Thursday, December 25, 2014

Christmas in Australia’s hot, cold and frosty’s what it’s not

So our first Christmas without Amy. I guess there’s going to be a few ‘firsts’ like that, first birthdays, anniversaries, holidays etc. None of them welcome, but we got through things ok. In a way it was a strange thing – I miss Amy every day, so Christmas day wasn’t particularly much different in that respect. (We used to enjoy Christmas Day even though Amy never relished the fact that I insisted on brussel sprouts every year!)

The kids loved opening their presents in the morning and then we went to the Hyatt – a posh “old” hotel in Canberra with some friends for lunch. It was a nice time – the hotel had a huge buffet and Audrey and Eli loved the kid's room which served very posh chicken nuggets and gave the option to make your own ice cream.

Both the kids got their wishes from Santa. Audrey had her heart set on an ipad but fortunately wasn’t too disappointed when it didn’t show up.

Balloon Magic - an annual favourite in Santa's stocking

Balloon Magic Fun 
Audrey by (a small fraction of) the food on offer at the Hyatt

Me ringing a bell wearing a paper crown while my friend Anthony's trousers fit in with the curtains

Monday, December 22, 2014

Who's No.1?

To access healthcare in Australia you have to possess a Medicare card. As Amy was Australian and I am a migrant, she was always listed first on the card. Next to your name is a number. Amy was (rightly) always No.1.

Whenever we had to produce the card either for our own medical appointments or for the kids Amy would always point out that she was No.1 on the card and I was No.2 as if it represented the order of importance in the family. In fact a truer representation would have placed me at No.4 or No.6 (when the guinea pigs were alive). Amy had a lot of medical appointments - neither of us tired of the joke.

Since Amy's death I have been going through the unenviable task of informing people. I've let most of the institutions know, but there's a long list of organisations you'd never think of until they write to you.

When my new Medicare card arrived, I figured that (despite the horribleness of everything) at least I'd now be No.1. When I opened up the envelope though this is how it now looks - it really made me chuckle. Amy I know you're somewhere with a smirk on your face as well. Looks like you'll always be No.1.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Googong Dam

A friend took me fishing to nearby Googong Dam, while his kind wife looked after Audrey and Eli.

Googong Dam is near Queanbeyan and supplies some of Canberra's water. Despite its proximity to Canberra I hadn't been there before - we often take day trips to Cotter Dam but for some reason haven't ever ventured to Googong.

It's a really beautiful spot. The water is clear (as you'd hope with a reservoir!) and it's a lovely expanse of water with very few people milling around. There's a large housing estate being built nearby so I suspect some of the tranquility will disappear but for now it's fabulous.

My mate had a tip-off about a 'secret spot' to fish - this is always the way with fishing - everyone knows an undiscovered area where the fish practically jump out of the water and a piece of string and bent rusty nail can land you a monster specimen which as well as providing a meal for a family for a week can be mounted above your fireplace for your grandchildren to admire. The guy I went with is a marine biologist so as we traipsed over hills and cut through grassland I did have some faith in his secret fishing location.

In the end (during about 5 hours) we caught one fish between us. A medium sized redfin perch. Not even a native. The only debate was whether to throw the fish back in or not. In the end we did. 

Despite our lack of success, the area is undoubtedly beautiful. I know my Dad (a keen fisherman) would have admired how picturesque it is. I'm sure we'll take a trip out there again. Perhaps we'll just have a family barbecue next time and leave the fishing to others.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Justine Clarke comes to town

We've had a long-term 'thing' going with Justine Clarke - in case you're out of the children's entertainer loop she's a multi-talented actress/singer/playschool presenter. The kids love her (and I admit I've always had a soft spot for her too).

We've seen her in concert umpteen times from small venues when she was starting out on her solo singing career to the latest performance where she filled the Canberra Theatre for several sell out shows full of singing/dancing children.

