Thursday, June 20, 2019

Friday, June 14, 2019

Sunday, June 9, 2019

Gibraltar Peak

Gibraltar Peak is in the Tidbinbilla Nature reserve to Canberra's south. As I was planning our trip the guide book said that it was the ACT's 45th highest peak, which sounded distinctly underwhelming.

Actually the top part of the walk was pretty steep and (as I was carrying our picnic and a flask of tea) left me puffing like a steam train by the time we reached the pinnacle.

It was a lovely walk though. The path meanders upwards through beautiful woodland and as well as the ubiquitous gum trees there's a number of grass trees on or near the path.

We learnt that the route people now take to the top is longer (but less steep) than the previous path. The 'new' path (which I think is now over ten years old) is well signposted and there was a well situated picnic table near the top.

It was beautiful at the peak, although slightly precarious as there's no safety barriers or fences, but I don't think there's been any recorded falls, for if you did fall they'd find your broken body several hundred feet down in a tree.

It was a lovely walk nonetheless and I'm sure from the top (despite only being the ACT's 45th highest peak, you are able to see for at least 40 or 50km.

Saturday, June 1, 2019

Filming 'Moons'

There’s every chance you haven’t heard of Amr Tawfik. I hadn’t until I saw (somewhere?) a brief advert looking for extras for a film that he was shooting.

What can you do when you see invitations like that but reply and offer up both my services and those of A&E plus their friend Seb.

Amr and I exchanged a series of slightly chaotic messages. With every message the location of the shoot grew more mysterious. Initially it was going to be in Googong – a new development just outside of Canberra, then in Gunghalin in the city’s north and finally we were told to head to Mulligans Flat – a nature reserve – we were even provided with grid co-ordinates of where to meet!

What we did know was that the film was called ‘Moons’ it was set in the future (a post-apocalyptic world) and we were to be in a montage that would form the start of the film. The rest of the film we were told had already been shot, but Amr needed a bit more material for the opening credits.

It was a freezing cold morning when we headed out to the location. The kids were fairly tentative, but they’re used to being asked to take part in crap like this and so they didn’t complain as much as perhaps they should have. It was 4 degrees when we arrived.

As we got out of the car it was like being in Hollywood. That is if you imagine a type of Hollywood where the director has one camera and him and his assistant are directing a group of student-types to run over the top of a hillock and then simulate giving one of their number a good kicking. 

The student-types were extras like us who were shooting another scene. They’d clearly tried harder than us and had dressed in ragged clothes and looked like the post-apocalyptic individuals they were supposed to be. We wore dark clothes, but no rips. A more upmarket apocalyptic group of survivors.

After about a dozen takes Amr was happy with what he’d shot. Sadly he didn’t declare that it was ‘in the can’ or anything like that, but it signalled that it was our turn.

The other extras disappeared into cars and drove off.

Amr explained that our role was to walk along and spot the film’s main protagonist who was walking determinedly towards us. We were to sight him and then it was my duty to pull the kids over to one side while the film’s main man strode onwards past us. We didn't have any lines, but then I guess I have to start my film career somewhere.

We found our spot and then proceeded to walk. But we'd gone too early and were called back for 'take two'. Take two and three were similar, We went too far to the right and the film's hero hadn't caught up to us. At about take five the kids suggested one of them stumble as we were walking. Amr agreed that we could try it but all three of the kids started to trip (several times) after a couple of goes Amr suggested we drop the idea. He said we looked clumsy rather than scared.

At about take 10 or 11 I think we'd perfected it. Amr said that he'd got what he needed - either that or he'd seen enough - a grown man trying to corral three constantly stumbling children.

I guess we won't know until we see the film whether we (literally) made the cut. Whether we did or not it was great to meet Amr. He told us that the guy playing the 'star' was the sixth lead that the film had had. Several people had been in the role, but had either moved away, got other jobs or just lost interest. Because the character wore a mask Amr felt he could get away with it. I wasn't entirely convinced.

I'm looking forward to the release date now. Apparently sometime this year!

Amr centre next to the main star (well star no.6 at least)

An artificial gun made by Amr himself.

On location

Sunday, May 26, 2019

Nils Desperandum

I've recently started introducing some variety to the hikes/bushwalks that we've been doing. Historically we've tended to complete a couple of favourite walks (which as a result I know very well) but Canberra is covered in multitudes of walks, paths and climbs and so we've started expanding our repertoire and beginning to explore a wider area.

Our trip to Nils Desperandum was one such walk which we took on a sunny public holiday.

Nils Desperandum is a homestead - built in the 1890s (ancient by Australian standards) and has been occupied by three or four families until it was eventually consumed by Tidbinbilla nature reserve in the 1970's. It's possible to book the house and stay overnight which I think it would be a great adventure. The house has got a lot of rustic charm, has a kitchen with a range and is quite remote. There's running water but no electricity and of course no wifi (hurrah!) 

Your neighbours would consist of the numerous kangaroos lolloping around and while we were there we sat and listened to the maniacal chatter of a kookaburra.  

