Sunday, May 26, 2013

Old rockers never die, they simply sell their soul to Coles.

Coles is Australia's second biggest supermarket chain - with 741 stores across Australia. Not as hard-nosed as Tesco, nor as slick an operation as Sainsbury's in the UK and obviously tiny compared to a Walmart or Carreforre elsewhere, but still a giant in the Australian market.

Somewhere in the senior executive of Coles though works a denim clad old rocker. Probably he's balding now, but still with a pony tail at the back of his pate and tassles on the sleeves of his leather suit jacket. He went to the Reading festival sometime in the 70s when it was a 'proper' rock festival.

The only reason I can draw the conclusion that this guy exists (and carries signficant weight with advertising decisions) is Coles continued reliance on Status Quo and their songs to sell their wares (since 2010). Three years I've had to listen to 'Down, down, prices are down' as I wander supermarket isles. The first time I heard it, it brought a wry smile to my face. Now I'm just tortured by the tune. Unsurprisingly the song seems to have been originally written (in 1975) about depression rather than lower prices in a supermarket.

If that wasn't bad enough there's now life size pictures of Francis Rossi alongside giant vegemite jars. Personally I find it hard to believe Francis Rossi even knows what vegemite tastes like.

What's worse is that the ageing rockers have now re-recorded another of their songs 'Whatever you want' to blast out in Coles stores countrywide.

The soft rockers - once a symbol of rebelion now flog cornflakes in Australia.

I'm far from being Status Quo's biggest critic. Sadly I have to admit the first single I ever bought was Quo's "Living on an Island", a single somewhat less succesful compared to some of their other 3 chord classics. Never thought I'd be living on an island myself, while being seranaded by the Quo while I do my daily shop.

As they were

As they are now (how could it come to this?)
Francis with Audrey

Permaculture day at Yarralumla primary school

"Can we feed the bugs to the chickens now?" asked Eli after we'd pulled the umpteenth (gruesome) white bug out of the freshly dug soil.

We'd joined about 50 others for a permaculture day in nearby Yarralumla. In the intro Dan our host was at pains to stress that the day was as much about learning as digging and scraping, "It's not a working bee, but just a chance to meet others and learn."

We watched Nick (who Amy had met at a Permaculture weekend earlier this month) show us how to plant trees. The secret is in the lengthy and considered preparation. He was an expert in tree planting - his principle was simple, if you spend time and effort getting the ground prepared you could get trees to grow even in difficult spots. He stressed that if you plant trees without due consideration then many of them will die and that's just crazy economics "I'd rather spend time than money" he told me after I told him we'd planted a couple of trees in our garden just the day before using none of the forethought and sense which Nick recommended. Hopefully our trees will survive although both Amy and I did consider uprooting them and trying again when we got home!

There was lots to learn from compost to mulch, vegetable patches to tree planting. We enjoyed lunch and I chatted to a guy who owned 10 pigs (and he showed me some pictures of them on his phone in a similar affectionate way as to how you would with children) as we feasted on delicious pumpkin soup and tasty bread.

The school owned a lovely garden area which would have been improved by the touch of us keen volunteers. The half dozen hens they owned would also have appreciated our visit and the grubs Eli had thrown to them.

Amy helps the kids with some rakes

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Audrey wins a merit certificate

Audrey won another merit certificate from her school. It's a lovely thing they do and you can see how proud the kids are who receive them.

Here is a shot of her getting her award.

Yes Peas!

We had a crop of peas growing in the garden which the kids delighted in picking and de-podding. It's the last of our summer/autumn crops as we'll have cold mornings ahead for the next few months.

Amy included them in a lovely pea risotto. Here's a picture of them!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Bundanoon Weekend (part 3)

Open day at the Bundanoon Fire Station...

Audrey gets 'kitted out'

Eli heads to another emergency..

the fire engine prepares to head off

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Bundanoon’s Glow Worm Glen - Bundanoon Weekend (part 2)

After an afternoon at Fairy Bower Falls we picked Amy up and headed to see Bundanoon’s glow worm glen.
It’s a little walk from a suburban street, but soon you’re surrounded by forests and we reached the glen after about 20 minutes walk.