I bought tickets to see her some months ago (April or May I think) as soon as I saw that she was coming to Canberra and my keenness meant that I was the first through to the booking office and secured us tickets in the middle of Row AA. Amy and I were looking forward to the show - she always teased me about my infatuation.

Sadly as you know Amy didn't make the show in December. A friend of Audrey's took her seat. I wrote to Justine to request a song in Amy's honour. Justine played it for the three of us even though it wasn't on her set list for Canberra. That's just the sort of person she is.

Audrey's friend was well versed in all the songs and we danced and sang throughout the concert. I'm not sure how many more the kids will get in as it feels like they're a bit on the cusp of being too old and no doubt the switch-over to boy-band will happen before too long.

It'll be a sad day when the kids don't want to go any more and much as I admire/love Justine I think it would be a tadge strange to go on my own!

The view from Row AA

I like to sing!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Racecourse Beach

I joined a group of Dads (there were six of us in all) and headed down to Racecourse Beach (near Bawley Point) on the South Coast for a short 3 day break. Initially planned as a camping trip we all changed at the last minute to cabins.

It turned out to be a wise move as the rain beat down on the roof on the Friday night, it would have been a very soggy morning if we had awoken under canvass.

It drizzled throughout Saturday, but it didn't really curtail our fun - the beach was a 100 metre walk over a ridge was beautiful and we splashed in the pool despite the rain. Sunday was much brighter and so it was late in the afternoon before we turned to home and arrived back in Canberra happy but weary.

Here's some pics

beautiful 'unspoilt' Rainbow Beach

Audrey on the flying fox

Blow up tyres - courtesey of Aldi ($7.99)

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Proud of my children

We had a hectic (and expensive) afternoon on Tuesday with trips to the podiatrist and dentist. When we arrived at the dentist both of the kids told me that they had been to the dentist “recently” with Mummy. Neither could tell me exactly when it was - whether it was in the last year or which dentist they’d been to! I took it on the chin and thought there’d be no harm in a second visit(!)

After handing over half my wages (the dentist looked in Elijah's mouth for about 10 seconds and charged me $79) the three of us headed to the nearby supermarket.

Just before we reached the self-service check out I asked the kids, “We’re doing ok, aren’t we?”. 

Rightly or wrongly I’ve occasionally found myself “checking-in” with them to make sure they’re ok and they’re coping with our new “normal”. Amy is ALWAYS in our life, we often talk about her and I feel her presence and power so often.

On this occasion Audrey was surprised that I had asked the question. The two of them were mucking around and hanging from the side of the trolley in typical fashion and she turned to me with a surprised expression and replied, “Of course we are!”.

Moments later when we reached the checkout both her and her brother obediently jumped down from the trolley and without prompting started unloading the trolley for me, scanning it and packing it into bags (they didn’t have the ability to pay for the shopping but I’m sure they would have done!)
They are such lovely children.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Still Numb

It’s been a difficult week. I dropped the kids at school this morning and sat in my car and sobbed.  I miss you so much dear Amy.

People tell me that things get easier, in truth the last few days have felt harder. I can’t exactly tell you why.

In part I think it’s because I read this week that one of Amy’s friends, Sheree (from her internet circle) died earlier this week from cancer. I didn’t know her, but I know Amy did; she was 39 and had two small boys. Another life lost to this horrible disease, another little family wrecked and two more kids left without their Mum.
I think what I find hard is that I know that thousands more will die and I can’t do anything to stop it, absolutely nothing. We all go on with our daily lives while the oncology ward of every hospital is packed with young women living with this insidious disease, many many of them with young families like ours.

I’ve been blown away by people’s love over the last couple of months. So many school Mums (and Dads) offering help, friends who I didn’t really know before Amy’s death have become closer.
Aside from the emotional weight it’s been a logistical headache over the last few weeks ensuring that the kids get to school, get their teeth brushed, have food to eat and that I get to work to ensure some semblance of normality.

