Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Mystery solved

The Highways Agency found over 200 dead crows on the M4 near Bridgend recently, and there was concern that they may have died from Avian Flu. A Pathologist examined the remains of all the crows, and, to everyone's relief, confirmed the problem was NOT Avian Flu. The cause of death appeared to be from vehicular impacts. However, during analysis it was noted that varying colours of paints appeared on the ...bird's beaks and claws. By analysing these paint residues it was found that 98% of the crows had been killed by impact with lorrys, while only 2% were killed by cars.

 The Agency then hired an Ornithological Behaviourist to determine if there was a cause for the disproportionate percentages of truck kills versus car kills. The Ornithological Behaviourist quickly concluded that when crows eat road kill, they always have a look-out crow to warn of danger. They discovered that while all the lookout crows could shout "Cah", not a single one could shout "Lorry"

The Canberra Times Kids’ Glass Design Competition

At the end of last year the kids entered a colouring competition when we were at the local markets. The prize was to have your artwork brought to life as a glass sculpture. There were loads of kids doing drawings and it was a way of us to pass few minutes rather than having aspirations on the prize. The theme was “Funny Faces” and Audrey produced a colourful drawing which she named the “Seven Nosed Rainbow Nincompoop”

Earlier this week a lady from the Canberra Glassworks rang me to let me know that Audrey had won first prize in her age category (3-8). I was so pleased (and proud). The lady swore me to secrecy although it was tricky biting my lip when I really wanted to tell Audrey she had won.

A group of us, including Amy’s Dad, Ivor headed out to Canberra Glassworks a few days later. Ivor has been kindly looking after the kids during the school holidays.

There were a few formalities and the event was presided over by Andrew  Barr, the recently appointed ACT Chief Minister. I introduced him to the kids as the “Boss of Canberra” – a title which made him laugh. He was a friendly guy.

Audrey’s presentation was at the end (which served to build the suspense) and it was so nice to see her face when her name was read out as the prize winner. The artist (Lisa Cahill) who made Audrey’s picture in glass was there and she was a really lovely lady (She has her own studio in Piallago).

The artwork had taken a whole day to make and then three days in the kiln, it really was a beautiful piece of art. It’s now going to be on display at the Glassworks for a few weeks and then Audrey gets to keep it. It’s really a lovely prize.

Audrey with Chief Minister Andrew Barr
Audrey with artist Lisa Cahill (photo by Daniel Spellman)
Another one of Audrey and Lisa
Canberra Glassworks preparing for the event

Monday, January 19, 2015

A sporting time in Canberra (PM's XI v England)

Fresh from our trip to see an Asian cup football game the three of us went to watch the annual PMs XI cricket game at Manuka (Canberra’s cricket ground). Each year a bit of a hotch-potch side are invited by the Prime Minister to play the touring international team. This year the England team are in Australia in preparation for the Cricket World Cup (which is due to start in Australia in February). The PM’s XI game probably meant something once, but now it’s just a bit of a fun run-around – the lights of Manuka giving the game a bit more excitement but basically a game without much consequence to either team whether they win or lose.

The kids had been at a play-date all day and when I collected them, and I told them of my plan to go to the game when we were all in the car. Audrey told me how much she hated cricket and went as far as saying that if I took her she would turn away from the action and not watch.
As it turned out we got into the ground quite easily and then sat in really great seats. We’d missed the England innings, but it was still good to watch Anderson and Broad running in. There were a few wickets and a couple of sixes.

I bought the kids ice creams. Before too long a Mexican wave went round the crowd, fuelled by a combination of the sunny evening, beer and general apathy towards the result and the kids loved it.

I was conscious that it was growing dark and Audrey and Eli needed to go to bed, but both of them were enjoying the spectacle. In the end I had to remind Audrey how much she hated cricket in order to get them out of the door and home.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Korea Republic v Oman – the Asian Cup arrives in Canberra

The Asian Cup is a big deal – the second oldest continental football tournament in the world after Copa America and in 2015 Australia is lucky enough to be the host country.

Not just that but the organisers have been kind to Canberra granting our beautiful city no less than 6 qualifiers and a quarter final. South Australia, whose Adelaide United regularly attracts crowds of over 20k is shunned as too is WA, the fact that there is a lot of big football games in the nations capital over the next three weeks should not be underestimated – it probably won’t be repeated in my lifetime. Of course as is the way with these things the glitzy Socceroos games go to Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane with no chance of them gracing Canberra, but we’ve still got big-hitters South Korea playing two games here as well as China and Iraq.

