Monday, 31 January 2011

Cricket 1 Tennis Nil

Well, the cricketers won the match and hence the One-Day best-of-7 series against the old enemy the Poms (but really, we like them).

Alas, in the Oz Open tennis (first Grand Slam tournament of each year) Andy Murray was outclassed by Novak "Nole" Djokovic who could well become the next World Number One, very soon. We shall see. Both players said correct things after the match. Murray looked glum and grumpy throughout and I suspect he had too much salt on his porridge for breakfast. A shame, though: his has been the best showing by a Brit in this sport for decades. Djokovic politicised his acceptance speech, referring to his nation's "tough time" in recent years, and said he dedicated the trophy to Serbia. (Can you do that??) but stopped short of expressing it as a hope for Serbia to rejoin the human race. (I am paraphrasing a classic line by Sir Humphrey of Yes Minister fame.)

Below is the happy snap I took last Wednesday of our mayor Ray Agnew with the main ladies at the Erichsen Literary Awards event in Ardrossan; Gwenda one of the winners and Leslie May the organiser.
The mayor is the one in the middle.

Sunday, 30 January 2011

This morning over the steam wireless at my bedside I heard the alarming weather alert for an extreme heat warning. Not a welcome tidbit of news. Darn. So I had to abandon plans for my all-day hard-working session in the garden. Ha Ha. If you believe that you'll believe anything.

Now it's 4pm and the thermometer in the back porch says 36C. Outside is definitely warmer than that. I picked a plum in the heat of the day and it was a HOT plum, kind of cooked, but very nice; and I rescued some nectarines from the birds, beetles and ants. So much for the Will Horticulture. Gwenda meanwhile boasts of the mulberries she's gathered from a friend's tree. "You have to wear red clothes."

Uncharacteristically, for a weekend, a spate of editing jobs arrived on my computer yesterday and I finished them last night at 11.30pm. But not tonight. Andy Murray is playing Novak Djokovic in the final of the Men's Tennis at the Australian Open. Now, who shall I barrack for...? Scot? Serb? Let's be totally unbiased about this. I know, I'll phone my cousin in Glasgow for an opinion. Can't phone home to mum because her birthday was last week. Would have been 106. But sadly she only made to ... oh dear, the age I am now. Ouch.

So it goes.

More devastating news. This Wednesday will be the the final on ABC of the UK series (second season) Outnumbered, which had become an addiction. Trouble is, the TV family were very like mine. Déjà viewing.

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Erichsen Literary Awards Presentation

Today, Australia Day (26 January 2011) I went with Gwenda to Ardrossan on the Yorke Peninsula's east coast where she received her prize for her short story entered in last year's Erichsen Competition.

Leslie May (competition organiser) introduced the winners and Yorke Peninsula District Council Mayor Ray Agnew made the presentations. I digitally "filmed" the three minutes' worth of presentation with all the camera skill of a half-baked potato.

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Wolfdog sings baby to sleep

Singing? Sheepdogs? Sorry ... it leads me to share this clip which many have enjoyed recently. Some friends have great-grandchildren; some have dogs.
Use this idea.

Sunday, 23 January 2011

Clyde the sheepdog does it tough but wins through!

OK, here's a video I made this morning - one of six - where gallant Clyde, age seven, with his owner-handler Lee Mickan does a great job with a stroppy mob of sheep in the pen and up the race into the waiting trailer. He scored 92% which is v. good. He even got tipped over the top of the race by the sheep - then jumped straight  back and got on with the job. Another dog, Andy, suffered a similar indignity and chose to leave the field at speed.

P.S. I've now inserted the first half of Clyde's performance, and have left the second half (where he falls from the ramp) in place, as the second embedded video.

And if you want to see it full screen on YouTube direct, here's the URL:

First half:

Don't forget to re-visit this blog :)

Second half:

or just watch it below ---

Sheep not animatronic. Nits.

The sheep today at the sheepdog yarding trials in Stansbury were not, after all, animatronic. Some escaped. So did one dog. Really, it was excellent to watch and I learned a little. Dogs are smart.

Now, below, because I can't resist, another scene from Outnumbered (one of the earliest episodes, late 2008 I think) with Karen and the conversation with Mum about nits as pets.

Friday, 21 January 2011

Sheep-pig trials. Oops, sorry, sheep-dog.

