Monday, August 29, 2016

Possum in the shed

Our shed is often a sanctuary for native wildlife. A pair of blue-tongue lizards were nesting somewhere near the front of the doors and there's a possum which regularly seems to spend the chilly Canberra evenings in there. 

I went to pull the kids bikes out this morning and saw this possum looking down at me. I tried to coerce it out (with a broomstick) but then saw it had a baby clinging to its back (sadly not in the picture) so I left it alone. 

I'm not sure how they get in (there is a smallish hole in the back which is where I think they enter/exit). I checked this morning and she was gone.

Audrey's 9th Birthday

The birthday's are rattling along now. I can't believe our little girl is already 9.

Audrey wanted desperately to have a group of friends for a sleep-over (but I couldn't face it!) so in the end we opted for an afternoon ice skating at the nearby ice rink. Audrey and her friends got along ever so well and there were no broken bones to report (just a fair few blisters from the dodgy hire-shoes)

It's funny(?) listening to the girls natter on, and listening to what is important to them. Eli managed to fix up a play-date with a couple of his mates away from the girls (so it worked out perfectly for everyone!)

Here's a few pictures of our afternoon. I really missed Amy today, not least as she would have helped clear up :) but also because I know she went to extraordinary measures to be at Audrey's 7th birthday. She would have been so amazed to see how big her little girl has become.

Audrey's 'Total Girl' magazine cake

The gang in skates

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Book Week

The kids took part in the annual Book Week event - which is a parade featuring fancy dress. This year's theme was Australiana but Eli decided to have an Anglo cross-over with his choice of Dennis the Menace from the Beano. Here's how they looked this morning. Hopefully Eli won't cause too much damage with his catapult.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

School Disco!

I'm not sure if we had a school disco when I was at primary school. I do have some kind of hazy memory of there being one, but I think it was held at 4 o'clock in the afternoon and essentially was just the school hall with all the lights on jigging around to a cassette recorder playing the Bay City Rollers, Slade or somesuch. I can't imagine I danced all that much.... dancing was strictly girls-only back then. I probably ran around longing for it all to end.

Nowadays I look at my two and they are both groovers. The school has a 'Dance Fever' programme to allow them to perfect their routines and after a few weeks preparation the kids are called into action at the school disco. Nowadays, rather than having Mrs Southall with a tinny-sounding cassette tape deck there's a proper sound system (our hall has Bose speakers) and a DJ. Or at least a cool 20 something with his baseball cap turned round and probably harbouring ambitions of being a proper DJ one day but starting off probably as far removed from Ibiza, Carl Cox and the like by playing Holy Trinity school hall to a bunch of rowdy under 12 year olds. Still I guess you can still shout 'Everyone hold your hands in the air' and imagine you're playing Pacha rather than Canberra.

The kids don't care. As well as a chance to show off their dance skills, there's a feast of sugary drinks and sweets to gorge on and loud music - what's not to like. The whole thing wraps up and parents take their kids home. In a few short years I guess there'll be mosh pits, people being sick up the corner and girls crying in the toilet. I guess then pick up time will be 3am rather than 8pm. fun. fun. fun.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Brick Expo

Some pictures of our annual pilgrimage to Canberra's Brick-Expo. Having only recently returned from Legoland Windsor it is definitely a poor cousin but it's still really good and featured a huge aircraft carrier and a scale model of the Golden Gate Bridge!

I guess what's intriguing/interesting about it is that it's all been made by amateurs who have poured thousands of dollars into their hobby. The kids love it and there's different things to see each year.


Tuesday, August 16, 2016


Eli on the hunt

“Are you here looking for the Charmander spawn?” queried the guy, barely looking up from his glowing iPhone screen. “Errm, yes I guess so…” I replied.

On the insistence of Audrey and Eli we’d left our warm little house and ventured out into the twilight of the day and were now stood in the middle of nearby Edison Park chatting to the youth. I could see his face under his pulled down black truckers cap - he was probably in his late teens or early twenties.

It was an unusual encounter, but perhaps less so since we have taken on the mantle of Ash Ketchum, the main protagonist from the Pokémon franchise. Pokémon Go has, it’s fair to say, taken over our lives a little bit recently.

Firstly there’s no doubting the game is weird and of course it’s facile. It essentially involves walking around the streets looking for virtual Pokémon which pop up from time to time on your phone’s screen. When they do the game then switches into a semi-arcade game where you have to flick poke balls at the head of the Pokémon in order to ‘Catch-em-all’.

As you continue to play, so the complexity of the task increases also – you have to decide which ‘team’ to pledge allegiance to (we are loyal Team Valor members) and the quiet office block which you’ve always walked past without hardly noticing it is now a hotbed for activity since the game transferred it into a Pokemon gym. Likewise the tired looking 1970’s statue across the road which was always a bit crap, has now become a busy Poke stop. The developers have promised a whole raft of developments and the early bugs which blighted the game a little bit now seem to have been ironed out.

The game has also been swamped with the usual bad-press that all of these types of venture experience. The Daily Mail runs stories about people being stabbed or robbed while out hunting for Pokémon, people are also falling off cliffs or walking in front of cars while they have their eyes fixed on their screens. Journalists love the column inches it provides and a lot of similar furore came up with people texting.

Personally I think it’s kind of a demonstration of Darwinism, the people who walked off cliffs would probably have reversed their car into a river at some point anyway and if you’re going to go into dodgy area late at night while starring deep into your mobile phone there’s probably an argument that says you deserve to be jumped on and have your expensive trainers nicked off your feet.

