Friday, 19 February 2016


So now I own a pair of cricket gloves. I haven’t used them yet of course on account of being a less good batsmen than most of the people currently occupying the roster of the local team (and a tendency for it to rain all the fuck over any game I am scheduled to be participating in) but let’s be honest, any opportunity to indulge my obsession with gloves of any type is a welcome one.

I’ve always been a bit wary of cricket as a sport. The participation to drinking ratio in Rugby is frankly far more favourable than cricket, even if you do end up backing up most weekends due to Union’s chronic shortage of large men stupid enough to stick their head in a scrum for kicks. And while I recognise that the two are played at different times of the year, it is nice, on occasion, to be able to respond in the affirmative to suggestions that you do something other than run around on a big patch of grass every single Saturday of the year.

Sadly Laguna is currently entirely devoid of a Rugby Team so I’ve cunningly allowed myself to be signed up to an extremely exclusive ‘Star Player’ contract with the  somewhat dubiously named, Laguna Village People Cricket Club (though at least our branding doesn’t feature a giant duck like some other local teams I could mention).

By ‘Star Player’, I mean – when all the ‘Star Players’ are unavailable due to holidays, sickness, geographical inconvenience or natural disaster, I slot in effortlessly at around 12 or 13 on the 11 man team sheet and get to stand in the God awfully scorching sun while clumsily pursuing any cricket balls that come my way.

Very occasionally I get to make a spectacular goose of myself by falling down for no apparent reason. Which I’m sure happens to everyone at some point so why are all you bastards laughing so loudly. Stupid long grass.

It’s fun though and my stats are undeniably impressive. 0-0-1-2-1-1. Or in English – Zero wickets, zero runs, one (dropped) catch, two wins, one loss and one game called off due to a hail storm of Speilbergian magnitude. It boggles my mind that Darren Lehmann has not yet been in touch.

To be fair (to me), all of my cricket so far, like the last two seasons of Rugby I was involved in, has been played immediately following 10 hour night shifts at an inpatient psychiatric unit. So I’m of the opinion that slack should possibly be cut.

Think I might wander around the house for a bit with my gloves on.

Friday, 21 November 2014


I broke a spoke the other day.

Best case scenario 2 years ago, that would have meant dragging the bike into the nearest shop to get it fixed, almost certainly on the second attempt on account of the mechanic not being in till next week, 'can you bring it back then mate', $60 and at least a week off the bike.

More likely of course, I would have faffed about for several months while the bike rusted on the deck and I entirely forgot how to make the wheels go round and round without causing me severe respiratory distress. Before I knew it I'd be 140 kilos (*cough* again) and digging around in my drawers for those XXXXL t-shirts I used to wear but now use to polish my 9 year old's shoes with.

I identified the broken spoke on Tuesday. Purchased a spoke wrench (what the hell is a spoke wrench my 2012 self says cluelessly) on Wednesday, whipped off the casette, rear disc and broken spoke by lunch on Thursday and had it all back together and rotating with barely a wobble by Thursday afternoon.

See, this what you get when you build yourself a bike instead of buying one off the (bike) rack. Best bit is, I never even touched a spoke when I was putting it all together. I mean I touched them obviously, being part of the wheels and all that, but not in the sense of building an entire wheel out of them or anything along those ludicrous lines. Thing is though - because I had put just about everything else together, I now know where all the fiddly bits are, what they are called, what I need to pull apart to get at them and what the tool looks like that is required to do all that and then put it back together again without it resembling some kind Church sanctioned, heretic torturing, confession machine from Inquisitorial Spain.

2012 Matt wouldn't even have been able to get all the crap off the hub to get anywhere near the actual spoke.

It's all been very good for my morale.

Think I might pull our car apart.

Sunday, 16 November 2014


Just to make clear the political orientation of this play – on more than one occasion, it pointedly accuses the Communist Party, yes that Communist Party, of being not really left wing enough. So not likely to be on Andrew Bolt’s list of things to see and almost definitely absent from the National Curriculum being currently prepared by our duly elected Minister for Education.

Not that I was overly aware of this until I was half way home on account of the layer of unapologetically slapstick hilarity laid down over the rhetoric with enthusiastic abandon and consummate skill by Director Bob Phillippe and his very able cast of five (…..or eight, if you count all of Tim Williams’ near identical twin brothers, none of which I had the slightest idea existed until last night).

Karen Jones as Antonia, gets through an absolute mountain of dialogue as she first ropes her less than enthusiastic friend Margherita, played with excellent comic timing by first time actor Karen Toohey, into accepting the proceeds of an ever so casual major shoplifting incident, then spends the rest of the play more or less successfully convincing their two less than perceptive husbands (Ross Fletcher and Peter Firminger)and one similarly clueless Police Inspector (Tim Williams) that the large bag of stolen goods Margherita has stuck up her overcoat  is in fact something else entirely.

 See the play if you want to find out what.

