Tuesday, June 20, 2017


Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Raiders meet the players

As a family of three we've become passionate Canberra Raiders fans. It's an interesting one as up until 2014 (when I was generously given a family membership as part of my Human Brochure membership), I'd never really paid much attention to Rugby League.

In the UK, League is very much a 'northern' thing. A flat cap and pint versus the allure of rugby union's spiffing top hat and gin and tonic. I don't think I'd watched a single game of rugby league growing up - apart from perhaps the odd foray into Eddie Waring's 'up and under' on tele on a Sunday afternoon.

In truth football and cricket dominated my youth. Rugby union did pop-up occasionally with the six nations. Bill Beaumont et al then Jonny Wilkinson's world cup winning drop goal with 20 seconds to go in 2003. I knew nothing of rugby league though.

Our free ticket (and subsequent paid renewals) has brought us into a world of Rugby League. A frantic running and pushing game, sometimes brawl over brains, but nevertheless an exciting game with (fairly) straightforward rules, that unlike Canberra's rugby union team (Brumbies) attracts more of a crowd and a noisy one at that.

The scheduling of Raiders games is odd - sometimes there may be two in a week, at other times there's a month or more between home games. Nevertheless the games are often exciting and both Audrey and Eli love the noise of the crowd and celebrate victories as much as they bemoan the defeats. A loss can cast a shadow over our household for an entire week.

Ricky Stuart, the Raider's coach has built a young squad with plenty of guile. What's more they seem to be really nice guys. Rugby league in Australia is beset with a bad reputation - players with drug habits, tattoos, philandering relationships and misdemeanours both on and off the pitch. Of course I'm looking at things through green tinted spectacles, but by comparison Raiders seem to play fair and are good role models. We've been along to a couple of 'meet the player' sessions recently and I've been so impressed by how down to earth the players have been and how giving of their time they are to my kids.

In the absence of a football (soccer) team in Canberra, Canberra Raiders certainly fills a hole. The kids mock their fellow pupils who claim to be fans but have never actually been to a game, whereas they've sat shivering on Friday nights watching second half collapses or celebrated late tries that claimed victories when all hope was lost. I hope like me the kids #bleedgreen for the rest of their days.

Jordan Rapana - a kiwi who is an incredibly fast and skilful player

Eli's two heroes - Jack Wighton and club captain Jarrod Croker

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Saturday afternoon horse riding

Audrey on Romeo (her favourite pony)

The beautiful Brindabella Mountains in the background
Things have turned a bit chillier now and so Audrey's horse riding lesson (which has taken place in extreme heat with ponies bothered by flies) is now 'crisp' and chilly. Canberra is characterised (usually) by lovely blue skies though - so even though the weather is cold we still get a fair amount of sunshine and daylight. Here's some pictures from Saturday's lesson.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Million Paws Walk, Castle Park and Civic!

Audrey had been desperate to go to Million Paws Walk on Sunday - a charity dog walk which now takes place around Lake Burley Griffin. We don't have a dog(!) but the weather was beautiful on Sunday morning and so we headed along so she could get a fix of "Man's best friend".

It's actually remarkable how much Audrey loves dogs now. She was terrified as a younger girl - (to the extent of having to cross over the road whenever there was a dog in sight) but is now significantly removed from that. There were hundreds of dogs doing the walk (of all shapes and sizes) and it was really good fun being part of the action.

Afterwards we walked into the city through Commonwealth Park and found 'Castle Park' a series of brick tunnels and fortifications that the kids could climb through. I can't believe we'd never been there before and I was grateful that I had found it now rather than in a few years time when the kids would have outgrown it. We'll definitely be back. We headed into the city for a quick bite before heading home.
The kids wrapped up their day with a trip to see the film; 'A dog's purpose' which Andy took them to - thereby wrapping up a complete dog-centric kind of day!
One of the mounds in Castle Park

Light fun in Civic (the lights change colour when you press them)

Dog fancy dress at Million Paws Walk

Jessica Watson

This term Audrey's class has been doing a project on 'Explorers'. When the first emails came out from her (excellent) teacher, I thought it would be great to do someone contemporary (and preferably female) rather than Captain Cook, Christopher Columbus etc who are all essentially just dead old men.

