Thursday, October 27, 2011

Panoramic Pictures of our holiday to WA

Our new camera has a natty panorama feature which allows you to take multiple pictures which it then stitches together to make a picture which is wider than usual and takes in more of the view. The problem is they are difficult to display anywhere - Blogger only allows 'standard' images.

I managed to suss out how to add scroll bars, so here's some pics from our holiday in 'panorama' style.

Moses Rock Beach

Hamelin Bay Wines (we stopped here for a spot of lunch) the view over the vineyard was beautiful (not really done justice by this picture)- this is actually a 360 degree view

Overlooking Cape Naturaliste

Amy and Audrey on the descent to Jewel Cave

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

A picture of Audrey and Eli at Floriade

Taken before our holiday. Audrey in very appropriate attire

The Queen Comes to Canberra

The Queen* came to Canberra this week. She's here for the CHOGM (Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting) in Perth and they're trekking her and Phillip around the country at break-neck speed. The Queen is 85 and Phil 90 so it's possibly their last trip over here.

She came to lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at the Australian War Memorial and the four of us went along to watch. As is typical with these occasions you don't see much more of them than their faces behind a tinted Range Rover window. In fairness I think they did a bit of a walk-about when they arrived but it was raining when they left so they headed off for tea and cake leaving us commoners to huddle under umbrellas. They drove by at 11.15am - the lady standing next to us had been there since 8.30am..

Here's a couple of pics

Even after we had seen them I'm not altogether sure that Eli really 'got it'. On the way back to the car he kept asking 'When are we going to see the King?'. It was too hard to explain.

*I must confess to unbridled ambivalence towards the Royal Family.

There are obviously loads of pros and cons to their existence. Ridiculous suggestions that they bring in tourists to Britain vs the demonstration of the effectiveness of a 'neutral' head of state vs a politically motivated one vs the inbred and privileged nature of the role vs a constitutional monarch in a guilded cage etc etc. It's all a little dull. To be honest since I've been in Australia my view has softened as I've been grateful that a much smaller slice of my tax is going to pay for them as well. I still suspect that Johnny Rotten had it about right when he sang 'God Save the Queen' in 1977.

It does makes me chuckle that she's head of State in Australia and appears on our coins and $5 note. I can't really be bothered to consider if it's right or wrong but I do agree that it serves to lift the tone of the place a bit. Having a 4 year old daughter who talks incessantly about Princess Catherine also helps.

Anyway, enough of that.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Holiday to Perth and Margaret River

The four of us headed West to Perth and then onto Margaret River for a week's holiday.

I had to go to a conference for a few days in Perth so Amy took the kids round the beautiful city while I was tied up in a dull conference suite. As well as many hours in the hotel pool (which the kids loved) they visited Kings Park which overlooks the city and then spent days at Fremantle and Rottnest.

Rottnest is an island just 20k off the coast of Perth. It's a small sandy island which they reached by ferry. The island has a population of around 10,000 quokkas on it. They are small kangaroo-esque marsupials which only live on Rottnest.

When the island was discovered by the Dutch in 1696 (the Dutch got to WA before Cook landed in NSW) he thought they were rats, hence Rottnest (i.e Rats nest island which has a whole different connotation to it). Fortunately the Dutch were mistaken and the kids spotted a number of them on their trip.

After my conference had finished we hired a car and drove the 4 or so hours south to Margaret River.

It's a stunning part of the world. Beautiful green hills giving way to sand dunes and blue sea. A lot of the coast is protected and development free. White sand and crashing waves, pretty flowers and trees lining small country roads.

We tried to take in a number of vineyards on our trip (wine for the adults, beach for the kids) - there was an incredible number of them. I must admit though a quick trip to the Cellar Door of a vineyard for a tasting or three makes parenthood considerably easier!