Ross’s Giovanni is a perpetually active study of comically conflicted chaos and Peter’s Luigi plays off him nicely as his rather more politically pragmatic friend (though still sadly lacking in knowledge vis a vis the female reproductive system). Both were perfectly suited to the roles, even if I was initially confused by Peter’s complete lack of facial hair and the fact that Karen and Karen seemed to have stolen his signature long black coat look.

Tim Williams as, well, about 50 different characters, demonstrates a level of verbal and physical fitness that boggles the mind, as he effortlessly plays half the play’s cast entirely by himself. I for one am quite happy he never went into law enforcement.

Technically of course the whole thing went off with the practiced efficiency that is a hallmark of all Valley Artists productions. So, well done to the team of creative lunatics that yet again put together such an awesome set and to all those running about in the shadows wearing nothing but black skivvies and presumably really cool night vision goggles.

Bob Phillippe has once again presented the valley with a production well worth stumping up $25 for and I recommend doing just that  as soon as you absolutely can …….even if he does seem to be suggesting we should all pop into Cessnock and clean out Woolworths.

Friday, 4 July 2014


Did I mention the bolognese from Tuesday night? How long do you have to boil mince to get all the little bits of meat so bloody small. A day? Two? Flavorless, devoid of identifiable tomato and slapped on top of over cooked penne - the kids loved it. Philistines.

Another 0530 wake up call from the Bush Capital Lodge Kitchen Percussion Band ably accompanied by 40 odd kids from another school who were up early to get to the snow for the day. Nice for them given they were heading into day 3 of a blizzard that had already dumped 1.5 metres of snow on their destination.

Giant model bugs, turtles, hands on experiments and a 3D space film. What's not to like if you're a primary school kid. No fatalities despite attempts by some of our, investigative kids to fashion a super virus from two connected coke bottles full of spiraling water, pea DNA and a cog and wheel construction kit. Stick some of these kids in a lab coat and they may as well be stroking a hairless cat while seated in a big revolving chair and laughing maniacally.

The kids entirely emptied the gift shop of slime related products (SRP's), necessitating a quick ban on the opening of said items in the bus that worked for at least 32 minutes. The Thomas family tally was only 2 SRP's so we got off lightly I suspect.

ATTRACTION No.9 - Questacon (Hail the Mother Of All Gift Shops).
To give it it's due, Questacon seems to send human beings under the age of 12 (which I assume to be it's target audience) into a near frothing frenzy of enthusiasm. All that pressing, pulling, prodding and sliding. For myself I'm thinking - meh.

I was assigned the same group of girls to herd up and then down the spiraling series of rooms until they reached the 7 metre slippery dip ride thingy at the bottom. This required them to put on a pair of overalls and then go from sitting on a step to hanging by a bar over what, from the bottom at least, seemed like a completely doable vertical drop to stainless steel slippery dip. As someone who once spent 30 minutes at Cubs holding onto a steel bar up a tree and most determinedly not sliding down the flying fox the bar was attached to I say - 'Well done to them that did it' (and to those who didn't - welcome to the Club).

The gift shop at Questacon was both massive and so packed with various school groups that I could have gone to sleep in there and totally not fallen over I swear. Very similar to the CSIRO gift shop in many respects (slime was again available for example) just 3 to 5 dollars more expensive.

Once extracted from Questacon's gaping maw, we lunched in the park opposite before climbing onto the bus for the long trip home. A lot less in the way of nausea and toilet stench which was nice. Did have to sit through the movie Frozen however. Vocal opposition from all the boys at this selection didn't stop them all watching the whole thing in attentive silence I noted (and singing along quietly - Let it go. Let it go. Let it go, let it goooooooo....)

Toilet breaks x3, pizza at West Pennant Hills and we pulled into the School car park at around 7.30pm without the loss of a single child. A totally awesome performance by us. Awesome (though in retrospect we might have been more assertive in the 'get into those bloody showers children before your underwear dissolves' area).

I give this excursion 4.5 stars out of 5.

Repeat whenever possible.

Thursday, 3 July 2014


As we settled in for Monday night the three of us in the Attending Dads Room A1 (of course) briefly debated how many alarms we should set and at what time we should set them so as to be up early enough to head off any child shenanigans. Entirely unnecessary as it turned out, due to our proximity to the kitchen that kicked off the morning at 0530 with an enthusiastic game of pot and pan soccer. Happily, the sleep we did get was fairly good. Even more happily it appeared that all of the children that had gone to bed the night before were still present and functioning come the morning.

Woo for us.

Breakfast was scrambled eggs (the remains of which I suspect might have formed part of the 'fritata' we had for Wednesday breakfast) and as many coffees as I could jam pods into the machine in the time available. Then into the bus.

ATTRACTION No.4 - The National Film and Sound Archive.
What an excellent institution. The kids loved it of course on account of it involving a screen and moving pictures, but in addition to that, the presenter was engaging and friendly (even when his computer started to screw him over) and the selection of material shown to us was interesting and varied. We even got to see a scene from Skippy.......Jesus that show was terrible.