I've actually got a great book on Australian adventurers (picked up from a charity shop) but you soon learn from it that while brave/foolhardy a lot of early exploration in and around Australia was pretty haphazard, expensive and prone to failure.
There are disastrous stories ranging from the calamitous exploration by Burke and Wills (to walk from north to south Australia) and the exploration of inland Australia by Charles Sturt.

Burke and Wills both died (a member of their exploration was saved by local aborigines) meanwhile Sturt marched off into inland Australia (basically a desert) carrying a whaling boat as he was so convinced there was an inland sea...
Audrey and I took to the internet to find someone a) still alive(!) and b) a female. We came up with Jessica Watson - who was young Australian of the year in 2011 for her efforts in circumnavigating the world unassisted when aged only 16.
I bought Audrey, Jessica Watson's book (which she read in a couple of weeks) and we listened to podcasts, youtube clips etc. It was wonderful watching and listening to the enthusiasm Audrey built on her subject - so much better than reading about some old guy getting stuck with a spear in Tahiti (Captain Cook).
On Friday Audrey had to present back to the class. I'm comfortable in saying that she knew more than any other kid presenting on their explorer. I don't know if Audrey will ever learn to sail, or if she'll go on explorations of her own but I was so proud of her knowledge of another young (and great) Australian. I hope so much that the two get to meet each other one day.

Presenting back to Miss Cupid.

2 point

Audrey loves horse riding and her is really progressing given that she's only been riding for just over a year.
On Saturday the kids were practicing '2 point' (no I didn't know what it was either) but essentially the first step in learning to jump.
Audrey actually had a cantankerous old pony (Sparkle) but kept him really in line throughout the lesson. It's great watching her having such fun.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Slide day at the pool!

The Play that Goes Wrong

We went to see a very funny play called 'The Play that Goes Wrong'. Keeping true to the title everything did indeed go wrong. It was set as a murder mystery but everything mucks up from people forgetting their lines, to being knocked out and of course doors on the set jamming, windows falling out etc. It's a really well put together play which had shown at the West End. It was really good fun and even though it wasn't specifically for kids both A&E loved the slapstick nature of it.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Sunny afternoon ride for Audrey

Sunday was a strange day in many ways. It would have been Amy and my ten year wedding anniversary and I'm sure we'd have enjoyed a nice meal or reminisce about the lovely day we had in Newbury by the river Kennet all those years ago.

It would have been easy to be melancholy and for that sadness to spread over the kids. It's always a balance trying to keep Amy as part of our lives, yet not let the deep deep sense of grief at her death dominate our days.

Fortunately we were distracted both by a walk to an ancient snow gum and also by a trail ride which Audrey was booked on on Sunday afternoon.

Audrey rode one of her favourite horses - Sonia (an appaloosa). She told me Sonia likes people but doesn't tend to like other horses much (apparently she kicks!). Sonia's one of a large number of horses they have at the riding school.

Eli and I threw a ball around while she disappeared into the countryside. It was a nice end to a busy and somewhat strange weekend.

Our beautiful children (with Eli looking more like his Mum than ever)

Audrey on Sonia

Pryor's Notable Snow Gum!

In the middle of Glenloch Interchange (one of Canberra's busiest road junctions) remains a large grassed area which contains an ancient snow gum which was remarked as 'notable' in botanist's Pryor's description of the area.

The tree is at least 200 years old and Andy, the kids and I joined a small party of walkers led by Friends of Black Mountain to go and see it.

I'd first read about it in Tim the Yowie Man's article in the Canberra Times and it had sparked curiosity in me that an ancient snow gum could exist in an area which I drive by most days.

The excitement to the walk came in the first few steps where we had to descend into a culvert by the side of the road - it's about sixty metres long and you have to dodge water and spiders webs.