One of the reviews I read of the place said that staying in the house was basically 'camping but with a roof' which I think is probably a fair summation.  

It's not a very long walk (around a 9km round trip) and is mostly along an easily navigable fire trail. The walk has a steady uphill incline but nothing like as steep as Granite Tor which was the walk I'd completed on my own in March.

My walking companions were a bit underwhelmed by the homestead when we reached it (no TV). Fortunately I'd taken along some sweetcorn, bread and sausages and so we happily cooked them on the BBQ that belongs to the property. The house has an enclosed garden area where it would also be possible to camp if your party exceeded the six beds that were inside the house itself.

Walking back to the car park was much easier (downhill) but because we'd left relatively late in the morning we could feel the winter chill around 4pm after the sun dropped below the horizon. We had about an hour of daylight left by the time we reached the car. I drove my three companions the short 30 minute ride back to Canberra. 

Friday, May 24, 2019

Whitlams and National Gallery of Australia

Sitting down at the Whitlams concert with my friend Emma, we worked out that the last three people we'd each been to watch the band with had died. It was a relief therefore that we made it out alive.

I didn't live in Australia when the Whitlams were in their pomp (in the 1990's) but I've seen them half a dozen times in a retrospective effort to catch up. Their music is an eclectic combination of political statements, melancholy tunes and upbeat toe-tapping rhythms. The thing that links everything together is the talent and charisma of front man Tim Freedman.

Half way through Freedman asked the crowd if we were all going to head to the National Gallery after the show as it was open 24 hours as part of a special celebration of female artists. Until that point we hadn't heard that it was an option, but with A&E at a sleepover we did go along after the Whitlams had finished their show (and two encores)

The gallery was buzzing with a pop-up bar and a DJ (who Emma knew). It was a wonderful 'vibe' there and there was a free table of sweets to tuck into. All in all, the combination of art, music and good company made for a really enjoyable night out.

Saturday, May 18, 2019

Sport Saturdays

Like many families across Australia our Saturdays are full of sport. Audrey plays for Jets (the school netball team) and Eli for Canberra FC.  Both games kick off within half an hour of each other. It makes juggling both things tricky on a Saturday and often requires complicated shuttle runs from two different parts of town. 

Both enjoy their respective sports. Audrey is only in her second season of netball (some of the other girls having seemingly played the sport since birth) and is doing well and Eli has a good bunch of boys in his football team.

After netball/football we then whizz for an hour of tennis and then to horse riding. It makes for jam-packed Saturdays.

In early Autumn things on a Saturday morning are also easier than they'll become in a few weeks time when they'll be playing on frosty mornings, but for now both kids are enjoying the sun on their backs.

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Mother's Day Classic

We completed our seventh (I think) Mother's Day Classic. It was a really foggy morning and the fog didn't really lift round the lake. It's still really inspiring to do though, the contributions by participants and volunteers alike is amazing.

Afterwards I did a short 'Mother's Day' themed interview on Lish Fejer's programme on ABC Canberra.

Monday, May 6, 2019

Trail Ride

Audrey had missed a couple of horse riding lessons this term which you can take in the form of trail rides at the end of term. Eli was keen to join her so the two trotted off around Mount Stromlo and nearby Holden's Creek. Even though some of the countryside has been caught up by Canberra's urban sprawl it's still a lovely part of the world out there.

Saturday, May 4, 2019

Canberra Brave

We'd not been to the ice hockey before, which is strange as it's only a short walk from our house. The ice rink where our local team, Canberra Brave, play on is sadly run down - the greedy owner holding out for a big pay cheque from developers which will ultimately see the rink turned into apartments.

Despite this we joined a fervent crowd of probably around 1,000 supporters crammed into the tiny rink to watch Canberra Brave take on Sydney. People were squeezed into the arena with every flat surface serving as a chair and people three or four deep at the corners.

I don't know much about ice hockey, but I know there's always a fight between the players and sure enough it broke out in the first quarter where one of the players was grabbed around the neck by another. The tussle only went on for 30 seconds or so but it was pretty serious and both players ended up getting ejected. After the fight the two teams continued to niggle each other. Actually that assumes you're happy to call smacking each other into the plastic barrier surrounding the rink and pushing and tripping each other up, 'niggling'. 

The torrid affair ended with a win to Sydney. Their fans were still cheering in delight as we mooched out into the cold Canberra evening. I'm sure we'll be back for more, it was a fast and exciting sport. Eli told me that he'd enjoyed the fight more than anything else.

Chuck a puck

Saturday, April 27, 2019

Eli's Bithday

My little (or perhaps not so little anymore) boy celebrated turning 10 with a football party with his mates. It was a beautiful sunny day and the coach was excellent. The kids feasted on sausages afterwards and they whacked a football PiƱata with a fabulous stick which Audrey had spent hours, clipping and sticking in Wolves colours.

