Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Vale Michael Clancy

Albion Park school's heartfelt memorial to Michael Clancy

MH17 tragedy: Albion Park school commemorates Michael and Carol Clancy

Carol and Michael Clancy

It is a terrible thing when you go through your whole life, working hard, making a real difference to people around you, so that when you finally get to retire,and enjoy the serenity of life beyond the workplace, you have it ripped away from you, and in the most terrible fashion imaginable.

Michael Clancy was a wonderful teacher and deputy principal for Albion Park Public School, where he retired just at the end of last year. As parents of three kids at the school, his work was a standout.
When our eldest daughter Jessica came to the school, it was with a peanut allergy that we were still trying to find the best way to cope with. Michael's help in this regard, his immediate knowledge of the problem and recognition of it, was terrific. He knew Jessica from the first moment, and acknowledged her. He knew Helen straight away, and acknowledged her. Just the fact that he was right on top of this made our introduction to Albion Park Public School a much smoother and more pleasant experience than it could have been.
When our second daughter Madeleine came to the school, she often got upset when it was time for us to drop her off at school. On a couple of occasions, Michael came over as I tried to fix the situation and still get to work on time, and helped to not only calm her down, but get her into line with her classmates with a minimum of fuss. The kids respected and enjoyed him for his candor. In my experience and from what I saw, he never had to raise his voice to a child, and he never had children being rude or disrespectful to him. (Not to suggest it never happened... :) )

What an unimaginable end then to a life that had helped so many others. The absolute unfairness of it all, that this should happen. What is the balance in life if those that can perpetrate such a deed can go unpunished (as will in all likelihood occur), and those that have given their life to the teaching of our children, and their children, can have theirs taken when they deserved the reward of a happy retirement.

Our family is only one of the many that are devastated by this. It is a sad day for the Albion Park community, for which Michael had done so much for in his years at our school.

Vale Michael Clancy. A man who we will remember fondly, but who will always remain in the hearts of our children.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

How Australia Reaped a Summer of Success

Photo courtesy of cricket.com.au
When you look back over what has been a remarkable summer for the Australian cricket team, how do you judge the success that has come its way, and to what do you put it down to? Is it such a huge result as most believe, or were the signs of revival there most of the time, but only covered by an aberration of two legends retiring and a tour of the subcontinent?

1. The removal of Mickey Arthur as coach and the appointment of Darren Lehmann as his replacement. 

There is little doubt that this has played the major role in Australia rediscovering its mojo. While Ponting and Hussey were still in the mix, and Australia was still winning, the cracks looked to have been papered over. However, the spotlight of a barren tour of India, a long way from home and the two legends now retired, brought all simmering tensions to the surface. The debacle of the "homework" episode brought stark reality home to all Australian cricket watchers that something wasn't right. Whatever the rights and wrongs in the whole matter, which then drip fed into the start of the England tour with Dave Warner's boozy swipe at Joe Root in a late night pub crawl, the swift removal of Arthur from the post of coach to the appointment of Lehmann as his replacement was a brave and ultimately successful decision by Cricket Australia. In fact, given the flack that Cricket Australia often receives, this move has not received enough praise. They took a huge risk, and copped a financial settlement with Arthur in order for it to happen. Everything that has happened since can be linked to that decision.
Lehmann - from our viewing distance - has been a revelation. The team appears more congenial, tougher, harder, better. Individuals are improving their game, and yet still playing as a team, and playing to the state of the game. Lehmann's presence on the balcony or on the ground is both visual and commanding. His forthright and often humorous press conferences leave nothing to the imagination, he answers each question with honesty and impunity. Nine months into his appointment, and everything about Australian cricket has improved. Having revitalised the team with its current employees, perhaps his next biggest challenge will be in replenishing the team as its elder statesmen begin to come to the end of their reign.

2. Injuries elevate the recall of Ryan Harris and Mitchell Johnson.

This time twelve months ago, two matches out from the Sheffield Shield final, no one - and I mean no one - could have predicted the year that these two bowlers have just completed. Johnson was on tour in India, a tour that saw him play only one Test, for no wickets and a pair with the bat. Harris was about to make his long awaited comeback to the Queensland Shield team, in the hope of being able to bowl some overs without breaking down. The first result was the Johnson was left out of the Ashes touring party, and although Harris was included, he was left out of the 1st Test team. Harris was then instrumental in keeping Australia competitive in that England series, and managed four Tests in a row, before requiring more recuperation before the Brisbane Test in November. Johnson meanwhile performed well in the ODI team, while Mitchell Starc, James Pattinson and Jackson Bird all broke down on the England tour, leaving the door open for his return again to the Test team. Now - if ANY of those three had been fit in November, it is highly unlikely that Johnson would have played in that 1st Test. Can anyone imagine that Australia would have been as dominant without him? Along with Lehmann's elevation to the coaching role, the fact that so many bowlers fell out of contention due to injury to open up that slight crack for Mitch Johnson to crawl though is the biggest moment of the summer.
Harris and Johnson have been magnificent, a pairing that came together through necessity, and ran rampage throughout the summer. Which leads into the next point...