At the other end of the tunnel it was only a short walk to the tree and our two enthusiastic guides led us there (ducking under barbed wire) and we saw the ancient gnarly tree we'd come in search of.

The tree was excellent from a distance - it's large branches stretching to the ground, but also up close where the kids could clamber inside the trunk and describe what they thought the patterns on the bark looked like.

We were led around the area, observing the local fauna and then returned (this time through a slightly smaller tunnel) back to the car park.

It was a lovely and interesting walk and we were grateful for the sunny autumn morning. I'm sure we'll be back (if only for the chance for the kids to clamber through the storm drain!)

Me and the kids inside the trunk

Eli walking through the culvert
Who doesn't like a good tunnel!

Read the original article which inspired me here Tim the Yowie Man

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Eli's 8th birthday

Eli on his birthday (who no idea how hard it was to make a spherical cake!)
Eli had a football party with his mates (having already had a lot of football/soccer over the school holidays). We held it at the local sports hall where he plays five-a-side.

It was a lot of fun and enjoyed having his mates to play with. He got a load of pokemon toys as well as scoring a few goals so went home pretty happy. I was chuffed with my cake :)

Thursday, April 20, 2017


I'm now friends with a small group of widow/widowers in Canberra and one of the ladies in it whose partner had died suddenly a couple of years ago was remarking how similar her little boy was to his Dad and it sparked a conversation not only about nature v nurture, but also about how hard it is to keep the memory of the children's parent alive when they're no longer there.
The casual things about someone's past that would come up in conversation don't happen anymore and so valuable things are lost about what your parent was like, what their beliefs were or what they stood for.
I obviously knew Amy really well, but I lack many of the details of her growing up, her school life and things she did when she was young. To a larger degree I think the responsibility of providing this information to the kids rests with people who knew Amy when she was younger. A couple of friends have helped fill in the details a bit, but I often feel that A&E are being short changed a fair bit compared to their friends around them who spend time with their remaining family.
I learned things about my own Dad at his funeral that I didn't know and I guess that's the irony that you never realise that you have such a short time to 'download' all this information before someone is gone.
A little while ago I found this file on the drive of our laptop. It's obviously incomplete, but still lovely to read it as I can 'hear' Amy saying the words. I don't know why she didn't finish it, but her health declined rapidly from 2013 and so she probably lost energy to focus on it. There are stories in it which she recounts that I can't complete, but the love she had for our kids is so so clear. We all miss her so much.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Easter Egg Hunt at Rodney's Nursery

We've always been advocates of Rodney's Easter Egg Hunt. We've tried a few hunts around Canberra (of which there are several) but the fact that Rodney's is pretty well organised (you have to register in advance) and well stocked (even late-comers get loads of chocolate) make it the egg hunt of choice for me, A&E.

We got there early to get good spots and both the kids went home with bags full of eggs. It was the first time that the garden had put the eggs around their produce (usually it's off in a side garden) and I could understand the commercial decision involved but alas the sun melted a fair number of eggs.

Still, once again I reckon it was a great morning and I'm sure we'll have another few Easter mornings spent there.

Tanbella Orchard

Tanbella Orchard is the only pick-your-own orchard in Canberra. It's strangely situated opposite the (now international) airport - but not under a flight path so probably doesn't get much gunk dropped on it from above.

The orchard grows over 50 types of apple - some you recognise from the supermarket shelves - some like 'Bonza' are less identifiable. They hand you a map on the way in in order to find them (though not all are in fruit at the same time). They even have a couple of pear trees which are labelled as 'unkown' (someone somewhere must be able to categorise them!) but whose lack of provenance only serves to add to the excitement!

It was a lovely Easter Sunday so we headed there - the apple trees are all well trained and/or trellised and none of them too high - so perfect for A&E. You're also invited to taste whatever you like (I guess they figure people can't gorge themselves on apples in the same way you can with strawberries) and as a result it allows you to try apples and judge for yourself whether they suit your palette.

