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Heavy Plant

Walk past a "Heavy Plant" warning and wonder vaguely if the trees thought it was for them; if whoever put it up had enough imag...

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Wagga Wagga

Yesterday I flew to Wagga Wagga for a meeting meeting. It provided one of those rare moments when I actually realise that I'm in Australia. Looking out of the plane all I could see for mile in any direction was scorched bromn earth.

Wagga Wagga is a town town of some 60,000 people which in rural Australian terms makes it a heaving metropolis. The reason for the odd name can be found on the tourism Wagga Wagga website website:
Wagga is the local Wiradjuri aboriginal word for crow and to create the plural, the Wiradjuri repeat the word. Thus Wagga Wagga translates as 'the place of many crows'.
Naturally I didn't see a single crow.

Driving back to the airport we decided to see what was around the town. We picked a direction and drove for about twenty minutes. I can confirm that Wagga Wagga is in the back end of nowhere. We turned back having found nothing and driven past only four other cars. This left us with the choice of going to the airport in the vain hope that there would at least be planes to watch.

Despite the enthusiastic tourism website there isn't much to do in Wagga Wagga and still less to do in the airport airport where we were stuck for some 3 hours before being able to board our plane home. There were no planes to watch. There was a helicopter, but it didn't fly anywhere. There was a shop which sold ginger beer. The girl behind the counter was clearly bored to tears and would start conversations with anyone and everyone.

I was treated to a pretty spectacular view of the stubble being burnt in the fields as we took off to come home, but I didn't have a camera.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

ANZAC Day

It’s not bad this not drinking thing, really. I haven’t become a gibbering wreck, temptation hasn’t yet got the better of me and I haven’t succumbed to the truly awful nature of the world. Even despite the fact that it was ANZAC day yesterday and drinking is the favoured pastime.

ANZAC stands for Australia and New Zealand Army Corps and the day is set aside for the commemoration of Australia and New Zealand’s war dead. This primarily means remembering the horror that was the Gallipoli campaign in World War One. A grossly simplified version for those not familiar with Gallipoli:

Winston Churchill, first Lord of the Admiralty at the time, ordered the ANZACs and a British & French force to land on the Turkish coast and go about the business of ending Turkey’s involvement in the war. The day one objective for the landing party was a hill that it was believed had a view over a tactically important stretch of water named ‘the narrows’ which artillery would then be placed on to prevent Turkish use of the channel. After 8 months this objective was still not achieved. Like elsewhere in the first world war trenches and infantry were seen as the way to fight. This meant mining under or into enemy positions to blow them up. Unlike the Somme however the temperatures were scorching, the ground was hard limestone and the water ration 1 pint per day, one fiftieth of what would be provided to troops in those conditions today. Personal hygiene was impossible and dysentery killed as many as bullets and bombs (many of these being from the dread fate of falling into the latrine and not having the strength to climb out). Australia lost in the order of 26,000 men and about 20% of New Zealand’s male population was lost. The hill they were still fighting for at the end of the campaign has no view of the narrows, but it does have a particularly fine view of anyone attempting to approach the mainland from the coast.

Gallipoli caused Winston Churchill to resign from the government and has been attributed with triggering of his profound alcoholism. It is commonly thought of as one of the most disastrous campaigns of the First World War but could equally be seen as a tactical masterpiece from the Turks. The Turkish, for their part, do not distinguish between their own dead (220,000) and the Allies and ANZACs (180,000) and commemorate Gallipoli on the battlefield with Australia and New Zealand. Gallipoli is extremely important to the antipodean identity and is about the only day that kiwis and diggers don’t mercilessly take the piss out of each other. ANZAC day is for all ANZAC war dead and whilst it was particularly resonant last year as the 90th anniversary of Gallipoli it is more interesting this year as the last Australian World War One veteran to serve overseas died late last year. Kokoda is also commemorated on this day though it took place in August, as was Private Jacob Kovco, Australia’s only casualty of the Iraq conflict who, amongst the chaos of car bombs all around, rather tragically managed to shoot himself whilst cleaning his gun. He was apparently ‘an elite sniper’.

Very solemn commemorative services begin at dawn in Australia and marches take place until lunchtime when everyone goes to the pub to get pissed and plays 2up. 2up is a gambling game played with 2 coins and necessarily simple rules. You shout out your bet, "Ten dollars on heads!", and find someone who will take it. They hold the money and if you win he gives you twenty back, if it came up tails you lose it, if it comes up head and a tail you both bet again. This game must be played with as many people as possible, as loudly as possible and with as much beer as you can tolerate and still stand up. As far as I can tell it is designed to try and recreate the chaos of war in a pub setting, a good thing it is legal only on ANZAC day.

Monday, April 24, 2006

A week off...

There are moments in your life when you just wish someone would put you to bed with a shovel. Quite often on the morning after these moments I wake up feeling like someone actually did. This is becoming ever more frequent, frighteningly so, and I think it is time to take at least a week off the booze. This means no beer after work, no glass of wine with dinner, no sneaky G&T after dinner, no snifter of whiskey on the way to the bathroom, I must temporarily stop cleaning my teeth under running vodka and I absolutely have to stop drinking the mouthwash.