Some people have risen to help, whereas some who I thought would help, who I thought would be there for me and the kids have vanished. Odd.

I’ve been to a few ‘family’ things recently with the kids and we’ve laughed and joked with everyone else, but I look at the other families and realise that our family is incomplete, my best friend isn’t here to share the jokes and it just hurts like hell.

Sunday, November 23, 2014


My nephew, Daniel has discovered that there are a large number of legal graffiti walls in Canberra - the local government actually publish their location. It's a good thing - the walls are not overlooked by anyone (they're mostly storm-water ditches) and provide great canvasses for people to spray their art.

He headed down with a friend of a friend to do some 'graff" on Sunday morning and the rest of us went along to see him after a swimming trip.

He'd just wrapped up as we arrived, so Audrey and Eli got to spray their own 'tags'. Audrey chose 'A1' and Elijah 'George'.

Here's a picture of them at work.

Audrey was a bit torn afterwards as she kept telling Daniel that graffiti was bad even though she'd been a perpetrator herself.

Eli goes to work



Audrey with her silver paint can

A side to Canberra you don't often see!

Daniel's work

Yankee Hat

A few weeks ago I was introduced to Yankee Hat by our neighbour Phil who took me and the kids for a day trip there. It’s an area of the nearby Namadji National Park with a large hill that looks (unsurprisingly I guess), like a Yankee hat.

I took a day off work yesterday and allowed the kids a day off school and together with Dan (my nephew) and Anja (his girlfriend) who are visiting us in Canberra at the moment, we headed off to explore the Namadji.

The Gudgenby Valley which Yankee Hat forms part of is beautiful – rolling countryside segmented by a couple of streams and populated by hundreds or maybe thousands of kangaroos who sit and scratch themselves while watching you nonchalantly from under the shade of trees as you walk past.

Sadly since we visited a few weeks ago the flies had also multiplied and so they numbered vastly more than the kangaroos and provided a constant hum in the air and meant that you were regularly flicking them away from your face.

It’s a nice and tranquil place though. After a 3km walk in a complex of boulders is a small copse containing a small area of aboriginal paintings. Some of the paint making up the pictures have been carbon dated to 3,700 years but it is thought that some of the earlier paint there could be much older.

The Ngunnawal people are thought to have been the most prevalent in the Canberra region, but it was also a significant meeting place for other clans, including the Ngarigo, Wolgalu, Gundungurra, Yuin and Wiradjuri people. Ceremonies, trading and inter-marriages took place during gatherings.

The kids walked at their own pace (slowly) and on our return leg Dan and Anja went in a fruitless search of a waterfall which a local guide informed us was nearby. Nevertheless (and despite the flies who buzzed around us all afternoon) we had a really enjoyable time. The kids took their time over the walk but didn’t really complain about the distance or terrain. It helps that the return trip is mostly downhill.

When we got home I chatted with Eli. We’ve now been to Yankee Hat twice together and enjoyed it both times. I said that it was a shame that we never went there with his Mum (we ‘discovered’ Yankee Hat a week or two after Amy’s death).

He told me that his Mum had walked alongside us for the whole day. His words brought tears to my eyes, but thinking about it I am sure he was right.

Perspective does funny things sometimes!

Rock art

The slow walk back to the car


crazy cousins

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Flower on our Yucca

We've got (what I think is) a yucca palm in our garden. I really like it (it gives the place a tropical feel!) and it's really thrived since we chopped down two ugly pine trees which were cramping it in. It's now well over 6 metres tall

I noticed this morning that it had a beautiful flower on it. Here's a picture.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Life without you

November the sixth.

The calendar this morning reminds me that it is two months since you died
I sit and stare at it and can’t comprehend
How I sat there next to your bed and you slipped away

And like that morning, once again tears stream down my face
I choose to wipe them away this time so that the kids can’t see them,
Not that I’m ashamed
Just that I don’t want my melancholy to disturb their joyful laughter.
They need to get ready and go to school.

