Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Audrey wins a merit

Audrey's school has a really nice process of awarding 'merits' to people who have achieved something in the last week.

It's a pretty broad definition - sometimes this can be for 'Being kind' and other times it can be for winning races in swimming tournaments.

I went along to an assembly in which one of the older girls had won in seemingly every race in a recent swimming tournament and the principal read out 100 metres breaststroke, 1st place, 100 metres backstroke 1st place, 200 metres free-style, 1st place etc etc upon which a girl got up and collected her stash of ribbons. I thought afterwards that even the distance she must have swum was an achievement let alone the fact that she clearly swam every race faster than anyone else.

This week was Audrey's turn - she won a merit certificate for 'Being good at maths' which by my perspective was equivalent to a first class honours from Harvard or Cambridge. It was a simple ceremony, perhaps overshadowed by an over excited proud Dad who rushed to the front of the stage (trampling children in his way) to heap excessive praise on his daughter.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Catholic Schools Soccer Carnival

It’s taken me nearly five years to ‘adjust’ to calling Football, ‘Soccer’ even now I wince when I have to use the word and I’m trying to instil to the kids that ‘the beautiful game’ is called football and the other stuff is rugby and Aussie Rules. Alas I think as they’re surrounded by people using the term ‘soccer’ so I think I’m on a loser.

Sunday was the Catholic Schools ‘Soccer’ Carnival – Audrey and Eli's school was organiser this year and did a fantastic job. The organisation is no small feat (although there were plenty of small feet kicking footballs….geddit?) as there were over 1,300 children of all ages and abilities taking part.

Teams were mixed and played across 21 pitches – in addition there were fairground rides, biscuit stalls, ice creams, a full canteen serving sausages, eggs and other treats – it was a fantastic day.

Audrey and Eli played in the pee-wees tournament (for children in year 1 and below). It wasn’t part of the main tournament but billed as an ‘exhibition’ game. Eli was nominated captain for his team (perhaps because the teacher saw him dressed in his Wolves shirt) but burst into tears almost as soon as the whistle blew for kick-off (shades of Italia ’90). As a result poor Amy had to hold his hand for much of the game, with the two of them tearing up and down the pitch. He was happy to be goalkeeper on his own and boasted afterwards about a particularly crunching tackle he’d made on a ‘big boy’. Audrey played her part too. Sometimes I think she was baffled by the game (as hoards of little kids ran swarm-like after the ball) but both said how much they had enjoyed playing. We played 4 games. I’ve no idea what the score was. I know one was 2-2 at some point. As parents we all commended ourselves with the main success that nobody had picked the ball up and run with it.

We watched some of the ‘main’ competition as we ate our lunch. It’s another school’s turn to organise next year, but hopefully the ‘Soccer’ tournament will become a part of our annual calendar.

This photo doesn't really do the event justice as there were pitches (and people) everywhere!

Captain Eli!

Denise comes to visit

Amy’s friend Denise came to visit from Adelaide this weekend. It was great to see her and Amy enjoyed a catch up over breakfast. She’s a regular reader of this blog too (and I was flattered to hear her praise). In the afternoon we went to Audrey and Eli’s friend’s house (Remy) who was celebrating her 5th birthday – a lovely sunny day.

Denise comes to Canberra

Cake time!

Pass the parcel

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Birthday at Booroomba Rocks

I took my annual day off work for my birthday and while Amy headed for work and the kids to school visited Booroomba Rocks with our neighbour Phil.

(move the picture around and see if you can spot Phil!)

The rocks are part of the Namadgi National Park and are a climber's paradise. We didn't do any rock climbing but I really loved the walk to the summit - through dense forest with loads of beautiful native fauna.

On the drive there I spotted Gang Gang Cockatoos. We had a birthday lunch at the top of the rocks - cheese roll and blue cheese and hummus washed down with French wine. It beat working.

The view from the top was spectacular. A pair of wedge tail eagles soared above us as we looked down on the dense forest below. You can see the southern most edge of Canberra from the top of the rocks.

I had planned to do the walk as a bit of a trial to see if the kids could make it. In all truth the precipitous drop off the edge of the cliff means that I probably won't take them until their a bit older - a slip would mean a long fall!

We drove back along the rough road and then joined Tharwa Drive and headed back to Canberra in time for me to drop Phil then meet Amy and collect the kids from school. We enjoyed milkshake at the local milk bar and Amy made me a lovely birthday cake (which the kids had helped ice).

Eli with my lovely cake

Me (making sure I didn't go too close to the edge!)

