Friday, December 31, 2010

Sunset at the Year's End

Actually taken on the 29 December, it stands well enough for the end of 2011. The duck family should be pleased as they seem to have navigated the majority of the ducklings to full size.


Wednesday, December 29, 2010

England Retain the Ashes

The MCG at lunch, day three, with the kids on the field.

Well, yesterday was a painful day. After the 'series of a lifetime' England win in 2005, where both teams delivered the most exciting sport you can imagine, followed by a five-nil whitewash of the tourists when England came to Australia in 2007, and an average series, rightfully won by England in 2009, the improvement in England's cricket and the remarkable collapse of Australia's team was made stark, with Australia's one win of the series (with one to play) being liked by a commentator to a 'dead cat bounce'. As that win was essentially down to a remarkable one-off bowling performance by Mitchell Johnson, ironically backed up by a high score with the bat as well, it rather obscured the rest of the team's poor performance.

Excepting house-hero Hussey, Australia's batsmen have consistently failed, and again it was ironic that Victorian Siddle managed a test-high score with the bat in a sinking cause this morning, scoring 40 with Brad Haddin to stave off certain defeat for an hour more.

The post-mortems have started, and there will be a major reconstruction of the Australian team in the near future. One simple fact stands out to me (and not widely remarked elsewhere) is that Australia needs more than one bowler to be able to take a swag of wickets a game, and when that same man is significant among your high scorers, then the others need to do more than just turn up.

Australia's captain Ponting has not been a favourite here, and his disgraceful argument with the umpires and England batsman on day two is symptomatic of his buckling under pressure, again. Another point not widely made is that he is now neither in batting form nor fit to act as a behavioural example for the current Australia team, or that which must be under rebuild very soon. Inheriting Waugh's world beating team and tough attitude, after the retirement of a suite of greats, Ricky has shown he can neither perform with the bat nor develop a new team from a cauldron of opponent's pressure in the way that Alan Border did, and set that 70s Australia team on the road to greatness.

England's performance was almost flawless - but more importantly showed batting in depth, and not only did their first 'set' of bowlers deliver, the three brought in after changes were as effective as their predecessors. Fielding and morale stayed high, and England looked a strong team, rarely being knocked, even at the WACA loss.

Sadly supporters on both sides resorted to boos at disfavoured players at times, and on the third day the booing of Ricky Ponting as he walked out was thankfully surpassed by a more appropriate clapping and cheers. Generally the crowds were well behaved, and England's Barmy Army provide entertainment to everyone except the most one-eyed Aussie supporter. Billy Cooper's trumpet is now an enjoyable game fixture. Both of us were frankly surprised by the number of England supporters, which, given the distance and cost (some questions over monopolistic practices for the tickets they were able to buy didn't sound very hospitable when we heard about them) shows a dedication to their team that's laudable. As one England supporter in front of us responded to a boorish Aussie behind us, they've had to put up with Australia for twenty years, and I agree the England fans and team have every right to make hay and celebrate - they earned it.

It's called 'test' cricket as it is a pressure game, testing as it gets, and class, and performance will overcome temporary form and however much luck you can get. After the 25 possible days play is up, the best team stands clear. Both statistically and in evident attitude, the gulf between the teams is huge - no great comfort to an Australia supporter that it looks like a reversal of the team's roles around the 2000 period.

We took our two English guests to the G yesterday, and for their first day of real test cricket they couldn't have had a much better one - painful though it was for us! That was a pleasure - as well as the fact that some of the young lads playing at lunch (top) will perhaps be in a future Australian slide the equal of the Invincibles and Waugh's men. Oh, and that Australia still has the greater number of Ashes wins, series wins, retentions, period of ownership, and, of course, the first series win which started it all.

But we must finish with due credit to a perfect team performance by Strauss' England squad. The best team won.


Sunday, December 26, 2010

Team Pasta

After an episode with some eight-year-old pasta chefs, Bev decided she needed a pasta machine for Christmas. Funded by her sister (thanks Tam!) and purchased from the Med Wholesalers (who have to sell Nonna-proven Italian cooking kit, or risk Malocchio) we have a pasta machine.

So (on Christmas day) there was a team effort to make tagliatelle. Paul went first...

...and proved a smooth operator. Top tip (from Maria) was to dust the pasta with flour to smooth the rollers by making the pasta silky...

Jo dressed for as the elegant Italian Donna for the task, and rolled a successful batch as well...

I turned a mean handle next,

...and lastly Bev, who'd helped her glam assistants take a turn...

and then...
...we ate it.

Well that was England's day

Words fail me, so over to Peter English, summarising Australia's batting on Cricinfo:
"...the side face-planted on the biggest occasion of the cricket calendar."

