relaxing. Audrey paddled and Eli nearly lost his hat in the waves. It's a bit corny to say that children 'grow up so quickly' but they really do. Hopefully we'll see them all again before too long. Thanks for such a nice time.

Amy, Audrey, Alex, Hayley and Eli on Dee Why BeachEli shows off his jockey skills in the park

Ted and Audrey heading back from the park

Thursday, March 4, 2010

James May TV

Australian TV it has to be said, is pretty poor. Admittedly British TV is itself stuffed full of soaps and dancing/singing/skating/cooking talent shows, but nevertheless BBC and Channel 4 are cerebral feasts compared to Channel 7, 9, 10 etc in Australia.

The commercial channels here are apparently targeted by an age demographic, if they are I’ve never noticed. Mostly they contain American cop shows or re-run films interrupted with increasingly annoying regularity by adverts. There’s also a good dose of border security type programmes and advertorials.

The only saving grace in amongst the trash are channels SBS (which itself seems somewhat dedicated to showing Japanese cooking programmes) and ABC (who show a fair proportion of BBC re-runs) or copycat BBC news and current affair programmes (Question Time becomes Q & A in Australia for example).

Over the last couple of weeks though both ABC and SBS have been showing a huge assortment of James May programmes. So many in fact that I actually checked Wikipedia this morning in case he had died. There I learnt about his early career sacking from Autocar which is superb. Click here to read

On Australian TV at the moment we’ve got Top Gear, for which he does a good job as an affable host alongside the hideous Clarkson (shown twice weekly). Then we’ve got James May’s Toys, James May’s 20th Century and Oz and James big wine adventure. You can quite literally watch James May every night of the week.

Fortunately, he seems a nice bloke, and it’s preferable to the other option of watching Two and a Half Men, starring wife beater Charlie Sheen which is shown round the clock on one of the channels and must have run to something like 10,000 episodes. Apparently the show is no.1 ranking programme in America, which says something about the USA's take on 'comedy'