3. Mitchell Johnson's moustache.

How much do you credit the moustache for the rewards of the summer? It depends on how much you credit superstition in the game of cricket. In the majority, sportsman of all levels find that if they succeed in a game or series or season, they don't like to change anything that may have brought that success. It might be Steve Waugh's lucky red rag, it might be a favourite jockstrap or shirt, or it may be the growing of a moustache for an event called Movember. Johnson shaved the moustache off after the Ashes Test series, and his returns "mo-less" in the one dayers that followed were... less successful. He then grew it back for the South African tour, and has again dominated.
Of course, everything is a mindset. If you are confident in your setup and your action, and you feel as though you can put the ball on a ten cent piece every time, of course you will more than likely have success. But getting that mindset and comfort level is not always easy, and sometimes something as simple as 'believing' that your moustache is your talisman is what gives you that frame of mind. No matter what the naysayers may think, Mitch's moustache had as much to do with Australia's success this season as any other factor.

3. The removal of the "age card" and selection of Chris Rogers.

This was a critical change of selection policy, given the disgraceful handling of Simon Katich at the beginning of Michael Clarke's captaincy reign. The selection of a 'horses for courses' type player, despite his age, was a revelation. Rogers had been the best performed Australian batsman for three seasons in domestic cricket, and had also done the same in English county cricket over a long period. His experience in English conditions was critical, and though he never appeared fluent, he showed grit and determination, something that hadn't always been on show in recent Tests. He showed enough to be retained for the Australia summer, where he fought tooth and nail at every crossroad, knowing that one or two slips would mean the end of his Test career. His 60 in the first innings and then century in the second innings in Melbourne was wonderful cricket. He fought to hold the innings together in the first, and then played his most fluent Test innings in the second. Two further centuries since has now given him another season in the baggy green, and is a just reward for a journeyman who never gave up in his quest to represent his country. He has formed a great partnership at the top of the order with David Warner, which has steadied the problems the team was facing in that position. Which leads into the next point...

4. David Warner starts dating Candice Falzon.

There are other reasons as well, of course, but this has been a revelation. Looking at Dave Warner in June in England, and then again at Newlands for the last week, and you see two different cricketers. The party boy with the party atmosphere and misguided intentions of his entertainer role in the Australian cricket team has gone. He has been replaced by a tough, focused, hungry cricketer, who has barely stopped scoring runs. And he is FIT! He has stripped back to nothing, his strength has built up, and he isn't tiring at all, no matter the length of his innings. The training regime Candice has put Warner on (no doubt in private as well as public) is plain to see, and is working. He scored four centuries in the Ryobi Cup when left home from the ODI team in India in October, and hit the new season in fiery form. He is still probably too much over the top in regards to talk on the field, but you can't fault his performances. His Test average has risen from 37 to 46 in eight Tests this summer. The cricket world lays at his feet, waiting to see if he can claim it.

5. The instinct to pick Steve Smith.

No one except the National Selection Panel believed Smith should have been selected in the squad to tour India last year. He had no real runs on the board, and it looked as though he was going on a Contiki holiday. Then Australia was smashed in the first two Tests, and the "homework" scandal claimed four players for a one Test suspension. Enter Steve Smith, who hit a composed and serene 92 in the first innings of the 3rd Test, and finished with an average of over 40 for his two Tests, which was bettered only by the skipper. Despite the hiccup of then initially leaving him out of the Ashes squad, his reinstatement soon after was deserved, and his maiden Test century in the 5th Test of that tour highlighted his talent.
His summer, while slightly up and down, has cemented him as not only a very talented and improved batsman, but as a wildcard with his leg spin bowling, and very possibly the next in line for the Australian captaincy. Again, no one could possibly have imagined this twelve months ago - and the NSP can take a bow for their foresight in his selection.

