Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Audrey for PM

A little while ago Audrey wrote to now Australian Prime Minister Turnbull regarding planned cuts to the ABC (he never bothered to reply to her letter).

After hearing he was due to succeed the slapstick Tony Abbott she decided that she needed to launch her own campaign (unprompted by me apart from telling her that it was a manifesto)

She appears to have a pretty decent political platform...

My Manifesto
When I am prime minister these are things I plan to do

1. No religion in schools because it is boring.
2. Look after people from overseas because they are nice.
3. Teach kids cursive handwriting.
4. Be nice to animals and don't chop down trees because it is their habitat.
5. Everyone should have a (swimming) pool because it is healthy and fun.

Kid chat

Sometimes I think it's fair to say A&E drive me crazy. I sometimes wonder if I'm cut out to say, 'Put on your shoes!' 150 times a day or trundle out the old classic, 'Come on...Hurry Up!!'

I think what amplifies my frustration is not when the kids talk back to me, but rather deliver the ultimate counter attack of just waiting for me to issue my request for the 50th time before staring blankly back at me, as if I'm not there. Usually this leads to me turning my voice volume up to 11, but even then the said shoes don't usually get put on until I threaten destruction of a random teddy/Barbie/Lego construction. 

Kids; when you're sitting with your shrink in 20 years time telling them that your Dad often had a crazed and irrational desire to throw your stuffed toy in the wheely bin, that's why you are how you are and if you'd just put on your shoes in the first place the psych analysis would have been unnecessary.
Anyway... I'd planned this post more to be about the joys (rather than tribulations) of parenthood.

This evening I had a much nicer conversation with Eli and somehow we got onto the topic of 'What super power would you choose?'

During the course of our conversation we narrowed things down, cutting out 'super human strength' (probably only useful if you've got a jar with a tough lid on it) excluded Eli's inspired suggestion of 'Ice Eyes' (whose usefulness only becomes really apparent on a hot summers day or perhaps if you had a job in the freezer section at a supermarket).

We have as a result, come down to a toss up between 'Flight' and Time Travel' both admirable super powers but equally both powers (just like the 'Put your shoes on!' plea) probably become rendered useless by the ultimate super power - the blank stare response.

Monday, September 28, 2015

A couple of short videos from Nightfest

Floriade Nightfest

Climbing the wall!
We had a great evening at Floriade Nightfest on Saturday evening. Nightfest runs for a short part of Floriade. In previous years the event has been unlucky enough to be washed out or beset with cold weather, but Saturday was chilly but fine.

Commonwealth Park (where Floriade/Nightfest) is held is a great location and there was loads to see and do from the clever mirror wall to a big top acrobat show.

Just weird!

How it's done!

A beautiful archway

Eli gets his churro face on!

Dream Bear!

Looking back over the tulips

Thursday, September 24, 2015


Eli decided to start writing his Christmas list this morning. It started off well - he asked me how to write "C...H...R....I...S....T....M....A....S" and then sat down to copy out the Lego catalogue (source of ideal presents for all six year old boys).

1. All the Lego minecraft (fairly comprehensive then)

He then turned to the Star Wars page and looked through it - he turned to me to help him  with his spelling and that's perhaps where he made a mistake.

2. The Deaf Star (I was biting my lip to avoid giggling)

He then picked out the Imperial Star Destroyer - it is indeed a mighty fine bit of lego - We spelled out "I..M..P..E...R...I...A...L" together..... and then I couldn't help myself.

I think poor Eli might be a bit disappointed on Christmas morning..,.

Home made vanilla ice cream

The opening night at the theatre with an after-show party one night, the opening party at Muse restaurant in Kingston (where they were treated to delicious home made vanilla ice cream) the next night.

The kids are living it up in the Berra!

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Circus Oz

Circus Oz is a touring ensemble who have played everywhere from (r)Adelaide to Yuendumu and a hundred places in between.

Their show is a fabulous mix of clowning, stunts, acrobatics and athleticism. What was doubly impressive was that in between (and sometimes during) their act the performers play assorted musical instruments; from a howling wah-wah muffled trumpet, screeching violins to a whirling Hammond organ.

The show was funny, breathtaking and raucous. Olivia Porter (pictured centre) was a clown, the butt of the jokes for most of the show as she shuffled round the stage and occasionally spilled her one lense glasses or fell off the trapeze. And then she juggled. I think she was the most amazing and talented juggler I've ever seen. We chatted at the bar and I asked her the inevitably dull question about how long she practiced and a couple of the crew who overheard my question pitched in and said 'ALL the time'. She juggled with five balls and could catch and throw balls with her feet. Just amazing.

It was such a memorable night. The kids loved it. Elijah cried at the end of the show as he didn't want it to end.