I am going to have to concentrate on my hobbies which may mean a flurry of inconsistent and possibly incoherently written posts on here as I attempt to come to terms with the world without the nice fuzzy haze around the edges. Essentially 95% of everything is rubbish and I tend to find that rubbish takes on a more decorative look when viewed through the bottom of a glass (half-empty naturally). The shock of actually dealing with a world without the daily dose of anaesthetic may reduce me to a shambolic wreck or it may spur me on to become the creative genius of my dreams. Probably not the last one, but it’s a nice thought.

Cooking is always a good way to relax. I will create some recipes and post them on here. Maybe I just need to freshen up and de-toxify my life in general. I hereby resolve to eat more fruit and veg, less red meat, fewer chips and no sugary soda. I will attempt to do more exercise and try to be more healthy and generally nicer to people. I shall be known for my sunny disposition, my charm and warmth. I shall be nice to children and small animals. Oh God it’s going to be awful. Rehab is for quitters.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

NZ Summary

So now I’m back, from outer space (or New Zealand anyway, which is almost as densely populated with people as outer space, more sheep though).
Got in to find me here with a fat look upon my face (I need to get some bloody exercise, look at the photo in the sidebar: I’ve got saggy nipples!),
I would have changed my eating habits, should have gone for a run or three, if I’d thought for just one second I’d start to get flabby…

Enough with the Gloria Gaynor pastiche.

New Zealand was as beautiful as ever, but it was quite definitely Autumn there. Australia is baking hot by comparison.

It will surprise no-one to learn that on holiday, as in life in general I have spent my time in and out of hot water and engaged in activities that involve jumping into cold water. The brief version of the holiday goes like this:

  • Friday 7 April – Sprint from work to airport. Arrive Aukland in the middle of the night. Taxi to friend’s house. Knock on wrong door, shit!

  • Saturday 8 April – Ferry to Waiheke Island. Bus to accommodation. Walk on beach, admire Rod Stewart’s house from afar. Wedding – good! Drunk.

  • Sunday 9 April – Hangover. Bad. Pie for breakfast, good! Wedding barbeque – good. Drunk, can’t remember much after that, other than throwing up when I got home.

  • Monday 10 April – Not much of a hangover really. Walk on clifftops. Wine tasting tour. Buy wine. Buy some more wine! Taste olive oil. Mmm olive oil & bread. Fabulous lunch at winery. Walk on beach.

  • Tuesday 11 April – Ferry to Aukland. Taxi to collect campervan. Diesel, bugger. Point campervan to middle of nowhere & drive. Arrive at hot springs in the middle of nowhere. Hot springs smell of eggs! Drive to campsite in Thames. Walk on Beach. Aaargh bed in campervan is like a Tetris puzzle to put together!

  • Wednesday 12 April – Walk in bush. Trapped possum aaargh! Splattered rat, yuk. Set off all traps, hah! Abandoned goldmines. Shopping. Drive to Coromandel, stunning scenery. Shuffle schedule. Mmmm muscle chowder. Shelley beach campsite.

  • Thursday 13 April – Drive to Whangamata. Note odd pronunciation. Breakfast in car park. Cave cruise with odd kiwi in ex-military boat. Amusing kiwi accent! Play instruments in cave. Drive to hot water beach. No hot water to be found. Not impressed. Walk on beach. Drive to Hahei and stay at holiday park. Walk on beach.

  • Friday 14 April – Em goes diving, I make a thing out of bone. Lunch on beach. Drive to walks in woods. Drive toward Rotorua. What is that smell? Arrive Rotorua. Smell is Rotorua (lots of hot springs)! Thai dinner. Beer, wine. Polynesian Spa. Police are parked next to our van breathalysing everyone who drives past. ARSE! Talk to friendly bouncer have (soft) drink and go back to van. Police have gone. Get to campsite at half past midnight.

  • Saturday 15 April – River rafting, over a 7meter waterfall, aaaarrrgggh! Hell’s gate spa, weird place, mudbath. Curry!

  • Sunday 16 April – Walk round Rotorua. Hot springs & mud pools everywhere. Drive to walk along old railway tracks. Long dark tunnel. Weird. Drive to Waitomo Caves. Go down caves & underground river with the aid of a rubber ring. Glow worms, pretty. Walk from campsite through woods. Possum (untrapped), gloworms, pretty.

  • Monday 17 April – Battle of wills with kitchen cleaner over epic sized omelette. Drive to Aukland. Holiday over, boo rubbish!
All this will be recounted in greater detail as I get the photos uploaded.

One thing I have noticed is that I was wound up really tight before the holiday and I have to try really hard not to fall back into the old habits of stressing out about, well everything really. I’m sure I never used to be like this, it must stop. I honestly have very little to worry about but I don’t know how Em has been putting up with me. Never mind, I will beat it.

Off to play tennis and be a pom at the top of my lungs – great fun.

Friday, April 07, 2006

That'll be me away...

In New Zealand for 10 days.

Posted from Kingsford Smith Airport in Sydney. Off for some blackwater rafting (!), some whitewater rafting, and we might manage to go to a frieds wedding at some point. More later.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Busy

There has been a brief silence on here, partly because our internet conection has been on the fritz but mostly because I'm busy. Rest assured that I am thinking up something typically witty and observant for my next post, possibly involving monkeys, but probably not.

There will also be a brief hiatus next week as I am going to New Zealand for a friend's wedding and then a holiday. I doubt that I will be near a computer during that week. In the meantime enjoy some of the new features in the sidebar that involve clever stuff called XML. Some of them do things when you write blog posts, some of them do things when I read blog posts or bookmark things I find noteworthy. More about XML later.