Birthday lunch

Phil drinking red wine out of a tin cup

a lizard (skink?) who joined us for our lunch

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

One underwhelming day out

Canberra celebrated its 100 birthday on Monday. The actual day was really Tuesday, (but everyone chose to forget that). Many Canberreans celebrated the event by leaving Canberra and heading to the coast, but we were loyal and hung around to go to the ‘One Big Day Out’ event at Lake Burley Griffin. It had been hyped out of all proportion - with adverts everywhere, constant plugs on local radio and press - apprently it had been 3 years in the planning.

We did as we were instructed and caught the bus as we had been warned parking was going to be at a premium. Canberra’s drivers have a habit of parking just about anywhere when there’s a public event such as this, but recently (and much to the disgust of locals) illegal parking has been clamped down on and fines issued. We caught the (packed) shuttle bus the wrong way round the loop, which meant that it took us 35 minutes to travel a distance we could have walked in about 10, but that was our fault.

The ‘One Very Big Day Out’ event had been placed in the hands of Robyn Archer. She’s a well respected singer, actress, artistic director (without children). We’d seen the programme for the event before we headed off, but even then couldn’t really spot a ‘must see’ part of it.

It all turned out to be a bit of a disappointment. The good things were the weather (which was spectacular) and the crowds (amazing to see so many people around the lake) but the actual entertainment seemed to be lacking.

We sat by a stage which repeated music by ‘The Church’ every half hour and even though we usually take picnics to events like this had decided instead to take advantage of the food stalls. I went to buy a pizza. The wait was hellish – 40 minutes in a line to get a ticket which allowed you to stand in a second line for another 30 minutes. People were mutinous - I thought blood was going to be spilt over a missing pepperoni pizza.

The entertainment (what there was of it) was all terribly high-brow or a bit obscure. Large inflated balloons spelt out ‘Welcome’ with an ‘O’ you could walk through and performing entertainers on boats who zipped by giving you a fleeting 20 seconds of entertainment before floating off somewhere else.

There were roving entertainers doing odd things - but where was the usual child friendly stuff that is normally at this kind of event – face painting, craft, petting paddock etc. It seemed like the intention was to create a family event, but without any childrens’ activities. In the end I spotted crowds of kids throwing stones at the a boat carrying a choir on board (I guess kids can create their own entertainment).

It’s hard to criticise free events (of which there’s plenty in Canberra). The kids did have a good time, but even Eli - caught up in the hype beforehand and telling everyone who would listen that we were ‘Going to Canberra’s Birthday!’ ended up saying that he was bored. The best thing of all was also the one thing that couldn’t have been planned. The weather.

one of the stages

and I thought it was a 'little ripper'

Eli had the most fun rolling down the bank

hoards of people on the lake

Lots of welcome mats (?)

Audrey leaves her mark

Balloon Spectacular!

Canberra’s annual hot air balloon show is on at the moment. Eli woke up about 5.30am this morning so the two of us headed off into the dark, to the lawns by Old Parliament House where it takes place each year.

When we arrived the place was relatively deserted – apart from a big tent selling hot breakfasts (Eli gleefully ate a sausage and bread) and we found everyone in a briefing tent nearby. The tent was full of ballooning-types and a guy at the front explaining that the weather for the day would be clear and fine but also said that there was a wind at 300 metres that had the potential to blow the balloons across the airport. As a result the take-off would happen at Mount Stromlo (15 mins drive away).

Lots of 4x4s pulling hot air balloon trailers sped off and Eli and I followed in hot pursuit. Mount Stromlo is a lovely place (only slightly spoilt by the impending Molonglo housing development) and it didn’t take long for the balloons to be unpacked and inflated.

Amongst their number (I think there was around 30 balloons) was a great Darth Vader balloon, a turtle, a peacock and a lion. The sun rose over the hills and they sailed over Woden Valley in the distance. Eli fell asleep in the car on the drive home (arrived home 8am).

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Kayak on Lake Burley Griffin

We had a nice evening on Lake Burley Griffin with Phil and Nina and their friends and friend's children.

Phil owns a kayak which he took along and our kids loved scooting along on the lake. We feasted on fish and chips from the yacht club. After kayaking the kids rolled in mud and coated each other with cut grass. At bed time Audrey asked if we could go all day next time.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Weekend in Adelaide

Big thanks to Trevor for looking after Audrey and  Eli so that I could jet to Adelaide to catch up with some of my nearest and dearest friends and my Granny (who's just turned 97!).  I had such a great time, including a fantastic free Neil Finn and Paul Kelly concert in Elder Park.  Next time though, I think I'll need longer than 2 days (sorry Trev!).  Thanks for looking after me so well, Jojo....

Paula, Emma and I catching up.

Chilling at Louisa's (and yes, drinking tea again!)

Julie and I try and get a photo with Dirk and the wriggly Wolf

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Local Gold Guerilla Gig

As part of Canberra's 100 years' celebrations there are a series of Guerrilla Gigs going on around the town.