6. The captaincy of Michael Clarke.

Not the least the runs he has made, and the manner and timing that he has made them, Clarke's captaincy skills have been almost perfect all summer. His innovative fielding positions, his handling of his bowlers, his ability to make the correct timing with his declarations and his general brilliance has not only enabled Australia to be at their best, it has cast a pall over his opposition captains. Their lack of trust in their own decisions, and lack of energy in either trying to make things happen or to change the course or momentum of the match, made it glaringly obvious of their inadequacies in their own positions. Even the couple of occasions where Clarke fired up to opposing players on the field (whether or not this was a good example) showed his passion for the fight, whereas both Cook and Smith spent most of their respective series at first slip with their arms crossed biting their fingernails.

These are by no means the only reasons for success, but to me epitomise what has been the major reasons for the success of the summer. I could also highlight areas where the future still needs to be addressed to continue this resurgence in our nation's cricket - how much longer can Ryan Harris continue, is Peter Siddle likely to be forced out due to not being an express pace, is Nathan Lyon still our long-term spin option, does Australia's first class cricket season need to be re-thought in order that our young kids get enough four-day cricket to make them the players of the future? - but for the moment, we can be pleased that we have regained the Ashes, we have avenged our defeat by South Africa in Australia from 18 months ago, and the tools are in place to ensure we continue to improve, and perhaps one day return to the pinnacle of world cricket.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

21st Wedding Anniversary

Today Helen and I celebrated our 21st wedding anniversary. As a way of marking the occasion I posted the following on Facebook:

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Josh Starts His AFL Journey

Josh had his first official training for AFL this afternoon. I think he enjoyed being a part of a group, a team, and learning some new skills, and finding out how tiring it is going to be.

First training. Josh is in the green T-shirt
The best part for me was about halfway through the training. While the other boys had been getting high balls to mark, Josh had been getting grubber balls, probably because he was a new boy, and one of the smallest on the field. He was finally given the chance to take a mark which, after all of our kick-to-kick under high balls, he took easily, and then calmly slotted the goal over the mark, and his coaches were not only surprised but pleased with. It was great to see Josh getting high fives for his efforts.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Alice in Chains Just Awesome at Sidewaves

This evening I took Helen to the lovely Enmore Theatre to see the Sidewaves show for Alice in Chains.

We headed up from home just before 5.00pm and arrived at our parking at about 6.20pm. We walked up to Enmore Road, and found a mexican place called El Cuervo Cantina. They had $4.50 margeritas which Helen found to her liking, and also had Chimichanga for the first time with beans, which looked pretty god. However, it was not as good as my beef fajitas - HOT beef fajitas too, they really brought the spice. Great stuff.

Walking Papers
We arrived at the Enmore just after Walking Papers started their set. They had a great sound, and it was great to see Duff McKagan again. The drummer was good, but his kit was amazing, just a fabulous sound he got from it. I'd love to have had a go on it.

Down was on next, and while they were not overly to Helen's taste (she appreciated the guitarists - and they were good - but she couldn't come to the vocals) they sounded 100% better than the last time I saw them when they supported Heaven & Hell on their tour to Australia. Phil Anselmo's ego still ruled the show, but his band was terrific.

End of Down gig, with roadie's and kids all taking over the instruments.
Alice in Chains were amazing, carrying on from their gig on Sunday. Their sound was just incredible. Mike Inez and Sean Kinney were as solid and sensational as always. William DuVall' s vocals soared, while Jerry Cantrell was superb. His guitaring is still such a highlight.
All of the songs off the latest album, The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here sounded so much better live, but Helen remarked on how they just lack that spark that the older material has. They don't have the same vocal harmonies as the they did when Layne Staley was co-writing the songs, and they lack his unique vocal abilities. They sound great, but they don't have that affinity with the old material. It's not meant to be a criticism, just an observation. But when you hear songs like "Man in the Box" and "Rooster" and "No Excuses" and "Down in a Hole" and "Would?"... well... it was amazing. "Rooster" and "No Excuses" brought tears to my eyes again, just thinking of the waste it was when Layne died so young. Madness.

Oh, and of course, there was the standard meeting-up with Dale Clark after the gig had finished. It is almost uncanny how we always seem to find each other during a gig, even if we haven't shown up together.

Helen and I don't get to go to see bands together very often, so this was a great night.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Soundwave Festival


Today I was off to my second Soundwave Festival, this time as a lone wolf. Well, it wasn't going to be that way, but my erstwhile companion Bono, who on hundreds of occasions has failed to show to events for a multitude of reasons, once again managed to find a way to miss out on an event. This time it was his back giving out on him once again. Oh well. Onward we go.

I drove up surrounded by a galaxy of music from my iPod, singing and banging without a care in the world. There is a lot that can be said for driving on your lonesome in the car, and being able to play your own music at your own volume without having to compromise either.