Friday, December 24, 2010

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

One - One and Two to Play

And this* may be the only space left at the G on Boxing Day if predictions turn out. A history in pictures here, and a summary of the history and atmosphere here.


*Taken in December 2008 at the South Africa Test.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Waugh on Cricket

Sadly we aren't allowed TMS here in Australia, ABC's Grandstand having exclusive rights - ironic, as several of the commentators swap seats from one box to the other. (Still, TMS are welcome to keep Boycott.) Cricket wouldn't be worth it without the radio.

At home, a couple of days ago we had a Canadian visitor who was somewhat puzzled by the method of following the game as well as being puzzled (of course) by the game itself. Like the unique nature of the twenty-five day test of quality, having a TV on and mute while listening to the radio is probably not seen in many other sports.

If you want a man to bat for your life...

TMS's Aggers, guesting on Grandstand mentioned he'd interviewed Steve Waugh over on 'the other channel' and after a bit of online searching, this is one we can listen to. As ever, two top cricket analysts make a great interview. Lots of ground covered, and it's here.

Meanwhile today retired Australia opener Matthew Hayden stopped by the ABC commentary box and impressed us, sandwiched between two more regular commentators. I doubt you'd get the average soccer player discussing his chickens, best farm manure, and how to produce a fruit reduction for your Christmas ham and offering the recipe over the airwaves in between the more normal sporting recollections. However remembering listening to the cricket with ABC while a kid on the back of his dad's tractor is just as expected.

Oh, the test match? What a day's cricket! What it's all about. As Vic Marks of The Guardian said:

This has been a proper Test match, the best of the series by far. There were times during the first two matches when it was possible to wander off around the back of the stands for a pie (in Brisbane) or a Pimms (in Adelaide) in the knowledge that nothing of great significance would be missed. In Perth it has been foolhardy to take the eyes away from the action for a minute.

He added:

Mike Hussey, yet again, was the rock for Australia. He hit his second century of the series in front of an adoring crowd on his own turf. He now has 517 runs in the series at an average of 103 and here England probably only dismissed him because he was stranded with the last man again.

If England win from here, the remaining batsmen will deserve soup-plate gold medals, not just OBEs. That said, it looks like we'll be going to the G on the Boxing Day Test with a live, and exciting series. What more could you ask for for Christmas?


Friday, December 17, 2010

Single left-hander...

Hussey is probably the only Australian player who has done his job in the three tests. ABC.

I hadn't written about the Ashes tests since the last post, because in the words of a great Australian captain, "There are two teams out there, one is playing cricket. The other is making no attempt to do so."

Sadly the issue was that Australia's team were simply not up to the level of Ashes test cricket.

Conversely, England's players were clearly a team, all credit to them - they have played well as a team, and looked solid, not missing chances, rebuilding after knocks and being top class batting, bowling and fielding. Good cricket depends on both teams finding form, and playing well, together, and Australia were certainly - to be as kind as possible - out of form. They were a sad shadow of the team of Waugh's era. The fielding was poor, and the batting from the dedicated batsmen for the most part a disgrace. But after a couple of sparky individual performances up to yesterday - including another solid batting performance by Hussey and Haddin, and a remarkable high score with the bat by fast bowler Mitchell Johnson, today saw the contest really come to life with two teams fighting on form. Tellingly it was a dedicated fast bowler that high-scored for Australia yesterday, and it's ironic that the same chap was responsible for knocking over most of England's team today in one of the tightest, most effective single bowler efforts I've seen. When you're hot...

Mitchell Johnson (and that tattoo) celebrate another England wicket.

As another great Australian bowler,
Terry Alderman, now summarising for the ABC's Grandstand commentary said: "Single-handedly Mitchell Johnson has got Australia back in the game." I'll just mention Mitch is a left-hander.

An 18 minutes ABC highlights summary here.

Obviously I'm glad Australia's back in the game, and serious, but better still for everyone is that as I write tonight, this game (and the series) is now really in the balance, and we've seen (and hopefully will see) some really good cricket by both sides, which is what it should be about. Serious questions remain. Ponting's poor scores with the bat mean (were he not captain) he'd almost certainly be out, but Clarke, the deputy, is fairing little better and no obvious other successor. A sad reflection on the previous solid succession planning Australia developed through the 1990s and early 21st century. Another pressing question is what was Johnson thinking with that tattoo. No, really, no.

Strauss' men can, on their performance to date, be proud of being one of the best England teams to tour Australia for a long time; let's hope they keep it up. But let's also hope that
Australia do so as well, and give us a series to rival the 2005 Ashes.

Here's to a good contest!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Annoying juvenile

There's been a persistent loud keening whining noise around (mostly) the Eastern side of the cottage. It's a juvenile magpie trying to harass its parents into handing over the food.