On Sunday at Stansbury Oval  - in fact for both days this weekend - there will be sheepdog trials and a visit is planned. My sole knowledge of sheepdog trials comes, on reflection, from the film Babe with the splendid  Magda Szubanski and James Cromwell as the farming couple with their story-book farm animals, including the piglet who wants to become a sheep-pig. And since it's a fairy story, he does. Will this background suitably prepare me for Sunday's event? Will the sheep be animatronic?

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Flood insurance? What flood?

Takes your breath away. On tonight's news reports, several insurers of homeowners who have in some cases lost everything, and who had FLOOD DAMAGE COVER as part of their policies, are being told by those companies one or more weasely excuses (or interpretations of the fine print): best one is, "There was no flood. It was a river rise." Apparently that's not a flood.

More conventionally, some policies had a $15,000 cap for such claims; oh, and $500 excess on each of four sub-categories in respect of water damaged items. Hence, you pay the first two grand anyway.

And while nothing can beat that first "it wasn't a flood" piece of linguistic chicanery, this comes close: companies are demanding "before and after" photographs of water damage to items which, in many cases, were swept away and lost forever.

Good one, guys. The nation's proud of you, not. Federal and State governments will be monitoring the delivery - and ethics - of insurance companies that issued flood-cover policies but are seeking to wriggle out on  technicalities ... or bare-faced lies.

Hope you remember to watch Outnumbered tonight at 9pm on ABC1.  You saw the video clips from this cheeky-wise TV show from (where else?) Britain, on this blog yesterday. If not, go take a look now. Just click on Outnumbered, over there on the left.

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Outnumbered: the Lebanon Factor; Tricky theology

If you have not caught up with the UK comedy series Outnumbered (in SA, 9pm Wednesday nights) you could try out your funny bone reflexes. It is in its third series. Three kids, two parents ... outnumbered. Right? Very edgy, here's a 40 second sample on YouTube featuring the youngest, 7-year old "Karen" played with aplomb by a future Oscar winner. This is from an episode yet to hit Australian screens.

You might become addicted. Try this theological debate with Karen, brother Ben, and the embattled vicar.

Friday, 14 January 2011

Tasmanian adventures. Santa does good deeds, survives for another year

Bill has blogged from Tasmania today that a car journey from the North East to Hobart took a great deal longer than expected.

Rain and swollen rivers from the same weather which brought the massive flooding to Queensland, reaching Tasmania in subsequent days, have caused disruption there also. St Helens on the east coast was cut off from the usual  road access.

My friends turned back when unable to continue south via St Helens, only to encounter the road blocked by a large fallen tree. As they say, "This being Tasmania, soon two vehicles came along which carried chainsaws and people able to use them."  No car should therefore be without a chainsaw. The trip to Hobart ended up being eight and a half hours instead of about three and a half.

They stayed at a comfortable motel which I know from a fairly recent foray to Glenorchy, the only - and unlikely - suburb in Australia where I ever encountered a mugging, years earlier, not to me personally but to two individuals in my company.

What I remember, when called away to see to matters, is not being able to drink my newly served beer in the hotel bar. Fortunately the muggees were only slightly damaged, but arrests and convictions of the attackers resulted, and half the night was taken up with giving statements and the bureaucratic aftermath. To add insult, a colleague drank the beer. He is now a distinguished professor at a Victorian university AND STILL OWES ME THE BEER.

A happier note: friend Don, under the Santa beard, on Christmas Eve had as an excellent elf helper, one young Downs Syndrome lad. After I took the pic and gave prints, Don handed over a framed image to the elf who was delighted and keeps it beside his bed. Good move, Santa. Don, I self-censored the other pic taken moments before, when you almost fell out the side of the ute. Dignity is important, after all. Hope you made it safely back to the North Pole.

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Queensland flood video footage

This particular few minutes of amateur video, which I have just seen moments ago, gives an extraordinary demo of the suddenness and force of water as it gathers up and takes away cars in an apartment block's carpark.

The rest of the nation is only starting to comprehend the scale of the flooding.

The Pirate Crew ... singers, that is.

It was clear at the first singing practice for 2011 that some of us were in recovery from acute withdrawal symptoms ... of NOT singing sufficiently over Christmas and New Year. Except in the shower, or kitchen, or garden shed and so on. Perhaps haunting karaoke bars? ... Mmm,  maybe not.
But it was all good news, singing-wise. The doses of Irish  cream in recent weeks obviously had a vocal lubricant effect.
Reports on genuinely important matters such as health check-ups were also pretty good. Way to go, guys.
I think we should regard ourselves as a sort of pirate crew (you know ... eye patches, wooden legs etc) with enough limbs, eyes, ears, between us, to make several excellent whole members of our team. Works for me.