Eli's birthday football shirt (thanks Robin) and Dybala celebration

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Nursery Swamp

I think it's fair to say that I love the Namadgi National Park. It's right on Canberra's doorstep, but is often so deserted that you can feel like you are hundreds of kilometers away from the nearest civilisation. The kids and I (plus one of their mates) took a day trip out to Nursery Swamp in the Orroral Valley.

It was a beautiful walk and although the first couple of kilometers were uphill we managed the 8.5km return trip pretty easily. The walk ends up at Nursery Swamp - a fen - that stores water high up in the mountain. The fen is so named because early European settlers used to calf and lamb their stock there, taking advantage of the abundant water and wild grasses. For thousands of years before Europeans arrived it was also a place where aboriginal people lived and their existence can still be found by some rock art (which unfortunately we couldn't locate). I could totally appreciate why someone would make this place their home.

The diversity of landscape we walked through was amazing, from long board-walks to pretty copses and huge mountain boulders. Because there had been rain a couple of days before our walk a lot of things were green - we trod carefully at some spots because the chance of snakes increases in sunny but damp weather. When the walk concludes (well ok, I guess when you're half way) the view when you reach the swamp is stunning.

We only saw three other people on our walk. It's such a shame that more people don't recognise the sheer beauty of these places, but then I guess if they did it may detract from the beauty itself! 10/10

The marsh

Monday, April 22, 2019

Arnott's Ginger Biscuits

Sometimes you come across things that are completely counter to the globalised society we live in. Sometimes they seem nonsensical, but things like Arnott's ginger nut biscuits is actually fabulous in how quaint (or perhaps pragmatic) in the way that it feels. 

Arnott's is Australia's national biscuit manufacturer. In the 1960's a series of amalgamations and take-overs meant that different state based biscuit manufacturers came under one banner. The organisation tried to launch the New South Wales (NSW) version of its ginger nut biscuit nationally, but people turned away from it. As a result the company now produces no less than four varieties (only available in their own respective State/Territory).

I made a lady at work aware of this fact and, inspired by the information she organised for three packets to be brought from locations around the country and we taste-tested them for a morning tea. The winner was a bit inconclusive (probably Queensland came out on top) but it was interesting that everyone looked for something different whether it was the crunchiness or gingery taste. If you want to learn more here's an article from the ABC

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Easter Egg Hunt Rodney's Piallago

Rodney's Easter egg hunt is always a winner. This year they had 3,000 Easter eggs and they closed registrations at 100 kids. Audrey and Eli were pretty happy with their stash. We had a lovely breakfast there afterwards, it's always a nice spot to visit.

Saturday, April 20, 2019

New season at the Raiders

The rugby league season rolled around again - our fifth as dedicated Canberra Raiders fans. It promises to be quite a decent season for our team as they've made some good player acquisitions in the close season and Josh Hodgson (Raiders English hooker) who was injured for most of last season is now completely fit again.

What keeps us coming back I'm not sure, but it's pretty exciting when there's a decent crowd at Canberra Stadium and the Raiders are winning.

Friday, April 19, 2019

Meet the Raiders

 We usually head along to 'Meet the Raiders' sessions. The club does excellently with its community engagement and the kids love meeting both their favourite older players and new players alike. All the players have loads of time for the kids and it really does make you feel part of the Raiders family.

With Jack Wighton

joint captains, Josh Hodgson and Jarrod Croker 

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Canberra Light Rail

Canberra's light rail system has been discussed for years. Various routes proposed, budgets bandied about and opposing ideas put forward (one of which included a double lane cycle track as an alternative!). Finally after years of debate and seemingly even more years of road works and detours, the light rail launched.

Initially it's on a rather limited north-south, dogleg line from Gunghalin - Canberra's 'new' sprawling northern suburbs, into the city (Civic). In total there are 13 stops along the route.

As the route currently stands we'll not have much cause to ever travel on it. This in itself has caused considerable angst as people (who seemingly forget we live in a community of 400k+ people) argue that because they don't have a stop right outside of their front door should be excluded from paying the proportion of rates that fund the network. It's obviously a ridiculous argument.

Personally, I would have looked into a trolley bus system, such as the one in Mexico City - that way we could have started with four times the network (there's no need to lay track therefore reducing costs considerably) and then 'filled in' the network with trams in busy sections. I'm not a transport expert, nor a trolley-bus buff(!) though, so perhaps I'm wrong.

Either way, now light rail is here I'm sure Canberra will embrace it. Stage two of the system DOES come near our house. Hopefully it won't be too long before it's built (there's no specific time-frame as yet). 

I was lucky to be chosen (via a ballot) to be one of the first couple of hundred people to ride the train. To be honest it was fabulous. A couple of days later at the 'official' launch I travelled again, this time with the kids. It's a whole new view of Canberra - and as you look out of the window as the carriages fly past stationary cars you realise that the Bush Capital is growing up.

My facebook post - echoing Christopher Pyne. (I'm not sure anyone got the gag other than me)

I even got to travel a couple of stops on a completely empty carriage - how exciting!

My lucky golden ticket!