I arrived inside the Homebush setting before 10.30am, and immediately went to the beer tent to grab my first beer of the day. I can honestly say that it was the best way to start the day, and it barely touched the sides.I grabbed a second, and walked around the whole setup to familiarise myself with where all of the stages were, and how long it would take to get from one to the other. Then it was time to head to Stage 4 for the first band on my list for the day.

The first band of the day at 11.00am was Amon Amarth, a band I had flirted with for one album back in 2008 (Deceiver of the Gods) and had not taken to, and thus had left alone until this day. However, the great thing about Soundwave is seeing so many bands live, and getting a better handle on what they are like. I was also greeted by the visage of Steve Holz who had also ventured to theis stage early for the festivities.
Amon Amarth was on so early as they had brought their Viking Ship stage set to Australia, and they needed the time to put it together. And the band was - fabulous! The band itself was terrific, the duelling guitars just brilliant, and the vocals were so much better than I remembered from my short stint listening to them on CD. By halfway through the set, I found myself wondering how I had missed this when I tried them out. No doubt my mood wasn't set for death metal at the time. I was very impressed by the end of the set, at which time I tweeted:

Amon Amarth - Father of the Wolf

From here I had to make a couple of stops. Firstly it was time for a toilet break. Secondly it was up to the Utopia Records tent to purchase a cap (yes, amazingly as it sounds in this day and age, I actually forgot to bring a hat with me. Thankfully I had suncream on to get me through that first couple of hours) and a stubby holder (yep, forgot that too). As always, Utopia was able to satisfy my needs in this respect.

Thirdly, it was time for another beer, as I then headed down to Stage 6 to check out half of the set by August Burns Red. I have never pursued these guys, but Kearo highly recommended them, so I thought I's better give them a shot. Opinion? Yeah, they weren't bad, but their sound was swirling in the cavernous shed, so I probably didn't get the best impression. Next time perhaps.

Terrible photo of August Burns Red, but at least I was there...
From here it was back to Stage 4 to get in a little Five Finger Death Punch, a band I had only heard recently in my trawling of Soundwave acts to see who I should go and see. In the process I managed to get through all of their albums, and found a lot of it to be terrific stuff. This was backed up by their performance here as well. An excellent set, with Life Me Up a highlight for me.

Five Finger Death Punch - Full Set

Next up on Stage 4 was The Black Dahlia Murder. Now most of their stuff that I have heard has been just a little extreme in the vocal department for my tastes, and though i did enjoy their set, it didn't change my opinion that it would be difficult for me to get into their music on a full time basis. Still, it was good to see them, to hear them in that live setting.

Steve and I watched most of this from our vantage point up as close to Stage 4 as we could get, as we awaited the beginning of Testament. I have been waiting the better part of 30 years to see Testament live, not just after their awesome early albums like The Legacy and Practice What You Preach and Souls of Black and Low, but also recent albums The Formation of Damnation and Dark Roots of Earth.    

And they did not disappoint. What a show. Fantastic set list, led brilliantly by Chuck Billy, as well as the twin guitar gods Alex Skolnick and Eric Petersen. Great to see Steve DiGiorgio back on bass guitar, he looked to be having a ball throughout the gig. And Gene Hoglan was just awesome on the drums, great to see the legend there as well. It was great to hear "Rise Up" and "Into the Pit" especially, and would really loved to have heard much more. If only I could get to that Sidewave on Wednesday! Brilliant set.

GWAR was just hilarious. Some technical hitches saw them start some 20 minutes late, and we saw the band wandering around trying to fix the problems before they had donned their character suits which was pretty funny. Then when they started, it was on. So much fake blood, spraying out over the front fifteen rows of people (while Steve and I had positioned ourselves perfectly that none of it reached us, by about two rows). I'm not sure I could ever actually sit down and listen to their albums, but the show was funny, and the musicianship was good. When they brought out the Tony Abbott mannequin and then cut off his head when he 'cancelled' the show, the crowd went wild.


From here there was a bit of a shuffle, as we had been on our feet for about five hours by now, so while hearing a bit of the Volbeat show that had started on Stage 4A, I got myself a kebab (which was fine, but they wouldn't give me both BBQ and chilli sauce, and it was about half the size of a normal kebab, and cost over ten bucks, as well as a 300mL Coke for $5!!!), and we then took the chance to sit down in the shade, and hear a bit of Filter coming from Stage 5. Wow, for the hype surrounding them, it was very average stuff. Really not my cup of tea (or schooner of beer) at all.
Once we had eaten, Stev bade farewell, off to find his other bands for the day. I returned to Stage 4 and watched the end of the Volbeat set (not bad - Rob Caggiano still has it, even though he has left Anthrax) and to get my first sighting of Trivium live. Nope, I wasn't disappointed, except for the fact that I would have liked to have heard more. Their setlist covered their career, and they were impressive, even through some sound issues, similar to what Killswitch Engage had faced last year.