We spent a lovely afternoon at Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse a really amazing spot on the extreme South West of Australia. It's a point where two oceans (the Indian and Southern Oceans) meet - you can actually see their waters meeting. It was manually operated up until 1982 - one of the last in the world.

We also visited 3 caves, Mammoth, Lake and Jewel. All full of stalactites and stalagmites. The area is situated on huge seam of limestone and so the caves were breathtaking in their size and stature. All of them involved precarious steps through narrow rocks to get into them (not exactly 'caving' but certainly challenging with 2 children in tow). Audrey and Eli loved the caves. Each trip featured an obligatory 'lights out' session where the guide cut the lights so we could experience 100% darkness (which was VERY dark).

We spent time on the beach in Hamelin Bay, Redgate Beach as well as the beach at Moses Rock, where Audrey and Eli splashed for hours (I'm sure they'd still be there now if they could be) in the rock-pools. I swam in the sea a few times, but to be honest I never got much above my waist. Three people had been eaten by shark(s?) in the last three months in WA - an American as recently as last weekend and so I was a lot more tentative than usual. Even the odd bit of seaweed brushing my legs made me jumpy!

We also visited Busselton Jetty. A huge structure going 1841 metres out to sea (I'm sure it must be visible from space like the Great Wall of China!). Since shipping/logging has died out in the area the end of the jetty has been converted into an underwater observatory where you can view the reef which has formed at the end of the jetty piles. There were huge schools of fish. It surpassed any aquarium. Here the fish were looking out at us rather than us looking in at them!

As well as wine we indulged in ice cream (Simmos Ice Creamery) and lovely chocolate from the Margaret River Chocolate Factory and now back at work I can feel the belt on my trousers is considerably tighter!

The journey home was a sad one. Audrey and Eli who had been incredibly well behaved on the flight out (drawing several comments of praise from fellow passengers) were more grouchy and tired on our return.

I'm not sure when we'll next head to that part of the world (it's a long way from Canberra both physically and metaphorically too I guess) but we really loved our holiday and came back refreshed and happy.

I was going to put a big string of pictures here, but thought I'd put a video instead. Hope you like it.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Australia 5 Malaysia 0

I went to watch Australia 'Socceroos' take on the mighty Malaysia in a friendly at Bruce Stadium tonight.

I wondered how many other souls would join me, but actually there were just over 10,000 there which was surprising really as it was pretty much a meaningless game.

The most remarkable thing about the match was the stature of the Malaysians alongside their much taller counterparts. At times it literally looked like 'men versus boys' and the score pretty much reflected that with two goals apiece by Josh Kennedy and Alex Brosque with a fifth by Luke Wiltshire

In truth it could have been 5 or 10 more. Australia were overly cautious and their finishing woeful at times. Still it was good to see a hatful of goals and the small but noisy Malaysian contingent didn't seem to be that upset by the result. I think the biggest cheer went to the referee who fell over somewhat comically at the end of the match. It was that kind of game.

Canberra has been trying to get a team in the 'A League' (the national football competition) for the last 3 or 4 years without any success, I'm not really sure whether this turn out adds or detracts from their efforts.

Justine Clarke

We love Justine Clarke. Her talents are limitless from hosting Play School (a children's TV programme), to acting, to singing, to being a Mum. Her CD's are rarely off our car stereo. She came to Canberra and we were lucky to bag ourselves a front row seat.

It was the third time we'd seen her live (in increasingly bigger venues). The first time she was heavily pregnant with her third child and she had nevertheless bobbed and jumped around the stage. Now unhindered by a baby bump she was even more enthusiastic and full of energy.

It was a 'Best of' tour so she played an hour long set of favourites. Eli's favourite song by far is "Happy Dog" which is sometimes on perpetual repeat on the car stereo. After every song she played Eli turned to Amy and asked "Happy Dog?" but alas the song never came and he ended the show a very sad boy. I guess you can't please everyone all of the time.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Boorowa Irish Woolfest

100k due North of Canberra is a little town of Boorowa. It's a beautiful drive there, through the wine regions of the Murrumbateman and past green fields full of horses, cows and sheep which stretch out to the horizon on both sides of the road. Sometimes I'm amazed by how BIG Australia is; the sky, uninterrupted by houses or towns seems to be enormous at times, the vistas seemingly falling off the edge of the world.

