Thursday, January 26, 2012

Australia G'Day

Today was Australia Day celebrating the arrival of the first fleet in Australia.

Canberra celebrates with a concert and a free barbecue in the park. Last year we had a guest performance by the Wiggles, this year it was the considerably lower-budget (yet less controversial) Fireman Sam.

In their bookings the organisers had chosen a slightly odd way to celebrate Australia Day - the host of the event was a Kiwi and Fireman Sam (and Prime Minister Julia Gillard come to that) is Welsh.

Still it was a lovely setting and we enjoyed the Citizenship ceremony that followed. I always think Australia does things like this really well. I'm not really sure they could achieve days like this in the UK without them either becoming full of Daily Mail jingoism or watered down and rendered pointless through extreme amounts of political correctness.

Flag waving can become a tricky thing politically but on the whole it was really well handled during Australia Day and during the celebration things were excellently organised and presented.

That said the day was also the 40th anniversary of the Aboriginal tent embassy in Canberra and following rash comments by leader of the opposition Tony Abbot the day culminated in a bit of a punch up. Fortunately we'd long since left for home.

A meeting with Fireman Sam
free craft for the kids

Julia Gillard welcomes new Australian Citizens (wonder what happened to the hat in the melee?)

Australian Wildlife Encounters No.8

Ok, so perhaps I shouldn't put a post every time we see a creepy crawly, but this preying mantis hung around on our outside wall for some time. It was really bright green and Eli even got brave enough to touch it!

Cockington Green

Together with Catherine we paid a trip to Cockington Green, Canberra's model village.

It always amazes me that the town can support a model village, especially one that is so incredibly well tended and maintained as Cockington Green is, but as an attraction it seems to do ok.

I suppose it's a constant flow of tourists who support it. A Tripadvisor review I read recently said that it was Australia's best model village. As I've not been to another one in Australia I can't really comment on whether that's true but I guess it's interesting that while the rest of Australia is concentrating on 'Big Things' we've got the best 'Small Thing'.

We hadn't been for a couple of years and I don't think Audrey remembered anything about her last time there when we pushed her round in her pushchair. Unsurprisingly both Audrey and Eli loved it. What they most enjoyed were the multitudes of buttons which brought some of the models to life (windmills turning, trains starting etc). At one point after starting a model Intercity 125 Eli jumped up and down several times with excitement.

Buttons to press, miniature houses, a sunny day and a bbq for lunch what could be better?

on the mini-train that circumnavigates Cockington Green
Eli chose a sheep to sit on
Audrey sat on a pig
Eli by the wishing well

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Lanyon Homstead Picnic

Here's a couple of pics of us enjoying a picnic at Lanyon Homstead in the outskirts of Canberra. I really like visiting there as every time we go we seem to see and learn something new about the place. As well as the lovely house and gardens they've also got an incredibly well maintained vegetable and herb garden as well which keeps the cafe/restaurant supplied.

Catheringe, Amy, Eli and Audrey
Eli found a tractor

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Summer Sounds Concerts at the Botanical Gardens

Amy's sister Catherine is staying with us at the moment and so the five of us went along to watch local band the Cashews play as part of the Summer Sounds concert at the Botanical Gardens.

The concerts take place on the Eucalypt lawn at the Gardens. It's a lovely shady spot in the pretty gardens but the patchy weather we've had this year meant that we weren't bathed in the warmth of a summer evening which we have been in previous years. Nevertheless there were hoards of people and we were lucky to find a spot to lay our picnic rug fairly near the front.

The Cashews were preceded by Koko-loco who got everyone dancing frantically to zumba. I like the Cashews - a duet - with really nice Canberra based lyrics, and we enjoyed our lovely picnic too with one of Amy's home made quiches.

The BIGGEST caterpillar I've ever seen (a 15cm white-stemmed gum moth)

Scrummy picnic

Monday, January 16, 2012

Separated at Birth? (Don't tell Audrey)

(once again with thanks to Private Eye)

Considering the striking similarity between Boy George and the Duchess of Cambridge, could it be that Boy George has been has been misunderstood for many years?

Saturday, January 14, 2012

A trip to the Australian War Memorial

I took the kids to the Australian War Memorial this afternoon allowing Amy a chance to recuperate a bit at home.

Audrey and Eli were happy to tag along (they had been promised milkshakes when we got there). In truth it was a bit of a selfish trip as I've wanted for some time to visit the new Hall of Valour, celebrating the 98 Australians who have been awarded the Victoria Cross. The hall features the soldiers' stories of bravery along with many of their medals. I must have been slightly deluded to think the children were going to give me the opportunity and time to look at the displays, but it was a nice trip nonetheless.

The memorial has a whole host of things laid on for children from craft sessions to story time, but I thought it was still a slightly awkward trip for two pre-schoolers to make. "Daddy what's that big gun for?", "...Erm to maim and kill people...." not the greatest of conversations really.

Nevertheless they loved the planes on display (of which there are many). We weren't there for long but I discovered a couple of huge galleries which I didn't even know existed in previous trips there. I'm definitely planning on a return trip (minus children) before too long.

Audrey on our front lawn

Monday, January 9, 2012

Is the Daily Mail trying to attract attention?

We love Peppa Pig.

For the uninitiated Peppa is an animated cartoon pig who lives with her Mum and Dad (Mummy Pig and Daddy Pig) and her little brother George. Her best friend is Suzy Sheep. I'm not sure when we first became acquainted with her... like many of these things it happens by osmosis without really trying. We don't watch it really frequently but it does provide a good uninterrupted 5 minutes every now and again.