Last week I looked back at old emails we had exchanged,
Pictures of us at Christmas past -
A photo of a bending tree, kids smiling with presents.
Our joyful life before cancer,
Before chemo wrecked your feet,
Before neuropathy swelled your arm,
Before the horror of a mastectomy and the removal of your ovaries.
Before the pain and hope and expectation           
And disappointment
Of a dozen different treatments
A life before Xeloda and Tamoxifin and all the others
You never complained, you said it “Didn’t matter”
You just wanted something to work.
Nothing really did. Turns out that it did matter. 

Christmas is going to be strange without you this year my love.
People tell me that I’m doing well.
I don’t know if that’s true,
I’m living day by day, I’m surviving.
The kids driving me on.
I tell myself it will be ok.

The noise of the children's laughing returns.
Audrey finishes the chapter from her fairy book,
Eli brings his teddy bear to the table
The toast pops up from the toaster
“You ok Dad?” Audrey asks.
I lie to her in the affirmative.
And so another day,
Another roller-coaster day begins.

I look at the children.
Their happy smiles and scraggly hair,
Their bashed up, school-yard knees.

They are the pot of gold at the end of your rainbow.

I miss you so much.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Twenty one days later

So how do I pick up from here?

Here are the facts I guess.

My beautiful wife, Amy died on 6th September, just after 7.10am on a frosty but calm, Saturday morning in Canberra. Just eight short short days after getting the advice that there were no longer any treatments that could help fight the cancer.

Amy had been sick on Friday night and after a couple of visits from the palliative care nurse a decision was taken to rush her via ambulance to Clare Holland House (the hospice in Canberra).

I drove our car behind the ambulance while Amy’s sister Catherine sat with Amy.

Amy was incredibly weak when we arrived but still lucid and talking to us both. The palliative care nurse told me that she might only be in for the night and might be able to go home in the morning. I asked a few people after Amy’s death whether the nurse only told me that to help me out, but I was told that it was probably what the nurse believed at the time.

Catherine and I stayed with Amy throughout the night, her Dad, Mum and brother Ivor joining us in early morning. It was a long strange (and terribly sad) night. 

The nurses administered pain relief to help Amy. Having watched her give birth to our two beautiful children without pain relief of any kind I knew that the fact that Amy said she was in pain was enough to know that she WAS in pain, she was so so so strong. Amy slept for most of the night after they’d given her the drugs and then after a few hours her breathing changed, becoming shallow and less frequent before she died.

It was beyond awful. The absolute heaviest and deepest sadness I have ever known times one hundred.

Even in those last few fragments of time I hoped that Amy would wake up, spend a few minutes chatting. Right now I’d trade everything - absolutely everything I own for another five minutes of her company.

I brought the kids to see their Mum after she had died. Just strange. They didn’t stay in the room with her long. How unreal to see your Mum lying dead when you’re so young. As they ran out I turned to Amy and asked her to get up and come home, but she couldn’t. I cried some more.

So then a course of events which even though only just over a week or so ago seem blurry and lost in time. The funeral. A nice memorial. So many people probably 200.

Amy you were so loved, the enormity of your death sent ripples not just through our little local community but throughout the whole world. I received literally hundreds of tributes from people who knew and loved you.

The wake was probably the most amazing part of the day. The school mobilised into action, parents serving plates of food, ABBA and Duran Duran playing in your honour. Kids running free in the sunny evening. The only thing missing was you dear Amy and I know you’d have enjoyed the community, the support, the unity, the love. Thank you everyone.

And so everyone comes back home. Me, Audrey, Eli but not you.

The last couple of weeks have been so strange. I keep expecting you to come home from the shops. I want so much to hear you laughing in another room, chasing after Audrey with a hairbrush, tickling Eli on the bed.