Amy had been to see them before (struggling her way through the dark) and someone had recommended to her that you do the descent in the light and then walk back by torchlight.

It took a little while to get pitch black, but as it did the glow worms lit up and soon the glen was lit up with tiny bright ‘stars’ it was magical to see. We were joined by other people observing the spectacle and Audrey and Eli made friends with some more children. As we headed back, Eli volunteered to be in charge of the torch – which was interesting at times as the path was pitch black. We were tired by the time we got back to the top of the hill and our car. Amy especially.

The next day (after another insisted on trip back to the playground) we headed to Fitzroy Falls. It’s a 30 minute drive from Bundanoon and we stopped in Exeter on the way and had a lovely lunch in the cafĂ© which doubled (tripled?) as a general store and post office. By comparison the falls are much easier to reach (a paved path to the head of the falls). They were amazing though. We were entertained at the visitor centre by an exhibition of Torres Straight Islands dancing.

We picked up Amy and Eli cried as we drove home – a combination I’m sure, of exhaustion and sadness. I’m sure we’ll be back to the Southern Highlands for more.

Fitzroy Falls

Lyre Bird


Heading back by torchlight

Bundanoon Weekend (part 1) - Fairy Bower Falls

Bundanoon is a small town about 50k from Goulburn in New South Wales. It’s part of an area they call the ‘Southern Highlands’. In keeping with the Scottish theme in April the town becomes ‘Brigadoon’ and 10,000 people descend on the place and they organise a highland games. It must be good to see.

Amy had signed up a two day course at the excellent ‘Quest for Life’ centre and so the kids and I came along with her and entertained ourselves while she was at her course.

It’s a friendly small town, and after a time spent at the really nice playground we visited the fire station which had an ‘open day’ organised. Audrey and Eli loved climbing onto the fire engine and they even had miniature clothing for kids to wear. We would have stayed longer except that the fire engine alarm went and the guys showing us round had to zoom off to an emergency!

There’s a host of great bush walks not far the town centre and after our fun was ended at the fire station I decided to head to Fairy Bower Falls. It was described as a beautiful waterfall at the end of a medium/steep path.

Relatively unequipped (I had a banana and some water bottles) we parked in a car park and began our descent. Walking was easy at first – wooden steps with handrails, but soon became pretty treacherous. The path turned into a steep rocky path and we had to scramble down – me holding both Audrey and Eli’s hands (sometimes Eli’s hood), while trying to maintain my own balance at the same time.

Intermittently we would be passed by ‘proper’ walkers – with hiking poles , all weather gear, boots and backpacks. Audrey was dressed in her Barbie jacket and at this point I’d already eaten the banana.

We reached a midway point where we could have decided to go to a ‘lookout’ which would have given us a view of the falls, but Eli wanted to press on and complete the walk to the base of the falls. The second half of the walk was even more treacherous and I imagined news reports when they airlifted our broken bodies out of the forest with people saying ‘How irresponsible..what was he thinking?!’.

We met some people heading back who were amazed that a 4 and 5 year old (with unequipped and unprepared Dad) could make it so far but we did.

The falls are spectacularly beautiful (even though the surrounding ground is really wet) and we stood and admired them for a while before scrambling/climbing back. As we made the final steps back into the car park (we’d covered 3km in 2 hours) I could see the sun beginning to set behind the trees.

At the base of the falls

Monday, May 13, 2013

Mother's Day Classic

We took part again in the Mother's Day Classic 5km walk (or 5/10km run) which is held each year to raise money for breast cancer research.  This year we were joined by Catherine and Michael (Amy's sister and brother-in-law) and our good friend Barb and her husband Simon and son Jack.  It was a bit foggy to start off with but turned out to be a glorious day. 

Audrey managed to walk the whole 5km, while Eli and  Jack opted for rides in their respective prams most of the way.  At the promise of a medal and chocolate biscuit at the finish line, we managed to coax the boys out of their prams to walk the last 1km.