The three of us are now seasoned explorers. We’ve cracked Level 11 and found 52 out of the 147 Pokémon who are out there. The interesting thing for me though is how it grabs the children. Eli is so well versed with all of the Pokémon types and what their ‘evolves’ are (the more you hunt the more you are able to trade-up your puny little Pokémon into much bigger and terrifying beasts) Audrey is by comparison slightly less absorbed but still wanted me to draw a Charmander on her school book and spent 30 minutes carefully colouring it in.

Of course I’d rather Eli knew all the Kings and Queens of England or at least be able to recount all of the post WWII football world cup winners, but that’s the way it goes I guess. Audrey rather than screaming at the latest boyband which a nearly-9-year-old would have done 20 years ago, instead thinks boys are smelly and is far far more desperate to find Pikachu. What a strange world we live in.

To me though it’s the fact that the kids want to explore, walk and be outside that gives the game its worth. We’ve given geocaching a decent go….a similar-(ish) thing where you explore the world to find little things (usually tupperware boxes) that people have left all over the place and have unearthed (literally in some cases) about 50 geocaches, but sometimes geocaching can be fraught with disappointment when the cache you’ve searched for and that SHOULD be there has clearly been nicked or wrecked by rain.

Conversely I guess the excitement of Pokémon Go wanes a bit when you find your umpteenth Zubat or Polliwag, but there is always the fact that just around the corner might be a rare Pokémon which you haven’t seen before.

And of course the thing is a fad… there’ll be another game along in a minute which will knock Pokémon Go off its throne. I think the US reached ‘peak Pokémon’ a few weeks ago and a few people at work who a week ago were dedicated hunters have now given the thing up.

I reckon though if nothing else we’ve walked around 30km in the last few weeks on our quest which we otherwise wouldn’t have. We haven’t visited any particularly new areas (geocaching was great at taking you off the beaten track), but we’ve had chance encounters with the youth in the park and a Poke walk which we went to at the weekend showed that the game was still very much alive and well.

Hundreds of people joined us at the allotted time on Lake Burley Griffin and we all walked round (slightly zombie like) flicking virtual balls at Pokémon. I’m not exaggerating the turn-out and while there was a disproportionate representation of slightly dorky looking Asian girls in their 20s there were also people from all ages and all walks of life, many of them dressed up in Pokémon costumes.

So there you go. A weird, social game which while it is completely pointless (and obviously captures truckloads of your personal data) gets you out and about. People are making comparisons to George Orwell’s 1984 and of course that’s justified. I think the difference though is that we’re voluntarily heading there and (just quietly) the connectedness and technology aspects are kind of fun - as is flicking a pokeball at your latest quarry.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

78 storey treehouse

Andy Griffiths and Terry Denton are a bit of an institution in our household. Together the two guys (Andy the writer and Terry the illustrator) have penned probably 20 or 30 children's books. The books are quite madcap and feature a surfeit of fart jokes and slapstick humour. A few years ago the two of them started the (autobiographical?) Treehouse series describing their adventures living in a treehouse. Originally the tree started with 13 stories, but success  has led them to pump out new books on a regular basis (in multiples of 13) meaning that they're now up to the 78 storey tree house, which I guess (working things out on my figures) makes this latest one their 6th book. I rather suspect as a result they live in big luxury houses as a result (rather than in a treehouse)

On Friday we went along to the Canberra Theatre to talk about the story's latest incarnation. The theatre was packed and the queue to have you photo taken with the two authors was vast. Fortunately I'd booked early so our seats near the front afforded us a quick photo after their (very funny) show.

Afterwards we left the theatre and walked to the 'Forage' a trendy 'pop up' outdoor eatery place set up in the Melbourne building in the centre of Canberra. It was absolutely mobbed with people (which was kind of amusing as the building has gone through several facelifts and the take-away joints and cafes situated in the building have always failed - clearly the key lay in cooking the food in a tent, charging a premium for it, and making people eat outside). Either way the kids enjoyed a gourmet sausage before we headed back (noting that there was still a huge line of people waiting to be snapped with Andy and Terry!)

Andy Griffiths and Terry Denton

The two entertain the crowd

The kids laughing at their heroes

Gourmet sausages on a chilly evening

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Meet the Raiders

We went along to a Meet the Raiders session recently. The Raiders are riding high at the moment (3rd in the league) so it was a lot better attended than last year's event! Both Audrey and Eli loved meeting everyone and Eli was especially chuffed to meet Shannon Boyd and Jarrod Croker (his two favourite players).

Shannon Boyd meets Eli

Raiders Captain Jarrod Croker

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Big Boys Toys Preview

We went along to a preview of Big Boys Toys Expo - a big exhibition due to be held at Canberra's Epic Centre in a couple of weeks.

I wasn't sure exactly how much stuff we'd be able to try or whether we'd just be looking longingly at things, but as it turned out we had free reign on a whole host of things, from electric skateboards, to a first person drone experience to the chance to drive (or sit in) an RZR sports vehicle. There was other things there as well, including a chap from the Raiders and a beautiful Mustang car.

The kids loved all the toys and Audrey mastered the electric skateboard really quickly. She has her heart set on one for her birthday, but I'm thinking more of a push along one rather than a $1000 electric one!

We were all sad when the afternoon ended!

Here's some pics

Cool glasses which let you look through a camera on the front of a drone

This guy had ramped up a kid's go-cart so that it had ridiculous torque and the front wheels came off the ground. (No one could drive it apart from this guy as it was basically too dangerous!)

Audrey really got to grips with the electric skateboard (I fell off and really hurt my back!)

Eli preferred the version with the fat wheels (again electric)

I drove the one on the right, the kids took rides in the one on the left

Audrey loved it!