Trivium - Full Set

From here I moved into the main stage for the first (and only) time of the day. I was beat, and found a good seating position to rest my weary legs. Alice in Chains came on at 5.00pm, and were spectacular. It was great to hear all the great songs again, and William DuVall's vocals soared in the stadium gig. After 20 minutes of resting I hopped up and made my way back in closer to the stage, where the sound was even more impressive. The band was just terrific, and I left this hour gig not only satisfied, but eager for the Sidewaves I was attending in two days time.

Alice in Chains - Man in the Box

Now I had a date with destiny, another band that I had waited since my mid-teens to see live, and it was about to come true. Stiff Little Fingers were on the bill over on Stage 7, and I got there a little early to make sure I was up near the front. When I arrived, there was maybe 50 people there, but by the time they came on stage, there was closer to 400. And they were just brilliant. They played all of their hits, they played new songs, they didn't muck around between songs to make sure they got as much in as possible, and it was LOUD! I was just stoked to be there. Brilliant. If I could have watched them again I would have. It was a dream fulfilled, and despite the excellent sets and bands during the day, this was the number one moment for me at Soundwave 2014.

What more was there left for the day? I could have ventured back to the metal stage down at Stage 4, where Devildriver and Mastadon were set to finish the night, but I wasn't sure whether I wanted to hang around that long. I did move down to Stage 3, where I caught the second half of the set by Soil, and they weren't bad. Not someone I would likely follow up on, but they were enjoyable enough, and had good banter with their crowd. I then watched the first two songs of Rob Zombie's set, at which time I convinced myself that nothing was going to match what I had already seen, and so I headed back to the car and headed home. Being a Sunday night also encouraged this, and getting home at 9.15pm on a worknight turned out to be the best move.

I had a great day, and again saw some great bands. I do think that if I do it again next year that i will take some time off - absolutely the Monday, and maybe a couple of other days in which to go to Sidewaves shows without having to worry about getting up for work the following days. We'll see...

Thursday, February 20, 2014

When Bands Forget Who Their Real Employers Are

It's pretty obvious that with all of the bullshit that is going on over the Soundwave Festival that takes place over the next week or so throughout Australia, that there are bands out there that have forgotten who it is that makes them who they are, and also makes them the well-off musicians that they are. Ego takes over, and there is no doubt there are some massive ego's out there in this industry.

There is always more than one side to every story, but really, how hard is it to remember that no matter what petty differences and arguments may occur between band and promoter or band management and promoter, bands only survive on the goodwill and support of their fans. And if you piss your fans off, then you pretty much shoot yourself in the foot.

I have bought and own every album Megadeth has ever released, the first half of their discography in more than one format. I have their DVDs and their VHS videos before that. I have the great ones, as well as the crap ones such as Risk and the recent Super Collider. I have suffered from other Megadeth last-minute tour pull-outs of Australia, most famously the day before I was to see them for the first time on the "So Far So Good... So What!" tour in 1988. One fricken day before, they cancelled. Then they cancelled again on the "Countdown to Extinction" tour. Any published excuses? No. Just live with it Australia, Dave isn't coming and isn't saying why.
Now, I have been lucky enough to see Megadeth five times. Others have not. There will be kids out there who were pumped to see a legend act such as Megadeth for the first time. And now they won't. Apparently (but not confirmed) because the promoter wouldn't apologise.

Apologise for what? Because he put Newsted on as Megadeth's support for their Sidewaves show when they were not on an 'agreed' list of 'suitable' support acts? Because the promoter then took Newsted off the support slot, and then said it was because the band's management asked him to do it? Because the promoter put the band in shit for saying what actually happened, and not just covering it up?
Ask the fans - do they give a fuck? Do they care about how it may appear as a slight on Mustaine? No. They just want to see the band play.
But no, Mustaine's ego cannot sustain being seen to be the bad guy in this, when plainly he is as culpable as anyone else involved. So, what does he do? Well, he picks up his ball, and goes home. Announces on Facebook and Twitter that...
That's it. No explanation, no sorry, no fucking nothing. Then, on his personal Facebook page, another post, simply saying...

Then, from all appearances, despite desperate pleas from the promoter and fans alike, not another word has come from the Megadeth camp. It has just been wiped from their existence.