They are noisy. While the normal adult magpie's song is one of the most pleasing and characteristic sounds of the Australian bush, as the Wiki article says:
Fledgling and juvenile magpies emit a repeated short and loud (80 dB), high-pitched (8 kHz) begging call.
(85 dB over time needs hearing protection for humans.) I can see why magpie parents go off their offspring, but with a beak like that, I'm surprised we don't find more young magpies 'Stabbed in the garden with a mystery sharp object'.

Of course to most Australians, magpies are a more personal threat, magpie swooping in the breeding season is something that can be a real challenge. It's worth noting that the Australian magpie (Cracticus tibicen) has nothing to do with the European bird, and is yet another example of a creature getting named by homesick immigrants. A good article on magpie swooping and the background here. Mostly, though they are no trouble - a lot less to us than we are to them, and they are a great bird to have around.

Just avoid the juveniles.


Sunday, November 28, 2010

Osso Buco Dinner

One of the nice things about rainy spring weekends, is you lie on the sofa and read those new cookbooks your husband is always mentioning you keep buying. (To which I can now respond, "But it's my job!" and chuckle madly, clutching the latest.) No, not too many, but some good ones...

A productive visit to the farmer's market netted a glorious slab of osso buco, some small young artichokes, potatoes and a few other goodies.

And the other great thing about spring? Just at the time when you rip out all the leeks before they go to flower, there are buckets of broad beans.

Broad beans preparing - braised leeks with white wine, some boiled potatoes, tossed all together with a very fresh home-grown garlic sprig.

Osso buco on the left, slowly simmering all afternoon in white wine, then finished with a gremolata (lemon zest and parsley). Simple, slow - and fantastic!

All either from our garden or local produce from the area - Trentham spuds (ours aren't ready yet) and the meat from the local Belted Galloway herd, and by buying from the farmers, premium food at a reasonable price.

Good thing there's enough for tomorrow, too.


Saturday, November 27, 2010

Old white-nose is back

ONE week ago Michael Hussey was one of about 20 people in the country who believed he should be in the Test side. Yesterday he convinced the other 22 million with one of his most sparkling innings in years. Hussey single-handedly pulled Australia back from the brink with an unbeaten 81 before day two was abandoned early due to bad light.
Jamie Pandaram, The Age.

The following morning, Hussy brought up his 100. But that was just a start...

Yet again our favourite batsman pulls runs from the hat, including a special 'taking it to England' six.

Mostly Hussey scored off the back foot. He will look at the scoreboard and feel proud. The English will study the charts and realise they bowled too short. Hussey moved past 50 and on towards his hundred. He deserves a lot of credit. In the crisis of his career and at a critical time for his team, he dared to attack.
Peter Roebuck, The Age.
Hussey, however, displayed the raw hunger of a man who might have been dropped had he not produced a timely century for Western Australia while young pretenders Callum Ferguson and Usman Khawaja failed for Australia A in England's final warm-up match.

The 35-year-old's desire, plus his well-known determination and vast experience, turned him into a rock-solid force in the final session.
Oliver Brett, BBC.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Storm & Sunset

Quite the evening.

I'd never seen the windmill work around 270 degrees within minutes before.

And then the sun went down.


Thursday, November 25, 2010

Numbers for Ashes

As anyone who knows me knows, I'm not a one for numbers as a rule. However today's first day of the Ashes has been a good statement of intent for Australia, and some of the numbers tell a lot of the story.

As in the previous post, 1 wicket on the 3rd ball for 0 runs was a good start for Australia, and given it was their captain, tough on England.

Summariser Kerry O'Keefe (left) laughs with Englishman Johnathan Agnew ('Aggers') and the ABC scorer. ABC Grandstand.

By the day's end Mitchell Johnson's 0 wickets for 66 and England's reasonable morning session had been wiped from the memory by a stunning performance of Australia's newest great fast bowler, Peter Siddle. Returning with his first match in the team after being sidelined with stress fractures to his back, his 26th birthday today proved to be the kind of day few could hope for. A Sixfer for 54 runs isn't anything to sneeze at, but in the middle of it was a hat trick of carefully crafted cunning wickets, a trio of England players who didn't know what hit them.

Siddle is only the 11th Australian to take a hat trick at this level (the last being another Victorian bowling great; the inestimable Shane Warne) and the first person to do it at Brisbane's Gabba. Whatever Siddle's career holds from here, his achievements today have put him in an exclusive group of record-setting bowlers. As well as the aforementioned Warne, by returning after back injury more cunning and fiery, he joins another great Australian bowling hero, Dennis Lillee.