There’s only three towels in the bathroom now, three toothbrushes. After all these years I’ve discovered it was you who swept the crumbs away under the kid’s seats and pushed their chairs in after meal times. I hadn’t noticed until now. Sorry.

There’s a million reminders of you around the house. Your shirt tossed on the top of one of the wardrobe doors, your sandals at the end of the bed. I don’t have the strength at the moment to imagine that you won’t be wearing those again while you take the kids to the park. The pictures on the walls that we chose together, your favourite mug.

Following a few requests I put together a website ( I’m not sure if you’d have approved, you never really liked much fuss.  

Before you died you started a ‘memory box’ it’s got pictures and letters in there. I know it’s incomplete, time ran away so so fast in those last few weeks. I tried looking through it today, so many lovely pictures of you and the kids. Happy times. You’re so beautiful Amy

So now I have to work out what ‘normal’ looks like. Try and comprehend how life looks without you. 

The kids need me to help them, equally the kids are helping me. Eli cried a lot last Thursday, he brought me a book to read because he knew it was one of Amy's favourites.

In what turned out to be your final week Amy and I lay on the bed and cried about how we wanted to get old together, I’m struggling to come to terms with the knowledge that it won’t happen now. 

Your death weighs like a stone in my heart. 

Monday, September 1, 2014

Update on Amy

Last Thursday we received the terrible news that Amy's cancer treatment wasn't working. It didn't come as a huge surprise as Amy's health and general wellness has really deteriorated during the last couple of weeks.

The oncologist strongly advised to stop treatment, in her words, Amy was facing a "brick wall". There were another couple of options open to us which the oncologist advised against - neither were 'miracle cures', both carried awful side effects and in Amy's condition may well have shortened rather than prolonged her life.

Amy had thought a lot about it and took the decision to stop all treatments. Her body is tired and battle-weary- more than I can possibly describe. We've both lost count of the number of radiation sessions, hormone therapy and chemo's that she's tried (and that's aside from a number of operations). Nothing has (really) held the progression of the cancer up.

It means that Amy will now only live for a few weeks, possibly (at a push) two months until her body shuts down and she dies.

I can't tell you how heartbreaking this is for all of us. We reflected on it yesterday and more than half of our seven year marriage has been under the shadow of  cancer - a disease so awful there's no metaphor to adequately describe its horribleness.

Every day throughout this I have been amazed by Amy's strength and bravery. The oncologist remarked on how dignified Amy has been throughout this whole terrible chapter and what a beautiful person she is, and I can only echo that.

I love you so much Amy. You have always been the lid to my pot, the love of my life and nothing will ever change that.

Monday, August 18, 2014

The down and downs of secondary breast cancer (from my perspective).

I’ve been meaning to write something to temper some of the posts on here which seem to make out that our life is a jolly series of outings and happiness. I wanted to put into words the shadow that is hanging over us.

As most of our friends (and/or readers of this blog) I’m sure know, Amy was diagnosed with breast cancer at the end of 2010. Since then she’s been through a mastectomy, had her ovaries removed and (for good measure) had her gall bladder taken out too. 

She’s had a horrific and un-ending cocktail of drugs, chemotherapy and radiation every one of them taking its toll on her poor (yet incredibly strong) body.

When Amy was diagnosed my knowledge of cancer was minimal (and I’d actually worked for a cancer prevention charity for a few months as well!) so what chance the rest of you? Why should I know anything? Cancer hadn't really "touched" my life. Aside from a couple of sad sad instances as a child I didn’t know anyone with the disease – it was something which happened to other people not me.

Now I realise even the phrase "touched" by cancer is a joke -written by someone trying to soften the blow of it all or a marketing wizard who like me didn't have a clue. Cancer doesn’t “touch” your life it pummels your very existence and then kicks the shit out of you. 

Everywhere you look there are stories of people who have "beaten" cancer or people who are cancer "survivors". We donate money and "hope" for a "cure". The whole world of sadness is masked in a big pink veil trying to pretend it’s all a tough, but ultimately winnable "journey".

