Saturday, July 25, 2009

Neighbourhood curios

I woke up this morning into a moment of terror, then I remembered the week was over and it was Saturday (true story, for shame). So in an attempt to put the madness of the working week behind me I decided to drag everyone out for a walk, under the guise of having an 'adventure' (my Mum used to say this as a rallying cry before we did something unpleasant like the time we had cold, coin-operated showers at that caravan park in Austria).

Unlike that Austrian winter, today it's sunny and bloody lovely outside so I wouldn't entertain any 'adventure' complaints, and didn't we have a fun outing? We found out our suburb has Australia's largest weekly bicycle auction. Who knew?

As a community we harbour escapee balloons, saving them from certain high-altitude death:

We are the victims of nutbars from Burleigh Heads (where?) posting massive signs that make no grammatical or metaphysical sense:

We are a suburb of random pot plants under random trees:

We are also the suburb with Australia's loveliest shop that sells both (and only) textiles and classic bikes. Usually my nose is pressed against the glass but I couldn't do that and hold the camera.

Could this day get any better? What did you do today?

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

On the map

The unfortunately named Titwillow, of Gilbert and Sullivan fame.

Last week Bundanoon became the first town anywhere to ban bottled water. Bloody good, I say; do away with all that unconscionable landfill and pop a few bubblers into the footpath. A fine way to save the planet.

While such a ban is indeed cause for celebration, I must confess my water-related euphoria was rather quickly replaced with wistful child-based recollections of time well spent in Bundanoon. Ah, for a town of one's family-holiday experience to be so fully in the world's gaze; exciting times indeed.

My parents were keen on weekend adventures and could list, without stopping for breath, the 47 towns within two hours drive of Canberra (they were also big on all things wholemeal and carob but that's another story). So it was that we discovered Bundanoon, not two hours drive from Canberra, that proved the site of so many delightful childhood experiences.

So what did I learn during our trips to Bundanoon?

1. All about the lyric genius of Gilbert and Sullivan, whose cassette of greatest hits we liked to play on a loop. Bear with me; these eight lines are really worth the journey:*

On a tree by a river a little tom-tit
Sang "Willow, titwillow, titwillow"
And I said to him, "Dicky-bird, why do you sit
Singing "Willow, titwillow, titwillow"
"Is it weakness of intellect, birdie?" I cried
"Or a rather tough worm in your little inside"
With a shake of his poor little head, he replied
"Oh, willow, titwillow, titwillow!"


2. That small bar heaters in large old houses are almost entirely ineffectual.

3. That an eight and nine year old together can construct a fully functioning, multi-level tree-house with faux smoking chimney.

4. That sometimes parents are prepared to forego their children's company so they (the children) can make finger puppets with other children while they (the parents) must resort to quietly reading the paper and eating croissants.

5. That tennis courts planted with daffodils look flippin' awesome.

Ooh! I'm off to wipe up all this sticky sentimentality before someone trips in it.

* Not really. Don't be a chump; skip them!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Hi, my name is Kettle

This picture of a woolly mammoth has nothing to do with this post. It's a fine looking woolly mammoth, though, don't you think? I did see an elephant at the zoo on the weekend, and elephants are quite similar to woolly mammoths, so there you go.

...and I have a problem (in addition to my propensity for posting entirely unrelated pictures).

I am addicted to courses.

I, for shame, am a course junkie. I feel more alive receiving an enrolment pack than I would wrestling a cow. I have spent more money on HECS and enrolment fees than I've earned in my lifetime. And, for shame, one undergraduate year I even rang the uni bookshop to find out exactly which day the shipment of handbooks for the next year's courses was due to arrive, then rushed in and bought one that very day (as if they'd sell out).

Why all this course craziness? To provide meaning and structure and stave off the herdy gerdy of modern life, of course. Oh, and to fund whole conglomerates of resource centres through donations to photocopy machines and to keep Australia Post afloat through correspondence study. Good on me.