We were on our way to the Boorowa Irish Woolfest. An annual event which promised 'The Running of the Sheep' a safer, (and let's face it more sensible) alternative to Pamplona. We'd left late from Canberra, and were dashing to arrive in time for the 12pm street parade and ovine celebration where a herd is paraded down the length of the high street.

We made it just in time. The town log-jammed with parked cars and the main street packed four or five abreast. Boorowa is lost in time somehow. There's a big courthouse (now an arts and crafts co-op) from the 18 somethings and a lot of old buildings including an old school house and an old fashioned Australian pub (for sale). It was heaving with visitors throughout the day, but with a permanent population which numbers 800 I'm not sure how vibrant it would be on a non-festival day.

The sheep arrived and miraculously we stumbled on front seat to see them stream into the corral at the end of the high street. Then the 'Magical Mirage of Meandering Floats' which the poster promised came past us as well. In truth it wasn't the Rio Carnival, but this was rural Australia and so there was a massed Irish Pipe band, a float demonstrating sheep shearing, an array of historic vehicles from around the area (including a very rusty tractor) and a representation from the local Chinese restaurant (several kids standing in the back of a trailer). It was all great fun. Simple, cheap, excellent.

We didn't do much while we were there to aid the undoubtedly ailing economy. I doubt if the sausages and jacket potato we bought will keep the Post Office open past Christmas, but it was lovely to be in Boorowa. We visited the petting zoo (a goat took a fancy to Eli's coat and I fortunately knocked it away before he made lasting damage to it) and wandered down the high street - a great Irish/Gaelic band kept us tapping our toes and Audrey had a dance in front of the main stage.

We ate delicious ice cream watching a (decidedly doddery and geriatric) magician, but our kids and the rest of the audience loved him. He probably had 50 years experience and he must love having a new audience for his jokes.

We drove back after a thoroughly enjoyable day. It had rained and drizzled all day in Canberra (the sun had shone on the Boorowa Woolfest) our decision to go spend Sunday in Boorowa had certainly been the right one.

ice cream on a sunny day

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Cotter Dam

This afternoon we headed out to have a look at the enlarged Cotter Dam. It's a huge project that will increase one of the dams providing water to Canberra from 4 gigalitres(GL) to 78 GL.

Eli fell asleep on the drive and so Audrey and I headed up to the viewing platform along the excellent 'Cotter Dam Discovery Trail' It was a nice walk and Amy and (a slightly grumpy) Eli joined us at the top. Here's some pics

1 million tonnes of concrete is going to be used in the dams construction making it the highest dam of its type in Australia
Audrey tries to release a few gigalitres of water

My Grandma lived in Gooligulch

Courtesy of our friend Jo, the four of us enjoyed a trip to Canberra Theatre to see My Grandma lived in Gooligulch.

The play is based on a children's book (which we haven't read) so we weren't sure what to expect, but we certainly weren't disappointed. It was the only performance of the show in Canberra and we were treated to a real 'Aussie' musical complete with a talking wombat and cheeky cockatoo!

Audrey sat on the edge of her seat throughout the hour long performance (Eli sat on the edge of his Mum's knee) and it was fantastic to see how engrossed they both were with the story.

We've been to a few musicals and plays with the kids and this was definitely up there with the best. The theatre was probably only two-thirds full (the timing of the show - 6.30pm on a Monday evening didn't help), which was a shame as it meant a lot of people missed out on an excellent show. Highlight of the evening was probably the three emus who shared a dance routine (complete with white handbags) - really great fun. Gooli-Gooligulch for me!