In one of the first conversations we had with the oncologist 3½ years ago she told us that Amy would never be “cured”. Amy’s cancer has metastasized. In case you don't know (and I didn't) that’s a big medical word for ‘spread to other parts of her body’. It’s not something you hear much about when you’re buying your pink ribbon or chucking five bucks into a bucket to buy a daffodil. It’s hard to explain to people when you talk to them. In return they tell you stories of people who were sick but then had a miraculous recovery and ended up running marathons. I think they do it to make you feel better. It doesn’t really, but it’s a nice thought I guess.

In the last few weeks Amy has grown steadily sicker. As well as cancer in her bones – spine, shoulders, hip and knees the cancer is now in Amy's spleen and worst of all her liver. When you look at a body scan which highlights where the cancer is, Amy’s body lights up like the milky way.

A few weeks ago oncologist told us that Amy may die soon and we should tell the kids.

Audrey (aged seven) and Eli (five) are amazing really. As long as they can remember their Mum has taken weekly (often more frequent) trips to the hospital. Not many Mums have to do that. To our kids it’s the norm. To sit with them and say that their Mum might die soon, and not be there for them as they grow up was heartbreaking. We all sat and cried.

Amy’s now on a much stronger chemo. Don’t press me for the name of it. I’m useless at that sort of thing. Amy is fabulous – she knows the name of the drugs and more significantly maintains good links with others who have each taken a wide array of assorted cancer drugs and understand about side-effects (always horrible). Occasionally good friends she has through networks she has built up, die. They are always lovely people, and almost always young and with families.

In the last couple of weeks it’s started to look like the chemo Amy's on isn’t working how it should. Amy’s blood count readings (which she has every three days) have increased (following four or five weeks of "good" readings) and the oncologist is at a loss where we go now. There are "other" treatments but all of them will damage the liver. Amy’s liver is already knackered. Amy has been exhausted for days and had so little energy for someone who is naturally so active.

I’m trying to take the kids out as much as possible to give Amy as much rest as possible and I guess in part that's what this blog is recording. Even that's tough though as then it leaves Amy to go through some of this alone and I hate that. I'm trying to cook when I can, wash and iron when I can, in a desperate effort to give Amy as much rest as possible, to allow her body to go through one of the miraculous recoveries people tell me about all the time.

I don’t know what the next few weeks will bring. I’m scared and fraught. My lovely wife is dying and despite everyone’s help support and kind words nothing can put things back the way they should be and I can’t do anything to stop it.

Amy's stubborn (a good thing in this instance) and I know she'll "fight" (another favourite phrase people use) but equally I know some battles you can't win however hard you fight.

Audrey's 7th Birthday

Audrey had been excited all week in the lead up to her 7th birthday party.
In truth her party was relatively ‘low-key’ a pizza lunch at nearby Hellenic Club with a few of her mates, which compared to some of the other grand birthday productions we’ve been to as guests during the last seven years, hardly registered as a party at all.

In the build up to the party the number of guests had swelled dramatically from an initial two to six (nine kids in all once you added in siblings) still, it was a manageable number and meant we could easily accommodate a grown-up’s and kid’s table.

Audrey had added in the requirement to come dressed as a Princess and had constructed a written party-plan of party games, party food and the requirement for people to come both for lunch and evening meal(!) All of which were in her head not ours!

Her mates came – dressed up as princesses and they all had a crazy time on the ball-pool/climbing frame area in the club. There are much bigger climbing frame/ball park places in Canberra but Audrey seems to like it at the Hellenic so who were we to argue?

Audrey sported an Elsa (from Frozen) dress. Elsa is a BIG hit amongst girls aged 3-10 and all of Australia’s toy shops were sold out of dresses which had driven me to make my own using our sewing machine. The material cost me less than $20, but the two evenings I spent swearing and trying to drive the sewing machine made the dress much more valuable than the money I paid for it. Either way Audrey loved it, wore it proudly and looked beautiful in it.

