Monday, December 29, 2008

Messing about at the cricket

Australia weren't the only ones messing about rather than taking it seriously today at the MCG.There were a couple in front of the scoreboard, playing bat & ball. Probably did better than some of the batsmen.

And then there was time for a moment of reflection in a corporate box. I was outside, of course.


Thursday, December 25, 2008

Our cards, calling

One of the neat presents we got this year was a selection of very special cards. These were created by Ross from our photographs; some taken on our around the world trip, others from Victorian scenes and a sprinkling of his own images.

We are torn between wanting to send and share them (some cards choose their own recipients) and wanting to treasure them 'as a set'.

They were also a great reminder of some of the best times this year. Thanks, Ross!


The weirdness that is Christmas in Australia

There's something particularly odd in importing a mid-winter festival into the middle of summer. Special pleading with the sun to return seems a bit odd in the middle of a drought. (For our northern hemisphere readers it would be as sensible as standing in the fourth month of England's summer drizzle having a street party celebrating the end of the 'dry spell'.)

On opposite sides of a street near us the full lunacy plays out. A carefully tinselled 'BAH HUMBUG' on one side, while on the other characters enough to give any kid the heeby jeebies.

Ah, well, you couldn't make it up.

Of course someone decided we need an Aussie 'Jingle Bells'. So here it is, Merry Christmas, everybody's getting burnt...

Dashing through the bush
In a rusty Holden Ute
Kicking up the dust
Esky in the boot
Kelpie by my side
Singing Christmas songs
It’s summer time and I am in
My singlet, shorts & thongs

Engine’s getting hot
Dodge the kangaroos
Swaggy climbs aboard
He is welcome too
All the family is there
Sitting by the pool
Christmas day, the Aussie way
By the barbecue!


From the BeautUtes website.

Come the afternoon
Grandpa has a doze
The kids and uncle Bruce
Are swimming in their clothes
The time comes round to go
We take a family snap
Then pack the car and all shoot through
Before the washing up


For those not fluent in Stryne, there is a translation here.

These are Utes. Pic by James in Echuca.


So simple a man could do it!

As is well known, Bev is the main cook in the household. However, on Christmas Eve, Bev wasn't feeling great, and collapsed in front of Maeve O'Meara's Food Safari and instructed the non-cook from there.

So the chunks were exactly the right size just like I like 'em.

There were two bits that didn't get photographed. One was setting the duck-breast fat on fire (ah, the joys of gas ~ no I didn't panic) and the second was the expression of deep concern on the dog's face. Clearly Toby was convinced that the wrong big-dog was cooking and would clearly screw it up. I didn't, and it was good. So this one is for Bev, who does most of the cooking, and still makes the one other night 'so simple a man can do it!'

Meanwhile in the Block Arcade, the Australian Girl's Choir were singing about figgy pudding. (Very nice, but figgy pudding was the last thing I think you'd want at 30 degrees...) The location of the view I had wasn't bad, either...

Mmm. Chocolates. We had lunch next-door at the Duomo Cafe, and Bev noted that 80% of the people walking away from Haigh's were bearing chocolate packets. The guy with the trolley was either working for others or going to be very sick. Bev's about to find out that I joined the 80% too...

Merry Christmas!


Sunday, December 21, 2008

Cricket - here and there, always surprising

Well, that was a stunning finish. There have been a few times I've barracked for the team playing Australia, and I'm not ashamed to say this was one of them - and South Africa deserved to win.

The picture I'd like to show is RSA batsman Jacques Kallis sharing a wry smile with Australian paceman Brett Lee after Kallis was beaten by a ball that skidded through after hitting a bit of rough. Both could see the funny side of the luck of the ball there, it missing Kallis' wicket by a whisker, and that's one reason I'm a cricket fan. But I can't. Cricket Australia are in dispute with Reuters and AP over rights.
In 2005, Lee triumphed over Kallis. At the WACA this game, Kallis laughed long. (BBC)

Kallis, Smith and AB de Villiers showed why the South Africans are known as tough and hard with some gritty batting, under pressure. And the fact that a Muslim (Hashim Amla - with the most amazing beard) and a black South African, Jean-Paul Duminy (on debut, or as the ABC have it; 'dayboo') were two other key players in this session is a measure of the miracle that is the modern South Africa - a country where the weight of history should have forced a racial bloodbath.

But for those in the frozen North, you don't need to miss out on the cricket experience. Let me introduce my discovery for today, Ice Cricket!

In the winter of 1879:

The Fens were sometimes deliberately flooded to allow skating, and Charles Pigg, a student at Peterhouse, challenged Bob Carpenter, a first-class cricketer with Cambridgeshire, to raise a side to play on a 20-acre site.

As expected, all players used skates. Cambridge Town batted first, closing the first two-hour day on 193 for 9. The following day, Wednesday, Carpenter and Dan Hayward added a further 132 in 70 minutes, the innings eventually totalling 326. Hayward's dismissal came about when he lost his footing, fell over and was bowled.

By the time the University batted the ice was rutted and worn, and while fielding continued to be a virtual lottery, batting became even harder. Despite this, they reached 61 for 1 by the end of the day. They extended this to 274 for 4 by the end of the third day and the captains agreed to settle on a draw.

"Fielding was delightful, and the chasing of the ball into space when it eluded you was most exhilarating," recalled Charles Boucher, whose full toss had dismissed Hayward, in a letter to the Times in 1929. "Only lob bowling was allowed and umpires were most severe on no-balls."

