Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Raiders v Titans

We renewed our family season ticket for the Raiders for another season and so are now officially Raiders fans (rugby league). Here's a picture of the kids at half time on Saturday when Raiders were cruising at 20-8. They eventually went on to lose 24-20 to a last minute (dodgy) try and conversion. Eli cried at the end because of the injustice of it all.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Palm Sunday Refugee March

Australia has an awful record in the way it treats and processes asylum seekers and refugees. The government and media have tried for a long time to keep the stories of the people who flee to Australia secret and ensure that they don't have a human face. Increasingly though there is a realisation that they are just people like you and me. 

Whatever your views and whether you think Australia's policy of 'turn back the boats' is effective or not (remembering that there's about 80,000 people who arrive in Australia by plane and overstay their visas but mysteriously receive very little media attention by comparison) I believe that compassion is the first approach anyone should take towards people fleeing persecution.

Whether you believe people are simply arriving because of economic opportunism (although it's hard to imagine why you'd put your small child on a rickety boat in order to further your career) or whether you think that people have a basic human right to safety, my opinion (for what it's worth) is that we should show care towards others first and then figure out the rights and wrongs of their situation later. I accept that it's a complex issue, but deporting refugees to offshore detention centres which have a documented history of child abuse isn't really much of an answer. The way I figure it is if you're fearful of someone because they have a beard and dark skin, it's you that has the problem not them. 

Anyway, Sunday marked a series of 'peace marches' across Australia and me and the kids went along. It's sad that counter terrorism and border protection are much more likely to be issues ahead of Australia's impending election rather than looking at policies protecting peoples' basic human rights.

#Devil Dutton (immigration minister)

Art not Apart at Westside

There's an area down by the lake in Canberra (West Basin) which has been named 'Westside Acton Park'. It's a 'pop-up' park (as is the way of things nowadays) made from shipping containers and an metal 'exoskeleton'. The blurb around Westside has been around it 'revitalising the area'. The cynic in me says that it's more about getting people used to the idea that shortly a whole load of $1m+ 'executive apartments' will soon be built on the site with lovely views across the lake. I guess the rationale is that if Canberrans can get used to a few shipping containers, the leap to an inaccessible load of ludicrously expensive apartments won't be so great.

I think it's fair to say that the Westside Acton Park project has been far from successful. Meant to entice hipster Canberra to a new location by the lake  (city to lake as it's termed) in fact it stands mostly deserted and empty as hundreds of cars drive by. The problem is it's not really "near" anywhere and so you have to go and seek it out. There's actually quite a wide range of food and drink options there, but they must all be running at a significant loss.

Anyway, last Sunday was the 'Art not Apart' festival which had Westside as one of its key venues. Unsurprisingly it was sponsored by the Land Development Agency (the ACT Government's land sales department which essentially keeps Canberra afloat financially). There was a range of events on offer from acrobatics to art installations to about two dozen DJs and graffiti artists. In addition there was a pop-up market and all the food and drink you could possibly hope to eat. 

We decided to pop-along to the pop-up and I fully expected that we would pop-in and out pretty quickly, but actually it was a really well put together festival and we ended up staying much of the afternoon. 

Highlight for the kids was a workshop run by the guy who runs Plastimake out of Canberra (a great polymer based craft thing which allows you to make little plastic items which then set hard) and we had a milkshake and then a curry to round the day off.  Many of my doubts about the place ebbed away during the day. We'll probably go back again when the festival isn't on, but in truth it will probably go back to being half deserted of people. It's a shame really, I guess some things just pop-up in the right place and some things don't.

One day this view (currently from the top of a shipping container bar) could be yours if you have a few million dollars spare.

Strawberry milkshake every time

Westside pop-up village

Portrait of the artist as a young man

a pop-up stage in front of the pop-up lake (that's enough pop-ups)

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Canberra Balloon Spectacular

The Canberra Balloon Spectacular is always a hit with the kids. The festival runs for a week although due to wind strength and direction it's often a bit variable as to whether the balloons take off. I think this year though they went aloft on all but one of the days.

Another downside of the festival is that you have to wake up early to see it. Usually the balloons take off at around 6.15am which is why, when you speak to many locals, they've never seen the festival - apart from witnessing the odd balloon floating past their kitchen window as they're eating breakfast. 

I maintain it's worth going though, as despite the early start the fun is watching the balloons inflate and then head off into Canberra's clear blue sky.

We headed to see them on the last Saturday and having been glued to Twitter and Facebook as well as the local radio station I found that they were going to take off at Mount Stromlo, which is only a short 10 minute drive from our house, so we rugged up and headed out.

Afterwards we ventured back to Old Parliament House (where the balloons usually take off from) and saw some of the shaped balloons and enjoyed the atmosphere of the crowds and the band playing while people ate breakfast.

Here's some pictures.

not Skywhale, but apparently it's called 'Big Blue'

Look no basket!

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Short trip to the coast

Some friends of ours (Kirsty and Rob) had booked a place down by the beach in Dalmeny and we joined them and their children for a night (and also got to celebrate my birthday on Monday!)

It was a lovely place and just a short walk to a pretty inlet where we spotted stingrays, mullet and grayling (we think!). I had a small rod and reel with me, but none of them were particularly interested in eating the chicken on the end of my line!

On Monday (my birthday) we had lunch at the Quarterdeck in Narooma - a really nice spot, made all the better by the fact that the people there sang me a rendition of 'Happy Birthday'. The kids agreed to be nice to me for the day!

We rode our bikes along from Narooma to Dalmeny - a nice ride along a long wooden promenade - some of it was a bit hilly which didn't go down terribly well with the kids.

A nice couple of days break though!

Birthday lunch at the Quarterdeck

The beautiful coastline

the ride from Narooma to Dalmeny wasn't universally popular
pink lamingtons on our drive home

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Green Machine

We've become quite the Raiders fans - not least this season as our local rugby league team has started with two wins out of two. Today's game against the Sydney Roosters (why would you have a name with a chicken in it?) ended in a fabulous 21-20 win with Raiders, who trailed for a lot of he game winning in the last couple of minutes.

The atmosphere after a win is quite good (though admittedly poor compared to a half full Molineux) but it's a lot more convenient than WV1. This is our second season with a season ticket and both the kids enjoy going.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Manuka Pool

We've been enjoying spectacularly warm weather for the time of year. The last couple of weeks have been in the 30s which is unusual as it's now Autumn in Canberra.

On Sunday the three of us headed off to Manuka Pool. It's a 'heritage' pool in a nice part of town built in 1931 and so the architecture is all very art deco. It also kind of runs in it's own time warp and extends its heritage theme to only allowing you to pay for your entrance in cash (even though it's not very cheap to get in) and the pool closes throughout the winter months (even closing just before the Easter/school holidays). I'm not sure, but some of the snacks on sale at the kiosk may also have been there since 1931.

Still I guess running an outdoor pool must be fairly precarious. There must be some days when they get hardly anyone along.

It IS a lovely spot though. When the kids were smaller we spent a couple of summers parked out on the lovely lawns under shady trees that surround the toddler pool. The 'bigger' pool was a bit out of bounds then, but now is obviously the main focus for Audrey and Eli.

Being at the end of the summer the water temperature was lovely - perfect for cooling you down on a hot day, but not too freezing that you look like a sissy trying to get the water over your bellybutton.

We spent a lovely afternoon there and ran into a few school friends too which was great. Again, I'm sure we could have spent the whole evening there, but of course it closes at 5pm. sharp.