Like a dealer with a little baggie my new job is tempting me with all sorts of courses too: compliance courses and continuous improvement courses and database systems courses, all neatly listed in my very own training plan (or Key Performance Indicator Skills Enhancement Plan).

And wouldn't you know a friend of mine owns a registered training organisation! Forget hunting down a mechanic, a lawyer and a cabinetmaker for your circle of friends; give me a registered training organisation owner any day (of course I've just enrolled in one of his most delightful courses and have spent a very pleasant week reading all about occupational health and safety, *sigh*).

I couldn't be happier in my semester-based world.

On reflection I can see the precise moment when I crossed the line, but ooh ooh look! Advanced Spreadsheeting! Where do I sign?

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Why three-year-olds should concentrate on picking their noses

Arrr, 'tis a fine ship for a shanty adviser.

On Sunday I took my small boy on a child-sized odyssey. We had a great day and many things were learnt, including that if you drag a small child to a ticket window you can buy a 'family funday' ticket which gives you unlimited access to Sydney's buses, trains and ferries for a whole day for $2.50. Ker-ching (I've gotta run the numbers but I'm pretty sure I'm close to making a profit on this whole procreation thing).

So not only was I delighted to be walking around with the giant discount coupon that is my son (who also manages to get me onto planes first and into movies for half price) but he seemed to be having a ball too. He had chips and lemonade at Circular Quay, screamed "wow!" 47 times on the ferry across to Pyrmont and spent exactly six minutes running through the Darwin exhibition at the Maritime Museum; a pretty good three-year-old day.

It wasn't until we were leaving the exhibition that I thought perhaps we could have made more of the day's learning opportunities instead of pegging chips at seagulls and making foghorn noises on the ferry. A Dad and his kid (who looked three to me but could have been four to six years older) were walking in front of us back to the ferry terminal when the Dad said to the kid: "It wasn't until Darwin that scientific rationality and the concept of evolution entered the discussion of the origin of humankind," to which the child answered: "What did people believe in before evolution?" "God, son," came the answer, "divine creation".

They walked on in silence, no doubt deep in un-childlike thought.

Then the kid looked up and saw the sign on the restaurant we were passing. "Y-O-T-S," he cried, triumphant, "that's not how you spell 'yachts'!"

I looked down at my son and pulled a face. My son looked up at me and picked his nose. We said "wow!" all the way home on the ferry.

Monday, July 6, 2009

A sport for kings and kettles

Several years ago some friends of a friend of mine decided to pick a sports team to follow. The two halves of this couple had grown up in different cities so rather than having one ardent supporter and one meh-whateverer they decided the best and fairest thing would be to choose a new team to love and cherish together.

They spent considerable time figuring out the criteria for their new team, none of which I can remember other than the team had to have the potential for greatness but not actually be too great at the time of choosing (so they could enjoy its rise), and it had to be based in a town with a population over 135,000.

That's right, because they were going to move there.

These friends of a friend were looking for a little more than a team to support. They were looking for team colours that matched their skin tones, a supporters' club that knew a bbq wasn't about the sausages, and a place to bring up their kids. They were looking to fill the void of modern life.

It's possible I made fun of them at the time. It's possible I called them crazy nutbars, but now the void has come whistling around my neighbourhood so I too have decided to turn to sport for salvation. My sport of choice? Le Tour de France.

Sure I only just figured out it's started already (who knew?), and sure I know nothing about cycling, but what's not to love about a sport that uses words like 'peloton', 'rear cog cluster' and 'derailleur'?

But my desperate over-justification doesn't end there: I had a pale blue Malvern Star all through primary school, I enjoyed The Triplets of Belleville when it first screened in 2003, and I even saw what could have been Le Tour itself when I was driving around France in July 2002 (or else the French have a crazy habit of motoring through narrow streets in small towns with bikes on their roofs):

Note my nascent fandom peeking out from under the front tyre of the second bike on the yellow car.

So unlike my crazy nutbar friends of a friend I feel well qualified in my sporting choice. I'll report back on Le Tour's void-filling capabilities; what fills your void?