Then in London:

The most unusual contest took place on the ice in Windsor Park on January 9, 1879 under the light of the full moon.
...several hundred spectators turned out to watch a Mr Gage's side score 17 for 8 to defeat a team raised by Mr Bowditch. "The game caused no end of amusement owing to the difficulties encountered by the players while bowling, batting and fielding," reported Wisden, perhaps slightly unfairly.

Thanks to that numbers repository, Cricinfo. And it's not just a historical anachronism; today you too can place Ice Cricket in Estonia, as offered here...

Now perhaps Australia could meet Canada on an 'even' white, fast pitch. Spikes swapped for skates? The term 'shirtfront' could take on a new resonance, and which set of skills of two of the world's greatest sportsmen count - those of Don Bradman or those of Wayne Gretzky?

That looks like a very fast outfield to me, and we'll take our drinks HOT.


So he says....

... he says, 'No problem, World's Largest, Hairiest Spider? I've ejected it.'

And I have to be enormously grateful.

One, that he would be so good. She was a monster.
Two, that she was not venomous. (We looked her up later - eeeeeeee)

But to put her out in the garden.... That garden I'm about to sort out? Chopping back the ivy, lifting the trailing tomatoes, dealing with those old, dry pieces of wood?

I have only one thing to say to this:


James Adds: Of course making sure to check inside the gloves first...

Saturday, December 20, 2008

The Gardening & Cricket connection

One of the penalties of being a gardener (I suspect - I'm no gardener) is being unable just to relax in the garden. As Bev gets the garden sorted, while I enjoy the drinks, cherries, Bev-made shortbread (not pictured, burp) and the cricket on the radio, courtesy the ABC, 'Straya and Seth Efrika.

This picture shows where I'm enjoying my cricket. Like gardening, cricket's best, I think, as a great spectator sport. ABC Grandstand have just closed a competition 'Where are you listening to the cricket?' The winners were in a great pic.

More here.

And like the commentator and ex-Aussie opener Justin Langer, I look forward to seeing the first full blood Aborigine taking a five-for in the baggy green.In the shorter term, I'm looking forward to a Melbourne cricket ritual of a day at the G for the Boxing Day test. We'll be there with three Poms and a Tassie, and here's to a good fight from the South Africans.

While I'm missing many of my Aussie cricket greats who've just retired (there's only one of each Gilchrist, McGrath and Warne) Lee's still there at top form (and we can't forget 'Husseey!'..) two guys are making their mark - Mitchell Johnson, a new Western Australian hero and Brad Hadden. And Mitchell's a left-hander, picked as a 16 year old as a 'Once in a lifetime bowler' by my boyhood hero Dennis Lillee. Neat.

Mitchell Johnson is congratulated by team-mates after claiming the wicket of Hashim Amla during the second day of the first Test between Australia and South Africa at the WACA Ground in Perth on December 18, 2008. (Tony McDonough)

There's other sports, and then there's the Ashes. Until they're on again, the South Africans are a good filler. I'm always going to be here for the bowlers, and Johnson looks like one who is going to be worth watching.

It's pretty good really.


Thursday, December 18, 2008

The Arachnid of Damocles

[Those of an arachnophobic disposition may wish to look away now.]

This morning there was an uninvited guest above our shower. She's probably not dangerous (I thought she was a Huntsman, but the proportions look wrong) but not welcome inside, either. All spiders are bigger than you want if you don't like 'em, and the stupidest thing I did this year has to be taking a shower before removing the offending guest - not quite the opening of Indiana Jones, but not comfortable either!

Safely ejected into the garden.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

The writers room

An excellent audio slideshow on the BBC website at the moment features photographs by Eamonn McCabe of writers' rooms.

Much more than meeting the real person behind the novels or poetry, their rooms and bookshelves tell us a lot about them.

Eamonn McCabe, Beryl Bainbridge’s Room. From Writers’ Rooms. Archival digital print 29.5x42cm, paper size. Madison Contemporary Art, London.

A revolver on the desk is perhaps trying a little hard for the Gothic writer persona, don't you think, Beryl? I do like the ship model though (Of course it'll be the RMS Titanic, won't it...).

Some are exactly what you might expect, others surprising in other ways. Have a look at the show, and I suggest you do it with the captions 'off' first and see if you can match anyone's writing style to their room. Few seem to have too much of the 'look at me' wall, and there's a good sprinkling of inspirational objects, pictures and material tacked to walls, or spread around. Some rooms provide comfort for the natural 'floor pile filers' among us.

Eamonn McCabe. Craig Raine’s Room, from Writers’ Rooms. Archival digital print, 29.5x42cm, paper size.

The exhibition is on at the Madison Contemporary Art gallery in London.

Unlike many other professionals, such as musicians, or even sports people, writers remain people who can be their own best manager or worst enemy, the writer's methodology and technique being entirely up to them and ranging as widely as can possibly be imagined and a bit beyond. The book Writers on Writing is fascinating on the topic, while the NY Times has an online version.

It's fascinating peeking into other writer's working places. I'll never forget the photo I saw of the interior of Roald Dahl's shed. But there's a more egalitarian version online too. 'On My Desk' is a great blog, and well worth a dip into. (And a 'G'day' to our friend near the top of that one, too.)

Whichever writer said 'a writer has to write' was right. So I've got to go and do some.



Friday, December 5, 2008

Filing's tough...

...when you are a dog.

Toby takes a break in the middle of work - Bev's work, actually.