Well, thanks Dave. I'll be honest, and admit Megadeth was not even in the top ten bands I wanted to see at Soundwave. I have seen them before, and their latest album is not particularly good. If they had clashed with a few other bands, I would have chosen the other bands. However, what this has shown is that fans finish second to ego with him. I won't be spending anymore of my hard earned cash on anything to do with Megadeth again. Probably, he couldn't care less. But that's MY protest.

Hardcore Superstar also decided to play hardball over their timeslot.

And why did this occur? Well...

So - don't worry about the fans. If we can't play after 4.00pm, we aren't coming.
What a bunch of pricks. Don't come then. Ignore your Australian fan base, who only want to SEE YOU PLAY, COULDN'T GIVE A RATS ARSE IF IT WAS 3.00AM OR 11.00PM. If I WAS a fan, I would also be putting a ban on spending any more money on you. As it turns out, because I won't see you, you have also lost any chance you may have had of me 'discovering' you, and then buying up back catalogues of stuff. Oh well. Enjoy sitting at home doing sweet F.A when you could have been playing music for your fans. Idiots.

Stone Temple Pilots and Sevendust also called early halts to their Soundwave odyssey, at the time giving 'legitimate' reasons, though rumours have since leaked that there reasons for not coming was to do with money, or what they deemed to be the lack of it. Fine. If that is the truth, then that is a matter to stay between the parties involved. Then Whitechapel cancelled, citing the 'death of a close family member'. Another bust, but what can you do? Apparently, as many fans have decided, let's blame the promoter again.

Now we have this last little story, where a strange, unexplanatory post comes up on Jason Newsted's Facebook page yesterday afternoon.

Which again was news to the promoter.

Without knowing what the hell is going on (this is now 24 hours after this post), IF this is another pull out because of time slot...

... then, even though I have bought his EP and his album off iTunes, I will again not be supporting him any further in his career. And let's face it, after the Echobrain debacle, he is lucky I am supporting him at all!!!

No matter what, I can't wait for Soundwave on Sunday. Alice in Chains, Testament, Trivium, Stiff Little Fingers, just to name a few, are bands I can't wait to see. Egotistical bands that obviously couldn't give a flying fuck about their fans be damned. This is a super day, and I'm going to have a blast!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Jess & Maddi in the S.R.C

It sounds like the title of an S.O.D album, but it's not.
This morning I headed down to school to see both of my girls get their badges, after last week having been voted by their classmates onto the Student Representative Council. 

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Josh Signs Up For Auskick

This afternoon Josh and I headed down to Con O'Keefe Oval to get him registered for AFL Auskick with the local Albion Park Crows Junior AFL club.

I'm not completely sure who wants it more - Josh or me. I've always said that, had AFL had a junior club in Kiama when I was a kid, I would love to have played. As it was, by the time this did occur, I was too old for juniors, and not fit enough to be playing seniors. More is the pity.

So yes, Josh was certainly shepherded in the direction of AFL as a winter sport. Rugby League was never going to be an option, and though soccer is fine, it was not really something I wanted to watch every weekend. So we've gone for this.
We'll see how things go. Though I don't mind (particularly) being involved, I don't want to get to the stage of being a necessary item every week. Coaching? No thanks. Occasional helper at training? Yep, i can probably do that. What i most want to see is Josh being involved in a team sport, and learning the skills required to be good at it. Can't wait to see how it all pans out.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Swanning With the Swans

This afternoon, pretty much as soon as our feet touched the floor at home, we were off to Myimbar Oval at Shellharbour, where two of the Sydney Swans, Tim Membery and Lewis Roberts-Thomson were doing a kick-to-kick and meet-and-greet with kids from the Shellharbour Swans Junior AFL Club.
Now of course Josh is going to play for the Albion Park Crows Junior AFL Club, but we went over (as did several others) anyway.

We played kick-to-kick for about an hour on the field, and Josh got his ball signed by LRT, which he thought was pretty special (even though he is a GWS Giants fan first and foremost).

Friday, February 7, 2014

Resting Day

I stayed at home today, in essence to look after Jessie, whom the doctor had said should not go to school today with her tonsil stones, but it also worked well for me with my cold. Today it really hurt my lungs each time I coughed, because I had coughed so much yesterday it had made my body sore from underuse. Ridiculous.

Having packed off the other two to the bus, I took the chance to introduce Jess to a couple of movies I felt she was now old enough to watch.
The first was The Truman Show with Jim Carrey, which she enjoyed, and I liked watching once again. The second was a classic - Monty Python and the Holy Grail. I told her I had first watched it when I was ten years old, so she should see it. Not sure she got all of it, and she was a bit taken aback when I kept quoted the lines word for word before they appeared on the screen, but I think she enjoyed it. having not watched it for probably ten years, so did I!