Xavier Doherty's two late wickets on debut (or dayboo, as it's pronounced here) likewise were eclipsed, despite their merit. A tough day for England, ending as depressingly as it started with Australia's unthreatened openers putting on 25 runs after the Aussie bowlers had dispatched the entire England side for 260.

It's early days (1/25th in!) but Australia are going to be pleased, and England looking to damage control on day 2. One other overshadowed achievement was England batsman Ian Bell's well crafted 76 while at the other end his team mates fell like ducklings to a fox.

Honours on day 1 don't reflect how a series turns out, but it was certainly a hard fought and terrific day's cricket. Any other sport's both briefer, and well...

The ABC commentary box webcam awaits the takes of tomorrow at the end of day one. ABC Grandstand.

... just isn't cricket.


One for None

Ball three, England's Captain, Andrew Strauss out, caught for a duck by Hussey, bowled Hilfenhaus, 25 days to go...

The Ashes are on.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Not with a whimper, but a flour blast

Loaf by Bev.

Thanks to my friend Brett's Airminded blog, I was introduced to Beachcombing's Bizzare History Blog, the first winning entry for interest, which starts with "Food is dangerous at the best of times" has the following quote lifted from it:
Of course, fires are always difficult to interpret in archaeology: there are so many possible culprits including saboteurs, warriors, lightning storms, a drunk servant, a lava stream…

If there is no other evidence the best archaeologists can do is talk about ashes and look for signs of rebuilding.

You want to read on, don't you? Well here you go; Great Balls of Floury Fire. Don't say I didn't warn you!


Sunday, November 21, 2010

Only for America

We were lucky enough to score a free sample bottle of wine recently. But it had a secret. I noticed the harrasing, dictatorial note at the bottom of this wine label, thus realising it could only have been intended for the US market, even before I also noticed the 'Surgeon General' (someone we don't have here) and spelling which proved it.

Informed choice? Or simplistic haranguing? It's easy to get into a pointless argument over such absolutist statements. Let's just hope the Surgeon General doesn't discover the human body produces an amount of its own alcohol* and that 'moderation' isn't a difficult concept.

It was very nice wine, by the way, and being adults able to use our judgement, it was a pleasure without anyone being harmed. Amazing. That's why the importer's name's been obscured.


*See an interesting article here on The Straight Dope discussing it and another asinine 'advice' poster.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

First Dip

Toby's first swim of the year.

Apparently just the thing on a warm day after a run.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

How to eat a cookie

It has come to our notice that some people don't know how to eat a cookie* properly.

Thanks to Australian-New Yorker Ella Morton, we are lucky enough to have the expert, the Cookie Monster to teach us the correct technique.

Cookies are very important, and correct technique and vocabulary and crumbing crucial. What would we do without the Cookie Monster's expertise? We are, of course, most appreciative, but letters from the Cookie Monster's Attorney will not be acted upon.

This one, is, of course for Zach, and his appropriate vocabulary.

(Occasional Cookie Monster understudy).

*'Biscuit' outside N America, of course.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Reflections, light and water in Wellington

I don't think this café was always a café, you know. And how 'HB' can be the initial letters for 'Clothing Factory' beats me.

Mermaid in the Museum of Wellington City & Sea

Keep right in the cablecar.

Blue skies and the observatory

Maori carvings awaiting erection

I think the market will crash soon.


Pretentious architecture and blue lights.

Cause sunbathing later

Restaurant & fishing boat

Hooked on Scotland.

The light in the old cathedral.

And the words on the University Bookshop.

amam Wag.


Beached boat.

Beached whale?

Protected stream.

Gordian knot.

And more on the wonders of windy Wellington soon.


Saturday, October 16, 2010

Mythic Scale Degrees of Soil Contamination

Still comes up Godzilla.

Pretty near worst:
Still comes up Dragons.

Not much better:
Still comes up Battling Skeletons.

Not good:
Still comes up Triffids.

Still comes up Roses.

Cost effective:
Works on the smell of an oily rag.

Soil comes up Jimmy Hoffa.

Really remarkable:
Comes up Tibetan Monks.

(For Tam)

Thursday, October 7, 2010


Although not much chop as a photo, here's a shot of 'our' local kestrel, as it was buzzed by another smaller bird who was obviously not impressed at the turf the kestrel had chosen.

I'd been watching it as it hovered, in a stiffish breeze, and for seconds at a time, it didn't flap the wings at all. That's an amazing effort, balancing the four forces* so perfectly. (It's equivalent to a person walking on a medicine ball while it rolls down a bumpy hill - blindfold (you can't 'see' air, remember?).) Despite all the much vaunted capability of modern aircraft, fly-by-wire computers, variable geometry et al, we don't have anything that can do this without a lot of pilot skill or using a lot of energy - a lot more than muscle power for certain.


*Lift, Thrust, Weight & Drag - here.