Although I never start out to fundraise, this year we raised $2401 (at last count).  Let's hope the money raised on the day can help to fund important breast cancer research and one day we will be able to say that cancer is curable.

Here's some pics...

At the start....

Here we go

The boys in the pram while Audrey soldiers on

Eli walks the last 1km

Amy and Trevor after the race

Still enough energy for the jumping castle!

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Creating a Capital

In 1911 the federal government of Australia announced plans to hold an international design competition for a new capital city.

In May 1912 entrant No.29 Walter Burley Griffin won the competition to design Canberra and on March 12, 1913 the foundation stone of what is now the city we live in was placed.
For the record second and third place were awarded to entrants No. 18 Eliel Saarinen and No. 4 Donat-Alfred Agache. A minority vote in favour of entrant No. 10 – Walter Scott Griffiths, Robert Charles Coulter and Charles Caswell – effectively awarded them fourth place. The finalists' entries are now held by the National Archives.

As well as the national capital competition, Australia has a history for compeitions of this ilk - the national anthem was decided as a result of a vote and the flag by another competition.

I'm not sure what Walter 'won' when they decided on his design - presumably a few dozen Amazon vouchers.
Anyway, the National Archives had the original documents on display - an exhibition called Design 29: creating a capital which we visited on Saturday.

The exhibition came complete with pre-loaded ipads which added to the exhibition and allowed you to look up extra information/pictures and enhance the show. Audrey loved walking round with the (padded for drops) ipad. Here's a picture.

It's debatable how much of the plans were actually carried out. It's clear that Griffin's plan for the lake were enacted as were what is now Anzac Parade. A lot of people refer to 'Burley Griffin's vision' but I actually think a fair amount of the plan was interpreted or altered later on. Perhaps I should read more on the subject.

If you're interested in going along the show is on until end of September. Click here


Whale Watching

As part of Canberra's ongoing centenary, on Saturday the city unveiled the eagerly anticipated 'Skywhale'. It was a giant balloon shaped as a whale, but with 10 large sagging breasts. It cost the Canberran tax payer $300k. Those at least are the raw facts.

What the "Canberra 100" committee wanted us to believe was that it was an astounding piece of visual art by renouned Victorian artist (Patricia Piccinini) that would more than recoup the bloated costs by promoting Canberra as a worldwide destination. How a skywhale floating around in the sky does that is anyone's guess. It's obviously been succesful in creating debate.....debates such as 'how can the government predict the loss of 20,000 jobs in Canberra, whilst at the same time spending $300k on a hot air balloon".

On Saturday there was a launch of the balloon next to the Australian National Gallery. Amy, me, Catherine (Amy's sister) and Eli went along. I wanted to like the balloon I really did. The truth of it was that it was pretty ugly with a face that only a skywhale mother could like. It didn't much look like a whale and I didn't really get the 10 sagging breasts either.

The art-set that had gathered to see the balloon launch gave it three cheers as it rose into the air. I've seen lots of balloons take off (we frequent the Canberra hot air balloon every year) and I was a bit underwhelmed. As everyone cheered and remarked how good it was "The Emperors new clothes" sprung to mind.

I 'get' the point of modern art and it's ability to create debate. I don't believe that modern art is nihilistic just because it doesn't always represent form, but essentially I found the skywhale crap.

Eli (aged 4) said he liked it though, so who can say what is art and what isn't.

Here's a video of it taking off.

Eli under the skywhale breasts

Is it a plane, is it a whale...

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Mother's Day liturgy

Audrey and Eli's school often put on liturgy's around important dates in the calendar.

Last Friday was Mother's Day in Australia and Audrey's class did a short liturgy to celebrate. Audrey drew a beautiful picture of her mum and said a few words about her. Amy went along and enjoyed it immensely (the scones afterwards were good too apparently!)

Here's the picture

and a quick video too...(Mum helps me with my beads and cooks yummy food)