I accept that (as with all TV children's characters) she's a merchandising phenomenon with her image on everything from back-packs to duvet covers and even now a theme park in Hampshire. It's success is displayed in the fact that gross revenue for Peppa merchandise in the UK in 2010 was over £200 million. Doubling the £100 million it achieved in 2009. Who knows how much it must be if you add in Australia and other parts of the world?!

Despite this we do love the simplicity of the shows and the fact that there's often as much for the parents as the kids. Apparently all of the frames are hand drawn rather than computer generated.

We're lucky too that Grandma posts regular comics from the UK (the kids love receiving them). I sat with Audrey for 20 minutes this morning (at 6am!!) completing the puzzles in one of the Peppa Pig magazines and sticking in the stickers. Was it educational, I don't know. Was it fun (for both of us) definitely.

I've had conversations with another dad as to whether the show is 'classist' - the professionals who feature on the TV show (Dr Brown Bear the GP for example) tend to have 'posh' accents whereas the blue-collar workers (Mr Bull, Mr Fox etc) tend to speak with regional dialects (Dr Hamster the vet being the exception) . The same dad also suspected there was a degree of sexism with Daddy Pig often made to be the fall-guy in some of the jokes whereas Miss Rabbit possesses plenty of 'girl power'

Personally I haven't got the same hang-ups about it (perhaps because I'm often the butt of the jokes in our family anyway). I came upon this tosh though from the Daily Mail yesterday (I followed a link there)

Click on the image if you want to read the whole gumph written.

I'm certainly not 'despairing' - sure our kids sometimes answer us back and both Audrey and Eli possibly have a greater penchant for jumping in muddy puddles than they perhaps would have done if they hadn't watched Peppa, but I think there's far more potentially damaging things on TV than Peppa.

We were in a public children's play area last week where they started showing a cartoon with devils, demons and evil figures on it (we left) and we've been puzzled by the amount of Disney cartoons which have an obligatory 'baddie' which can frighten the bejeesus out of our two (pre-school) kids.

Of course there's lots of nasty things in the world so it's not great to wrap your children in cotton wool (I don't think we do this) but 'despairing' about the bad influence of Peppa Pig, really?

Snort. I'm falling over laughing.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

National Film and Sound Archive

Audrey and Eli learning that there's more to Australian film than Crocodile Dundee

Despite having lived in Canberra for a little over 3 years we hadn't (as a family) ventured to Canberra's excellent National Film and Sound Archive.

We're lucky here to have a pick of wonderful galleries and museums and the NFSA hadn't featured in our day trips out. Today was rainy (still a really nice 28 degrees) but not much opportunity to do much in our garden so we headed out.

The archive is in a wonderful art-deco building. A guide explained that it had originally been the Australian Institute of Anatomy (to house the collection of Professor Sir Colin MacKenzie) in the 30's and in fact had originally been gazetted to be part of a zoo (which was never built).

The gallery displayed a bit of the history of Australian film, television and radio. It also has a lovely outdoor area where, in summer, they show films.

Here's a picture of us in the children's interactive area, playing our guitars "like Murray" (red Wiggle).

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Audrey and Eli opening presents on Christmas morning

Christmas in Mildura

We spent a few days over Christmas with Amy's parents in Mildura. It's a decent drive from Canberra (800km/500 miles...about 11 hours) and 40 minutes out of Canberra Audrey was asking the legendary question 'Are we nearly there yet?'

Fortunately both kids were excellent both ways during the drive and we stopped for breakfast in both directions at the excellent park in Narrandara which broke things up a bit.

Mildura is a nice town on the Murray river and while we were there I did a spot of fishing with Amy's Dad (the river is overflowing with carp) and we also paid a visit to nearby Wentworth, considered a potential for Australia's capital city in 1901 following federation. We also had a slightly traumatic trip to the swimming pool (Eli getting overawed by the wave-machine there!)

Here's some pics from what was a thoroughly enjoyable Christmas/New Year.

Monday, January 2, 2012


A Mayan 'long count calendar' nice - but it does lack any pictures of country scenes or puppies.

So here we are in 2012. Year of the imaginatively named film '2012'.

According to the (not very good) action film, or perhaps more correctly the Mesoamerican Long Count calendar, the world will end in December 2012.

Apparently it's all written in the stars - I should have asked them when we went to Mount Stromlo a few weeks ago.

My prediction(!?) is that the months leading up to December will be preceded by countless newspaper and magazine articles and no doubt the odd documentary or ten refuting or supporting the end of the world prediction. REM will be rubbing their hands at the royalty payments from their 80's penned song 'It's the End of the World as we know it' which will form the soundtrack to the many documentaries.

I went to Mexico and Belize a few years ago where the Mayans had lived. They seemed a pretty advanced lot who then, (once they'd worked out that the World will end in December 2012) seemingly disappeared back into the jungle some time around 900AD. The conquistadors later added to the confusion by by burning a fair bit of their stuff and doing the usual looting and pillaging (and small-pox bringing) that foreign invaders tend to do. Were the Mayans right? will armageddon arrive? Should I stop making pension contributions? I guess we'll know in 12 months time.

More likely in January 2013 the media will be searching around for the next end of the world prediction. Presumably though even if someone gets it right it'll be a hollow victory, with not many people left around to say 'told you so!' to.