Eli went for Golden Delicious - a type of apple I often avoid in the supermarket as they're typically pulpy and tasteless. Tanbella's though were much crispier and sweeter than ones I'd tasted before. Audrey like me preferred a more tangy/tarty and 'heavier' fruit.

The kids got hooked on picking and trying different styles and as a result our two (nearly full) buckets cost me $25 - something which I'd have baulked at spending on apples in a single supermarket trip. They were begging to stay when I called a halt to their harvest!

In truth though the apples will keep well in the fridge and those we ate that day (we ate a lot both during and after our visit) were eaten with such satisfaction in the knowledge that they were both freshly picked and came without little fiddly stickers or wax coating that the outlay was more than worth it.

The orchard also has a lovely dog (Bowie) who we'd met before - akin to the pop icon the dog has mismatching eyes.

I think the place shuts up in May (when we'll start to be hit with Canberra's cold weather), but we'll be back again next season. I've always thought the orchard as one of Canberra's most underrated and unheralded attractions.

buckets at the ready

Another one for the bucket

checking the map - where to go next!

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Easter Liturgy

Eli took part in the school's Easter liturgy. He was a disciple (albeit unnamed) while one of Audrey's friends took the (perhaps unpopular?) role of Judas. They enacted the play around the school and it was split into two parts, half of it in the morning and with the crux of it happening at lunch time.

I didn't have chance to return to watch the second bit, so I'll always be wondering whether they actually crucified the girl they had playing Jesus.

Eli looking disciple-angelic

End of term tennis and pizza

Before Amy died I used to play tennis once a week and really enjoyed it. Since then I've had a bit of a hiatus as working and looking after the kids doesn't really afford me any spare time (plus being exhausted all the time doesn't exactly help). I've always loved the sport and in January signed up again to play with the same couple of coaches who I used to play with previously.

The class size has grown a fair bit since 2014 and the classes relocated to Old Parliament House (which are lovely courts). It's tricky juggling the kids after school but they seem content to sit and watch while I play, though I'm not sure how they're going to go with the nights getting colder as there's not really anywhere they can wait inside. Guess I'll find out before too long.

Monday was our last session and we finished off the term with pizza and a natter. They're a good bunch and the kids were happy to join in and share some of the pizza on offer.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

I love, you love, watermelon!

We picked our first ever watermelon from our garden the other day. I've tried growing them in the past without much luck, but incredibly this one grew and we feasted on it. Nothing like as big as the shop bought ones, but ever so sweet.

displayed on a small plate to make it look bigger!


On Sunday night we went along to a (free apart from a contribution in the tea box) concert at the foot of Canberra's Carillon. It was a casual affair and seemed to have been organised entirely on social media. The local band (Hashemoto) were supported by a great soloist called Tate Sheridan who played an assortment of cover versions and original tracks on piano. 

I've seen Hashemoto a few times before - most recently a couple of years ago at Reconciliation Place by the lake (which is another unusual place to play). They are excellent musicians and the fact that they count a piano and double bass in their trio of instruments makes their choice of unexpected locations all the more remarkable.

It was lovely listening to them as the sun went down behind Aspen island. The space at the bottom of the Carillon actually made for a great venue as the acoustics were terrific. Afterwards the kids scooted/ skateboarded back along the bridge to the car and I was reminded why Canberra is such a lovely place to live.

Skateboarding home

Spirit Karate Kata Tournament

The kids really love their karate - I signed them up initially as an alternative to after school care (they get picked up from school and taken to karate) but as time has gone on they've really developed a love for it. Saturday was their first Kata tournament. We travelled to the 'sister' dojo (karate place) in Ainslie.

No, I didn't know what Kata meant either.

Essentially Kata is a series of moves which goes into showing your overall technique - some of the moves are actually quite complex, but in junior grades it can be as simple as repeating steps and punches in a certain way. Two competitors 'fight' off against each other by repeating their moves while watched by a judge.