If you get a chance to see Circus Oz (whether you're in Canberra or Caracus) then get along!! ‪#‎Butwaittheresmore‬ ‪#‎CircusOz‬ @CanberraTheatre

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Audrey's end of term ballet

Lessons at Audrey's (excellent) ballet school are shrouded in mystery and you don't usually get an opportunity to see the kids dancing. At the end of school term though (our term finishes on Friday) parents are allowed into ballet to see how things are progressing. Here's a short movie of Audrey (in her purple skirt) going through a routine. She really loves dancing and despite a number of her friends dropping in and then out of classes she's stuck with it for quite a few years now.

She won't take any dancing tips from me (which is perhaps a good thing!)

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Mis-heard lessons in history

Elijah at breakfast was discussing how the Egyptians used to be ruled over by fairies...

Floriade before breakfast

Floriade is Canberra's annual 'Celebration of Spring' held in Commonwealth Park in the city. The show has been running for years and attracts hoards of visitors both local and from interstate. There are always masses of coach-trips full of tulip lovers arriving throughout the month.

The festival spreads throughout the entire park and every year has a theme (this year it is 'Reflection') and the flower beds are made to resemble pictures which portray the theme.

We were lucky enough to be invited to tour Floriade before the crowds with head gardener Andrew Forster.

He was an amiable chap - not necessarily conversant with the skills and charisma required to be a tour guide, but knowledgeable at what he does and happy to answer questions.

Floriade has a million bulbs and plants and it was interesting to hear his thoughts and listen to him describe some of the beds. The festival is due to move to the smaller Glebe Park and in doing so will lose the lake as a backdrop. Andrew (after I pushed him to air his thoughts) felt that it would lead to the demise of Floriade and would mean that it 'fizzled out'. Still the move isn't planned until 2017 so I guess time will tell whether his predictions are correct.

The kids were less than impressed that at the time of our tour (7.30am) none of the ice cream vendors were open and the children's area (in the corner of the park) was empty of children. To add to their disgust we had a couple of showers and we all scampered to hide under cover (straight after I'd told them to pose for a picture).

Still, the three of us had a nice breakfast in the park before work/school.

Andrew Forster sharing his knowledge

The kids not really appreciating the fact that I'm getting them to pose for a photo in the rain!

The kids meet Nick Kygrios

Australia has a tennis sensation in the form of Nick Kygrios - the 20 year old who hails from Canberra. I have little doubt that he'll end up as one of the world's top 10 players. He's a rare talent, tall strong and athletic and the ability to hit the ball very hard and with a frightening amount of spin.

Sadly Nick Kygrios also comes with a fair amount of attitude and it is this that has overshadowed his talent. The press love focusing on his fall outs with other players and referees and his tendency to smash racquets every now and again.

Saturday was our local tennis club's open day. We'd been last year and the kids had enjoyed it as there was a variety of things to do - some tennis related but also some fun activities. This year they announced that Kygrios would be a guest at the open day. It turned out later that someone's Mum knew him and had called him up and he'd decided to come over in his own time - it must have put a few hundred more on the gate and Mark, who runs the club was understandably pleased.

We played tennis before he arrived - Eli did a mini training session and when Kygrios arrived he did a short exhibition before doing hundreds of autographs, mingling with the crowd and then helping out with the raffle at the end.

He's a very unassuming guy off the court with none of the bluster and arrogance he shows on it. He was happy to make time for all the kids and was really friendly. A lot of people give him bad press but I think their views will change once he starts climbing the rankings. Both Eli and Audrey loved meeting him and seeing him play.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Sign of the times..

A photo taken at the kid's school.

Bike Ride around Stromlo

Eli has recently had a new (second hand) bike. It matches his sister's bike so both are happy that there's no difference between them (other than colour). He was a bit tentative on it at first but soon really got the hang of it and told me that it was so much faster than his old bike!

We love riding at Mount Stromlo. Today was a sunny Spring day so we headed up to the great cycling facility they've got there. I've recently invested in a bike carrier for the car so I was as excited as the kids as it meant I could join them on the track.

It was beautiful weather for it (and because it was still Spring no flies), but there were a fair number of magpies - one of which swooped Eli a few times and left him terrified - he soon got over it though.

It's nice that there are a couple of barbecue areas there so we had a few sausages after our ride.

Eli on his new wheels!

Family selfie

Friday, September 11, 2015


We last went to Rosedale to celebrate my birthday in March 2014. As things turned out it was our last family (of four) holiday.We'd had a lovely time down there and the weather had been kind to us.

I thought it was a nice place to take the kids for the weekend. We booked a small place in the woods that surround the beach - it's a lovely spot with beautiful views almost everywhere you look. Sadly our accommodation didn't include the games room which the kids had loved last time we were there.

We arrived on Friday night - there's a great fish and chip shop on the front of Bateman's Bay - it's always extremely busy and does a good trade whatever time of the day or night you're there.

Saturday morning was spent on the beach - building sandcastles and generally mucking around then drove into nearby Mogo town where we ate blue ice creams (I had a liquorice flavoured one) and the kids discovered a sweet/lolly shop which had a vast array of sweets and sugary confectionery.