First off let’s get the whole football/soccer conundrum thing out of the way. Of COURSE the game is called FOOTBALL. Having arrived in Australia from England six and a bit years ago  I’m also biased but despite Australia’s reticence, the beautiful game, dating back centuries, is football. I’m happy to cede to the Brazilian’s calling it futebol and the Germans of course are allowed Fußball, but “Soccer”, no I’m sorry that’s just horrible.

Over time I’ve softened my resistance – I used to insist on calling it football when talking to my Aussie mates, but sometimes (as almost every other sport apart from cricket seems to be called “footy” here) it just led to confusion, so it evolved into “football-soccer” and now I vary it according to the audience. Let’s face it though FOOTBALL is the world game and outside of Australia nobody gives a flying toss about State of Origin.

We got to the game 30 minutes before kick off. In the UK that would get you into the ground in time for kick off. True, your experience might differ depending on the ground you go to. If it’s some old pre-war affair you’d be channeled down some piss-smelling tunnel through a turnstyle into a grotty stadium, or if it was in one of the post-Taylor Report grounds in the Championship or Premier League then the experience would be bright and glitzy with an overpowering tannoy playing Queen and you’d pay $30 for a pie and a Bovril.

Either way I reckon you’d get in the ground though one way or another.

In Canberra though they’d got the stewarding wrong somehow. The parking around Canberra stadium is always at a premium, but we sat in a huge line of traffic before being sent in multiple directions before managing to park dubiously in a faraway carpark kinda/but not quite blocking someone in.

We wanted to see the anthems. In the end we missed the first 15 minutes. If you’re reading this and planning to go to any of the other games – here’s my only word of advice…get there EARLY.
Despite missing the first bit of the game it was still great. (I’d done a bit of swotting up prior to the game – Lee Chung-Yong – is known affectionately/imaginatively to his Bolton supporters as “Chungy” and Son Heung-min was a $10m transfer to Bayer Leverkusen where he plies his trade in the Bundersliga).

The Korean team were strong and organised and attacked with intent. The Oman team trying to score on the counter-attack, but still possessing players who had the occasional trick and piece of skill.
Towards the end of the first half a shot was parried by the Oman keeper and the ball fell to Cho Youngcheol who slid the ball home. The big Korean contingent in the crowd went wild and I jumped spontaneously out of my seat together with my boy Elijah.

Korea went into half time with a deserved 1-0 lead. The East stand was a swathe of red – South Korea are known as the Red Devils and they were able to generate a fair amount of noise both singing/chanting with the occasional air horn. It was a nice experience – I’ve been to Brumbies games with another 5,000 supporters in the same ground and found it akin to sitting in a library. It started to drizzle with rain at half time, but the wet weather did nothing to dampen the enthusiasm of the crowd.

The second half was much like the first. The immaculate playing surface helping the Korean’s passing game and providing them with a couple of great chances to extend their lead. One hit the side netting another and another scuffed shot also closely missing the target. Oman were no pushovers though. They had a chance late on where the striker really should have made it 1-1 and then in the dying seconds an Oman build up resulted in a shot which pinged off the Korean crossbar.
In the end though the team in red deserved their 1-0 win. It did show off the quality of two of the sides who are also both in the Socceroos group – Australia meet Oman on Tuesday and then Korea next Saturday – they could be testing examinations for Ange Postecoglou’s team.

After the game I reflected on things – it was a great experience and (parking aside) Canberra Stadium put on a terrific event. It was great that Eli (aged 5) had his first experience of live football watching Korea Republic v Oman (I think mine was the slightly less exotic Wolverhampton Wanderers v Leeds United). Here’s some pics of our fabulous afternoon of football.

Eli's first taste of live football

12,500 watching Korea v Oman in Canberra stadium

Korea defending in the second half

This post was originally published on Visit Canberra's Blog

Monday, January 5, 2015

Sydney Trip for New Year

It’s was amazing sitting on a beach watching fireworks on New Year’s Eve. The kids, fresh from their swim drying off on beach towels, the packed Manly beach gazing up at the colours as they danced in the sky, illuminating the sea with their colours.

The three of us had travelled up to Sydney to visit our friends Tim and Hayley and their children Teddy and Alex. As well as the New Year's Eve fireworks during our time there we enjoyed so many things, from bike riding at Narrabeen Lakes, riding the Manly ferry to Circular Quay, and eating pizza with chips on!

We spent a lovely morning at a water park in Manly, played backyard cricket and generally relaxed and enjoyed good company.

Boys in the pool
Audrey on the harbour

Eli on the harbour
Audrey with Alex

Waiting for the fireworks
Manly beach