It would be easy to dismiss it as 'dancing' in a way, but the sensei (the martial arts teacher) assesses which competitor carries out their Kata with the greatest accuracy. I learnt during the day that it wasn't only repetition, but also how effective the punch is or the steps made, judging was even based on how you held your thumbs!

Both the kids did really well. They were so nervous beforehand as we've never really done anything like this before, but they were so happy at the end. There's a big bout at the end during which the category/age winners all 'fight' off. The winner (which the kids both look up to in awe) was an older teenage girl (who is brown belt senior) which the kids told me in hushed tones is only one step away from black belt.

The kids with their Kata faces on!

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Ex Govies in Canberra

I entered a question as part of ABC's series of 'Curious Canberra' and the thing kind of ran out of control. We live in a small ex-govie house and I asked about the origins of the design. The journalist, Sonya Gee who worked on it was fabulous and so so thorough in her investigations. If you want to know more about the subject you'll have to listen to the link below or read the attached website!

See also this link which gives you loads more info and pictures....

Sk8er Grl

There's a couple of alley-ways near our house which the kids have taken to skating down. Eli prefers his scooter, but Audrey is definitely much keener on her (leopard print) skateboard. She completed this run first go a night or two ago and then asked me to film it. Second turn she again completed the whole alley-way but unfortunately I'd taken a still photo rather than the video (arrghh).

Cue much disgruntlement from Audrey. I think she must have tried another 20 times to no avail (getting more annoyed at me with each attempt).

We left it and came back the next night - I think this run was her third.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Birthday Booroomba

I really like Booroomba Rocks. I think I've been up there three times now and I'm always blown away by the view back over Canberra and out to the Brindabella Mountains. I climbed up there on my birthday together with a friend, Andy who is staying with us at the moment. It maintained my philosophy of never working on my birthday.

Booroomba is only 30 minutes out of Canberra, but not many people venture there. It's a steep climb from the car park which probably takes about 30 minutes but the view at the top is spectacular.

We ran into a group of walkers at the top and they kindly sang me happy birthday and gave me a piece of carrot cake. I also had a cup of tea and some biscuits in my bag which made for a well earned rest at the pinacle of the rocks.

The rain caught up with us as we were descending, but it was only a shower and we reached the car without getting too wet.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Audrey Jam

A lovely lady called Kathy who used to work with Amy used to regularly drop us off jars of (beautiful) home made jam. The kids used to call it 'Kathy Jam'. Sadly (for us) Kathy is about to move to pastures new, but before she goes she gave Audrey a lesson in jam making (along with a great recipe).
It's so nice to have people around who are still so caring and interested in the kids.
Strawberries are cheap at the moment so we made a decent batch. Audrey loved making the jam and carefully chopped measured and boiled things. I helped her put the jam in jars. The kids eat it at a rate of knots, but we should now be ok for a month at least I figure!

Audrey shows off her Audrey Jam!


Canberra's Enlighten festival grows bigger by the year - I think the plan is to make it bigger than our other big festival Floriade which this year was a pale shadow of what it's been in previous years.

Enlighten is all about lighting up Canberra's national buildings - everything from Old Parliament House to Questacon is bedecked in light displays and every year they seem to be just that extra little bit better than the year before.

Combined with the festival are a number of shows and music events, but these mostly run at the weekend. Recently they've tagged on a night noodle market which attracts a fairly hipster crowd and offers a range of Asian influenced foods. It occupies a slightly odd elevated position by reconciliation place.  Again the noodle markets have grown year on year but they've been fairly savvy at reducing queue sizes which have been a problem in previous years.

We popped in after school/work to have food from the noodle markets and then wandered round some of the fabulous lights. It was a warm and balmy evening and made you realise why Canberra is such a great place to live when free festivals like this happen on your doorstep.

Here's some pictures;

The National Portrait Gallery had a photo booth which took your picture and projected it on the side of the building (very clever!)

 I'm bottom left (with the cap), Eli is top right (dabbing)

Audrey has a phone smile!

An amazing cloud made out of lightbulbs - the rain was light pulls which you could turn the lights on and off with!

Purple and white soft serve was a hit!