We had a few tears at the end from the party-girl (when people started to leave and Audrey realised that her guests weren’t going to stay for 24 hours) but she soon got over it. Presents and party bags were exchanged and everyone headed home.

Audrey started planning her 8th birthday almost immediately.

Audrey in her Elsa dress

"Frozen" Birthday cake

Saturday, August 16, 2014

National Science Week - Dr Graham Blow Up Science

I took Audrey and her mate Sophia along to Dr. Graham's Blow Up Science - a fabulous hour of free science put on at the Australian National University as part of Science week.

Dr. Graham was a great entertainer and had great fun with nitrogen (exploding huge balloons using the vapour given off by the chemical) and hydrogen (blowing up stuff). In between he fired ping pong balls from a leaf blower and marshmallows from a vacuum cleaner (they went a LONG way)

The two girls spent a fair amount of time cowering under their seats. The show's climax was a huge explosion where Dr. Graham exploded a coke bottle and covered the explosion with soft toys (most of which ended up decapitated by the bang). A really nice afternoon out.

waiting for the show to start.
a BIG bang!

making clouds by adding boiling water to nitrogen


Me having a less than convincing attempt at unicycling at the National Museum of Australia

Uriarra Crossing

I took the kids out to Uriarra Crossing with some friends and their kids on Sunday afternoon and we had a lovely barbecue by the river.

It's such a nice spot there, one of my favourite places in Canberra

Giants v Kangaroos

I was lucky enough to win two tickets to the Aussie Rules (AFL) game at Manuka Oval through the wonderful folk at VisitCanberra and so decided to take Eli along for his first experience of sport played in front of a big stadium of people.

The 'home' side GWS Giants play three games a season in Canberra and this time they were pitched against North Melbourne (Kangaroos). GWS Giants are newcomers to the Australian Football League whereas the Kangaroos are one of the oldest (having been formed in 1869). What that means in practical terms is that the Kangaroos are an established team (having had a golden period in the 1960s) whereas the Giants are just really finding their way. The Giants have a young squad and are tipped to develop into something big in four or five years time whereas the Kangaroos are already there.

We had great seats and despite being winter the weather was a sunny and warm 14 degrees. The match kicked off and Eli (rightly so) started asking me what was going on. I think this was the third or fourth AFL game I'd been to but to be honest I'm still a bit sketchy on the rules. I turned to the chap next to me for help but he said he'd not been to an AFL game before but luckily the lady to my left shared a few more detailed pointers.

As all AFL games the match was pretty hectic. There's no slow build ups as in football and scoring is quick and frequent. Whether you love or loathe the game it's hard not to be impressed with the stamina and general fitness of the players. The sport requires you to not only run, but catch, jump and push(!) competently. I've found friends brought up on AFL are always the most vocal critics when watching football(soccer) when a player dives 10 feet along the ground because they've been nudged by the opposition, there's no time for that in AFL. I guess the main reason is that when teams score 150 points there's less advantage to be had than by a theatrical dive in the box to secure a vital 1-0 win in football(soccer).

The game is also looooong. Four quarters of 30 minutes obviously with a break between quarters. I'd thought we'd last till half time before Eli would get bored, but he was transfixed and watched almost the whole match which was great.

The Kangaroos were well ahead after the first quarter but the Giants fought back to trail by only a handful of points at half time. Eli and I took a wander round the ground (Eli got freaked out by G-Man - the HUGE Giants mascot) and by the time we returned to our seats the Kangaroos had scored several goals to lead the 3rd quarter significantly.

The match finished 126 v 51 so pretty much a walk-over, but it was still good fun to watch. Eli tried to switch support towards the end when he saw which way the game was going, but I reminded him he had to stay loyal to his team as they might win next time.

I guess a lifetime of watching some of the dross served up at the Molinuex had taught me that.