Essentially you register on a website and then you're told the time and date of the gig and then you're told the actual venue (by email or SMS) one hour before it starts. I guess it's the middle-class equivalent of a rave(!)

I've had the kids on my own this weekend (while Amy was in Adelaide) and had forgotten that the gigs were on, but got an email reminder (as Audrey and Eli were in the bath) that there were a couple of bands playing at Reconciliation Place within the hour.

They didn't take much persuading to go along, so I dried them off, put on their pyjamas (plus shoes and jackets) and headed into the night.

Reconciliation Place is a long corridor of a place - it's a pathway linking the high-court of Australia and the National library. Even when there's no bands playing there it's quite a cool/beautiful place.

The two bands playing were Hashimoto and The Cashews (our favourites). Audrey excitedly ran from the car while Eli hitched a ride on my shoulders. There's a bridge which spans the corridor and we watched from above, listening to the music as the sun set over the lake. Audrey made friends with a girl in her twenties, Eli dangled his legs through the ballistrades.It was fabulous.

Hashimoto were the second band, they were a three piece - a lady on piano, a double bass and a guitar and they invited people on the bridge to come down to the front for a better vantage so we took up their offer. Audrey and Eli sat transfixed. A kind man gave me his jacket for Audrey to sit on and Eli perched on my lap.

When Hashimoto finished the crowd cheered for more and when they came back for an encore Audrey was thrilled - it was obviously her cheering which had done it, when you've seen a thousand encores it loses it's thrill, when you've seen 1 it's incredible. So lovely to see her gleeful face.

The entertainment wrapped up after about an hour - fortunately the security guard who threatened to close things down earlier didn't make a move and we headed back to the car. The 'Enlighten' festival (lit up buildings throughout Canberra's Parliamentary Triangle) has also started so we took a drive-by a spectacularly lit National Library, Old Parliament House and the National Gallery. An excellent (and free) night in Canberra. Happy kids in bed at 7.45pm

Hashimoto (that's us down the front)

two children in pyjamas go to watch a gig in an alleyway!

Saturday, March 2, 2013

The Lost Diggers (Remember Me Exhibition)

The Australian War Memorial has been running an exhibition which I've wanted to see since it opened in November and I was lucky enough to be able to go along to today with Audrey and Eli.

Nearly 100 years ago during the First World War the small French village of Vignacourt was behind the front lines and was a staging point, casualty clearing station and recreation area for troops of all nationalities moving up to and then back from the battlefields on the Somme.

Between 1916 and 1918 an enterprising French photographer took the opportunity of the passing military traffic to establish a business taking portrait photographs. He captured pictures of many nationalities, Australian, British, French, US, Indian and even Chinese (of which there were more than 10,000 workers in France at the time - something I hadn't realised).

The pictures were turned into cheap postcards which the soldiers could send back to loved ones around the globe. A fragile link in a time years before people carrying their own cameras, smart phones, email and facebook.

The photos (captured on glass) were lost for decades until a TV crew in 2011 went in search of them and discovered them in the old Thuiller family farmhouse. The farmhouse was dilapidated and for sale, but they discoverd a chest in the attic containing over 4,000 pictures lost for generations.

Many of the pictures were taken in front of a painted backdrop - of a classical Roman archway - I guess it was in an attempt to introduce beauty and structure into what must have been a horrific and chaotic environment for the soldiers. The chronicle of the discovery also told that the backdrop was also found - dusty and abandoned in the eaves of the farmhouse and is now on display alongside the photos.

The pictures have been printed, framed and displayed, produced at a higher quality than they ever would have been at the time. Only a few of the original (faded) postcards still remain. I found it an incredible exhibition. So many young men, who have seen so much horror of war and the memories of it somehow recorded in their faces and so many interesting interactions between soldiers and locals.

What I found sad was that many of the soldiers are unidentified, primarily I guess because the passing of generations which means that people forget family history, or where someone was at that time or what gallantry or service they carried out. Nevertheless it's a fabulous (and free) exhibition.

If you're  in Canberra before the end of July it's definitely something worth visiting.

Audrey and Eli liked the pictures - they spotted animals - some of the pictures contain military mascots - a soldier with a monkey on his shoulder (strangely the monkey is identified as Jenny, the soldier unidentified) two dogs and a puppy. There's also a great picture of a brass band.

It's hard visiting the War Memorial with kids, explaining why countries go to war and people shoot at others, Audrey and Eli don't really understand, but then I guess sometimes neither do I.

Some of the pictures from the exhibition

And some of us enjoying our time there

Audrey and Eli try the backdrop out for size

On board a submarine (in another part of the War Memorial)

Life on the ocean wave

Looking down to New Parliament House