Sunday, 9 January 2011

Floods. Quizzes. The other Potter.

Had a call from the Queensland cousin Donald and his delightfully Scottish wife Christine - a down to earth farm girl from Ayrshire. I call her that to tease; but she is totally multi-talented, which well describes most people who grow up on the land. Thank goodness, they have not been directly harmed by the massive flooding in that state. Also OK are their daughters and their families who live in other parts of Queensland. Not actually inundated or submerged. A few entire townships had to be evacuated during the past weeks. What a start to the year.

Yesterday's news reporting, from local mayors and others on the scene, said that the floods are very slow to subside, and in places can still get worse before it gets better the massive amounts of water move down the river systems. It is only a year ago that some of these communities experienced what were then record flood levels, but those unwanted records are now surpassed. Even more hurtful, for the past ten years recurring drought conditions made life tough. Puts things in perspective when one is inclined to grizzle at all the minor stuff.

I hardly poked my nose out the door these last three days, and to show for it I have finished the seventh of the little books I have produced since last August. This one's called (because that's what it is) Quiz Questions: quiz night fundraising and entertainment! Not the great work of literature which is said to reside within each of us. Hobby, fun ... who knows. Today I will "upload the interior" - that's the  fancy term - of this item as a PDF to the CreateSpace website and within three or four weeks, with any luck, it will appear magically on Amazon as one of their Books for Sale. Possibly to you and your million friends! Watch out. You never know what is  around the corner.

Last Tuesday with a friend who had temporarily escaped from her smelly dog (there's a story there) we both enjoyed the charming film Miss Potter - recorded by Austar's MySpace new clever de-coder thingey. Not quite a Home Theatre experience size-wise, but better than a poke in the face with a sharp stick, as the colourful phrase has it. You probably know the movie. I'd seen it too when it came out on the big screen at first release, but it is a quiet classic-to-be. No car chases, no gangsters, no drug busts, no box office appeal at all, really.
Except that it is beautiful, intelligent, happy, sad, inspiring, witty, wistful, wonderfully acted to capable direction. Oh, and the tale is true, or as true as is good for you. The period setting is 1902 and the story follows the creative emergence of Beatrix Potter, who went on to become "best selling children's author of all time" (so the end-credits say) with her series of quirky animal stories illustrated by herself. Any publisher will tell you that that is a Bad Idea.
A large chunk of the budget for Miss Potter was allocated to the occasional animation of the famous animal characters on the pages as our human actors look at them. The human actors? Renee Zellweger (Bridget Jones's Diary) is a super Beatrix, Ewan McGregor the love interest as her young publisher, youngest of the senior-partner brothers who have fobbed off the "bunny book" on him, expecting failure and to put him in his place. "But," he says to Miss Potter as the two of them wake up to the plot, "we'll show them!"

I suppose the "best selling children's author" label was before those other wretched Potter books. Give me Peter Rabbit any time.

Thursday, 6 January 2011

Dynamic Apnea with Fin ... New Zealander World Record

Hi. The first week of 2011 is slipping away.

Nothing to do? Take up freediving (I'm  not!) Have a look at this September 2010 new world record by Dave Mullins of New Zealand, swimming underwater for more than five laps of an Olympic (50m)  pool on a single breath. Apparently it's called Dynamic Apnea - which means moving, holding breath - With Fin - and what a fin! - as one of the eight official disciplines within the sport of freediving. The more extreme forms involve diving to ridiculous depths, but more of that in future blogs, like one I showed on the blog previously.
Here's Dave ...

Saturday, 1 January 2011

Twenty Eleven

It's official. The new year is here, all around the world, even if New Zealand got there first.

Hope it's great for all of you. Heard discussion on the radio this morning as to whether we say "Two thousand and eleven"or "Twenty eleven". Whaddya reckon? I'm voting the latter.

Who stayed up latest? Not me.

During the day it was cool that I got to meet Nicole in person who is the no-pic follower over there to the left of this blog content.  Hi again Nik. You are flying back to beautiful Sydney in a couple of days. Say hi from me to those neat Harbour ferries ... and the Bridge ... and the Opera House ... and the beaches.