Everyone loves a thunderstick! 
having a kick around at half time

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Where were they?

(Eli) "We went to St.Peters and St.Paul's today but neither of them were there."

The anger of the artist as a young girl

Audrey loves drawing. If the mood takes her she can spend hours entertaining herself with drawing and colouring pictures. It's nice to see but it does mean we have a constant scattering of A4 paper throughout the house falling from her room through to the living room and sometimes even scribbled sheets find their way into the bathroom. At one point we bought her a desk for her room in an attempt to contain it all but it got filled up pretty quickly and she went back to drawing on the floor, her bed, under the bed on the sofa etc.

This morning Audrey drew Pearlie. Pearlie is a fairy who lives in a park and stars in a series of books. Audrey loves Pearlie - I think because they have a lot in common (Pearly has a messy bedroom too).

Audrey had already knocked off a drawing of Pearlie a few days ago and had handed it over to one of her best mates - no doubt to clutter up her parent's house (or bin) and now she was desperate to re-create it for her own 'gallery'. In Audrey's mind Pearlie Drawing No.1 had been a masterpiece....a veritable Rembrandt or Rosetti. Now it was gone.

Pearly Drawing No.2 had started well. The head was drawn, skirt coloured in but the eyes, oh the eyes. Audrey drew, rubbed out and redrew the eyes a number of times. They weren't quite circular - all cartoons are based around circles - ask our kids and they'll tell you "Disney Loves a Circle" (a phrase picked up from a cartoon workshop they went to). I tried to help, but only increased the angst - Audrey sees through every attempt to 'humour her'. Eventually Pearlie's eyes were finished but now the smile.

Did Leonardo take such time over Mona's enigmatic smile as Audrey took over Pearlie's? I doubt it. Sometimes smiling, sometimes scowling Pearlie's smile was drawn over and over again as the eraser on the end of the pencil frantically wore the paper down ever thinner and greyer.

I thought eventually the artist would be satisfied, but she wasn't. A scream a shout and temper now at complete boiling point. The drawing was literally kicked and thrown around the bedroom. A terrifying sight of a nearly seven year old in full flight flinging an A4 sketch around her room. If the picture had been on canvas I have absolutely no doubt a size 2 shoe would have gone through it.

Eventually (after much cajoling) Audrey calmed down and came to breakfast. Perhaps she'll try again later with Pearlie Drawing No.3.

If she does, this time I'll stay well clear.

Pearlie drawing No.2 (mixed media)

Monday, August 4, 2014

Eli's political commentary

"Tony Abbott has a brain the size of an ant."

Winter Festival at the National Portrait Gallery

Sunday marked the inaugural (I think) winter festival at the excellently appointed National Portrait Gallery.

The day promised a day’s worth of entertainment all of it free. I often think how lucky we are in Canberra that there is a constant stream of free entertainment, from Floriade to the balloon festival and many many things in between and most of it only requiring a short car or bike ride to access it.

Audrey, Eli and I went along with our friend Rob and his two children, arriving just in time to see the fabulous fire twirling outside of the gallery. The guy was excellent and the kids were enthralled.
Having seen similar performances as buskers or at other festivals you tend to get complacent about the skills something like that takes but it sometimes pays to look at things through the eyes of a child. The chap was fantastic and probably deserved more than the polite applause he received. Audrey and Eli loved it and talked about it for the rest of the day.

There was also a great “yarn bombing” exhibition in the Gordon Darling Hall and an ice sculptor had made a fabulous statue of Douglas Mawson. Apparently it is the same image which appears on the $100 note, but as I can’t remember ever having seen a note of that size(!) I didn’t recognise it.

Afterwards there was a comedy performance by the Etcetera Duo followed up with a fashion show (in winter, fire theme) which led us around the galleries. We then did some snowflake craft with the kids and wrapped up a fun afternoon with a beer and banana bread on the terrace.