On Sunday the four of us headed to (what I now know is called 'Nuns' beach) it's named after the lovely property which overlooks the entry to the beach which had been a nuns' retreat - and recently sold for $1.7m!

It was a warm sunny morning. I had plenty of memories of the four of us on the beach and the kids (then 18 months younger) playing in the shallows. Now older and braver they swam in the surf a few metres deeper than they did then. I so wished Amy was with us still.

It was an easy drive back to Canberra. Being out of season the roads were fairly empty. We stopped for the obligatory sausage roll at Braidwood bakery on the way home.

out for lunch in Mogo

Blue Bubblegum icecream

Guerrilla Bay (didn't see any) 

Fun in the waves

chess in a Mogo cafe

A quiet moment on Nun's Beach

We drove past this street on the way home. Hadn't ever spotted it before but I know it would have made Amy chuckle.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

365 days

Sunday marked the anniversary of Amy's death.

It was odd in a way to think that it's been 365 days since that horrible day and I can still see, feel, see (and dream) everything as though it was yesterday.

The last 365 days have been hard. Sometimes incredibly so. So much sadness and grief at losing Amy combined with the harsh practical realities of what life as a family of three rather than four means.

Trying to hold down a full time job but be a good Dad at the same time.

Amy was my guide in so many ways. She was such a loving and caring mother - always wise with her advice and always so careful to steer Audrey and Elijah correctly and appropriately. Never a 'helicopter parent', but always there when they fell or cried or just needed her love and attention.  I worry sometimes that they miss out on a 'mother's touch'. I try to do my best (and people tell me all the time that I'm doing a 'great job') but I sometimes laugh at myself and think that I'm at best a poor imitation of how I saw Amy look after and care for our children.

And then there's the loss of my soul mate. That's an over-used term, but it's true. I miss Amy every day and in so many ways.

I realised quite quickly for example that the two of us consulted on everything. Even without thinking about it we'd bounce thoughts back and forth between each other - whether it was irrelevant things like the colour we should choose for the curtains or more important things like the school we should send our children to. Some people argue about things, I don't think we ever did (or at least if we did then I've forgotten) but I know we used to share a lot of thoughts and feelings and decisions, whether they were important or not.

I've had to make decisions on my own in the last year. I've started a new job, changed a couple of things in the garden, bought the kids new clothes and made a thousand other decisions which previously would have been made in partnership with Amy. I can't deny that it's been hard.

I haven't studied 'grief'. There's a whole host of books or sites that you can read, which I probably should. I just know that the loss of Amy still hurts in the pit of my stomach like a pain that won't go away.

I read some stuff that I wrote immediately following Amy's death - about thinking that she was about to come home at any moment and hearing her laughing in the room with the kids. I don't feel that so much anymore, but the feeling still returns sometimes. A couple of times in the last year I have seen people in crowds that looked a bit like Amy - they wore their hair in the same way and carried themselves in the same manner and it was a strange feeling. They weren't her and I knew that, but strange nonetheless.

Even last week Eli sat on the garden step (one of Amy's favourite hang-outs) and smiled at me and I saw Amy in him in - in his eyes and smile and the way that he looked across the lawn at me.

I found a written piece that Amy wrote for a brochure for a cancer charity. She wrote it not long after her diagnosis and it was full of optimism. It was beautifully written and so thoughtful and hopeful. I wish Amy had written more as she had a much nicer way with words than me.

And so I face the next 365 days. And my life is still very much like that - Audrey has to get to ballet today and I have to remember the library bags for school on Thursday. I'm getting by one-day-at-a-time. Kind of fake it till I make it if you like. At least I've done the year of firsts - all sad - our wedding anniversary, Amy's birthday, the kids birthdays and mother's day. I guess I know what to expect next year.

I've been really helped out in the last year by some people and less so by others. That's life I guess.

Amy's wonderful breast care nurse told me only a day or two after Amy's death that the pain never really goes away you just learn to live with it and at the moment that seems like sage advice.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Rockin' it

Australia's South East Coast has some beautiful scenery, it also has some geologically interesting spots with dramatic cliff faces, little islets and stunning beaches.

On our walk back from Rosedale beach Audrey tuned to me and said 'Dad, do you know there are three types of rock?'

I was stunned from one so young. I remembered back to Mr Croft's Geography lesson, desperately searching my memory banks. I could remember sedimentary and metamorphic (I cheated and later looked up igneous) not that I'd be able to pick any of them out that easily in an ID parade.

'What are they Audrey?' 
'Well, there's rock, like a stone, there's rock music, (Audrey paused and played air guitar) and rock, when you rock back and forth'

Phew, I wasn't put in my place (this time) by an 8 year old and forgetting 'igneous' hadn't proved my downfall. I wasn't sure what Mr Croft would have thought of Audrey's answer, but remembering that he was a funny guy he might even have given her top marks!