The Scorchers played the Hurricanes tonight in the final of BBL03, with the Scorchers deservedly winning their first competition having lost the first two finals of the revamped T20 format. I also managed to get another jump on Tom Waterhouse, having taken a multi of the Scorchers winning, and the Wanderers and Roar drawing in the A League - which they did, 1-1, paying odds of $7.50. Thanks Tom.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Gary Moore Day

Feeling even worse than yesterday today. This cold has gripped me a little tighter, and the coughing and spluttering is worse. Got told by at least four people to go home, but... well... Helen had called at 8.00am, saying Jess was crook and wasn't going to school. Which meant that she would have to stay off work again. So I couldn't do anything constructive at home, but at least at work I could do something.
Of course, Helen called again after midday to say Jess had tonsil stones and wouldn't be able to go to school again tomorrow. Which means I will be at home with her tomorrow. Which, in reality, is not a bad outcome for me with the way I feel today.

It is three years today since Gary Moore was found dead in his hotel room, an untimely death of one of my favourite guitarists and artists. So once again it was time to trot out all the best of his albums for listening again, to remember his great stuff. Memories of the great man. I even granted to listen to some of his blues material.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

BBQ Day at the Young's

We all headed over to the Young's home in Haywards Bay this morning for a family BBQ with the Jukes family as well. Our three family's all get on well together, with Brody Young, Rohan Jukes and Jess all in Year 5 together, and Brock Young, Lauren Jukes and Josh all in Year 1 together, while Maddi is in Year 2 and Thomas in Year 7 means they are all very close in age.

A 10.30am start is quite early, but this didn't stop the first beers being cracked soon after out arrival. The day was a belter, and the kids spent more than half the day in the pool. The girls also decided the pool was the best place to drink and gasbag, while Gary, Richard and I made sure no one was going to steal the table. We had also brought over the kids scooters and Jessie's bike so all the kids could ride around the streets of Haywards Bay, without getting into too much trouble.

Lunch was, well, extremely well catered, with steak and sausages and lamb and chicken and salads and rolls, and anything else you could think of. Once this was over, the kids headed back to the pool. Late in the day it turned out to be not such a great thing for Maddi, who pretty much had heatstroke by the evening.
We hadn't intended on staying all day, but as we did make it to dinner time, there was still plenty of leftovers to attack for that meal. We finally headed home with an unwell little girl at about 7.30pm.

Friday, January 31, 2014

The Final Straw for England?

Just had to laugh tonight, as Australia crushed England in the 2nd T20 international, at the tweet from Michael Vaughan, who by now was safely home in England and watching the carnage on TV...

Thursday, January 30, 2014

12 Years a Slave

This was quite a bit better than I imagined it was going to be. I had thought for a couple of months that I would not bother to see it, as it appeared to me to be going to be a film that would hardly be entertaining.
Based on a true story (and isn't just about every film nominated for Academy Awards this year?!?) of a free black man who was kidnapped and forced into slavery. Chiwetel Ejiofor was quite brilliant in the lead role, he would be my favourite for Best Actor at the moment. Other great performances from Benedict Cumberbatch, Michael Fassbender and Sarah Paulson. Not the kind of film you will watch over and over, but one that everyone should probably experience.


Tuesday, January 28, 2014

American Hustle

This movie has been nominated for a million Academy Awards. 
Loosely based on a true story, it focused on two con artists who are caught, and are then forced to work with the FBI to try and catch politicians and the mafia in corruption. It's well done, although it does feel as though it is going on too long, and then to stuff up proceedings further they rush the ending so that the end seems to be just cut short, when they could have spent a few more minutes to finish it well, given the amount of time they used through the middle of the story.As such, the end feels a little out of kilter. 
A good movie, but it won't win Best Picture. Christian Bale is just fantastic, once again. Is there anything he can't do? I think he's a chance at Best Actor, but he will probably have to beat the guy from 12 Years a Slave. Amy Adams is also surprisingly good, but she won't beat Cate Blanchett for Best Actress. Bradley Cooper was good in his role, playing the manic crazy FBI agent to the extreme. 


Sunday, January 26, 2014

Australia Day

With everything falling into place rather nicely, it was Australia Day at Roper Road today, with no need to travel anywhere, which to be honest was a nice idea.

Phil, Leaf, Zander and Lincoln had all slept over, so of course the kids were up at the crack of dawn meaning so were the rest of us.
We played cricket on the Peters Stadium wicket this morning, and while everyone had a good go and showed some form, there was no doubt about who should have been pulling on the green and gold that afternoon in Adelaide instead of the No Show, Glen Maxwell...

Chris and Chris came over for lunch, and we ate on the deck. I cooked and later conversed while listening to John Williamson and Rolf Harris on the stereo, getting the most of Australia that we could on Australia Day, before switching to some modern day Australian classics such as Cold Chisel, Dragon, Crowded House, Mondo Rock and the like.

The Wade's headed back for Newcastle just before 4.00pm, and the oldies headed off as well. I was then able to settle back into my chair, and watch the ODI between Australia and England.

At 7.30pm I had to start using the remote, as the Australian Open tennis final between Nadal and Wawrinka started. The tennis was great, until Nadal apparently managed to pick up an injury. As he had taken timeouts in all of his previous four matches - which mainly seemed to be a tactical move - he was roundly booed by the crowd. He was obviously hampered, but once he warmed up again he was moving pretty well, good enough to snatch the 3rd set. However, Wawrinka won in 4 sets, which was much deserved and universally popular.
Meanwhile, in the cricket, England again managed to stuff up a match that was impossible to lose, and handed Australia victory on Australia day, and a 4-1 ODI series win as well.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

New Old Outdoor Setting!

Phil and Leaf headed off for their walk/climb/outrig/death plummet this morning, while leaving us their two boys to look after. Well, they ain't called the Breaker Bothers for nothing! They were into it this morning, taking on all trucks and cars and train in Josh's armory, and giving them a real workout!

I spent a couple of hours heading back and forth between Kevin and Helen Moon's house, transporting their outdoor setting to our house, as we had purchased it off them on Facebook a week ago. It takes awhile when you can only fit one piece at a time into the Proton, but soon enough I had most of it at home, and Kev brought over the rest once Helen had arrived home from the shops. he then stayed and had a couple of beers on it to make sure it still worked ok.

I cooked tandoori chicken for dinner for the adults and Helen had pizza for the kids. All in all a successful Saturday.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Bill Collins Movie Reviews

Short reviews of a few movies we've managed to watch over the last week.

Based on the true story of the making of the movie version of 'Mary Poppins', and the relationships involved, particularly those of P.L. Travers (Emma Thompson) and Walt Disney (Tom Hanks), and of how the story evolved from her childhood. Very enjoyable viewing and interesting throughout. Good performances all round.


Woody Allen channels Tennessee Williams. If you've seen 'A Streetcar Named Desire' then you will know the feel of this story and the characterisation involved. Cate Blanchett plays Blanche Dubois - sorry, Jasmine - to perfection. She will win the Academy Award for this role, no doubt in the world. Still, there are no likeable characters in the story, and like all Woody Allen films there is no resolution. 



Rush: One season and the rivalry between James Hunt and Niki Lauda. Terrifically directed by Ron Howard, and both actors fantastic in their roles, extremely believable. I was surprised how good Chris Hemsworth was. You don't have to like racing to enjoy this film, and marvel at the drive of these guys. 


Monday, January 13, 2014

Qld Holiday Day 15 - Kempsey to Albion Park

Another early start beckoned for us this morning from Kempsey, as we had a full day ahead of us.

First stop was Beresfield, where we called in to say hello to Nan. We arrived at 11.00am, just in time for tea and biscuits. Nan is 99 - 100 in late September - and still going strong. She enjoys seeing the kids, and they love seeing her.

We also had to pick up our three bantam chickens, that Mum had given to each of the kids for their Christmas present. After much trouble running some down, Mum found some just up the road from Nan's, and so my uncle John had gone and got them and brought them to Nan's for us to pick up on our way through. We really didn't have any idea how we were going to fit them in, but eventually we were able to get the box in a stable position on Maddi's lap, and that's how they made the next three and a half hours.

We also planned to drop in to Toronto to see Flynn play cricket. He had been selected in the Southern Zone Under 14's team, and they were playing their carnival in Newcastle. Unfortunately when I called him at 11.30am to see how he was going, he said that Newcastle had already bowled Southern Zone out of 67 and they were about to head out onto the field. Of course, once we got going we actually got to Toronto just after 12.30pm, but the game had finished five minutes previous to that. Typical really. Flynn had taken the only wicket to fall, which at least was one positive from the whole shambolic episode.

We finally arrived home at 3.30pm - the first time I'd been home since the morning of December 26th some 19 days ago. Murray had dropped over the chicken's new home, which we set up in the backyard and then let the chooks check out their new home.

We had an early dinner of KFC, before Helen had to prepare herself for her return to work tomorrow, and I had to prepare myself for the work that lay ahead of me tomorrow in regards to washing and cleaning.