ATTRACTION No.5 - The National Capital Exhibition.
Did you know that Dalgety was on the ballot as a possible Capital that the people of Australia actually voted on. Neither did I. The purpose of this building on the banks of Lake Burley Griffin is to educate on all things Capitol City related. And it does a good job of it. Not sure how many school groups they pump through it in the average day but I suspect it is a lot judging by the well practiced efficiency with which we were moved from section to section. Wouldn't let us play with the Lego they had lying around though (I mean the kids....they wouldn't let the KIDS play with the Lego) but I did locate the building I lived in when I was a citizen of Canberra in 1987 on a giant model of the city. Which was AWESOME.

It was planned that lunch would be spent in a park with footballs and running about and stuff but as we completely lacked Gortex in sufficent quantities to combat the driving rain and near sub zero temperatures, we set up camp in the Hall of Ainslie Public School (said Hall being bigger and better equipped than our entire school). Thank you Ainslie Public School.

ATTRACTION No.6 - The War Memorial.
Yay. Supervising a group of small girls around the War Memorial. A total waste of my talents. Look at the big Lancaster with all the turrents and history and God no there aren't any horses here. Highlight for my group was an 'experience' that involved standing in a room while the floor vibrated and moved up and down a bit. Never mind that the whole thing was supposed to give an insight into the horrors of night bombing over Nazi Germany (at one point a video screen on the floor showed bomb doors opening so you could see the burning city below). The girls did it twice before I dragged them away.

After a couple of hours including quite a long time in the gift shop (it's all about the gift shop people) we were extracted with aplomb by Ray the Coach driver and returned to the barracks for coffee, dinner.....and more coffee. Some kids even had showers. Not many. But some. Then it was off to what I'm fairly sure many of the kids would rate as the highlight of the trip....

ATTRACTION No.7 - Lazer Tag (Die Parents! DIE!)
I knew we were in trouble when the Lazer Tag attendent asked how many of us had done this before and all (as in ALL) of the kids put their hands up. I still think I acquitted myself well....once I remembered which button was the trigger. I certainly didn't run head first into a wall like one of the parents. If nothing else we'll be in good shape come the day we have to seal up the valley and defend ourselves from the outside world (my plans for this eventuality are available for your persual) because the kids are a bunch of ruthless killers (though lacking in the area of small unit co-operative tactics).

Back in the bus. Chocolate, coffee and parental discussion while we waited for all signs of life to disappear from the kiddy rooms. Sleepy bye byes.

0500 - Round 2 of the Pots and Pan Soccer World Cup.....

Next: Bugs. Turtles. Hanging and Dropping. Frozen!

Tuesday, 1 July 2014


I'm assuming that the 0530 start time for this 3 day extravaganza was part of Principal Howe's ingenious plan to ensure an only just workable level of exhaustion prevailed throughout the 3 days of our whirlwind tour and/or a cunning maneuver to acclimatise us to the significant difference in temperatures between chilly Laguna and the ball freezingly cold Capital Territory.

A masterstroke either way. Getting the kids off to sleep throughout the trip seemed a lot easier than I had assumed it would be and even my recently jumper averse daughter had no problem with donning multiple layers of warm clothing.

Despite following to the letter the instruction to avoid 'milky breakfasts' I spent much of the first hour staring fixedly out the window breathing deeply, thinking happy thoughts and tossing up which of the 8 year olds sitting up front in the anti-spew rows I could physically remove in my weakened state. Thank Christ the sun came up and we hit the nice straight freeway.

Well placed toilet stops unfortunately did not prevent the bus toilet (around which all the lucky adults were seated) getting just enough use to produce a stench that I can only describe as viscous in nature and led to the deployment of what must have been an entire can of spray deodorant in a nearly, but yet not quite successful, attempt to overcome the aggressively maneuvering funky cloud.

ATTRACTION No.1 - The National Gallery of Australia.
An excellent venue with a very engaging tour guy who did a fantastic job of involving the kids in the artistic process. He was of course impressed by the perception and MASSIVE intelligence of our children. Always like visiting the National Gallery, if only to stand in front of Blue Poles making sarcastic comments questioning the artists ability as an artist, suggesting that 'I could paint that pissed and with both my eyes shut' and suggesting that anyone willing to pay the HUGE amount of cash for it that we in fact did must have been pissed.....and had both their eyes shut.

Clear evidence of total devotion to the layering technique vis a vis cold weather clothing - When loaded up with all the coats, jumpers, vests, hats and gloves discarded by the students immediately upon entering the toasty warm Gallery building I needed assistance from one of my fellow parents to navigate the stairs to the cloak room on account of I could not see s**t.

ATTRACTION No.2 - The Australian National Museum (aka That Place With Bits Of Phar Lap In It).
Completely lacking in Dinosaur bones, this attraction was a bit of a disappointment. Mind you, even if there had been dinosaur bones, I would not have got to see them as I was tasked with the supervision of four 8 and 9 year old horse obsessed girls (a description that seems to describe all 8 and 9 year old girls) who would not countenance any activity until Phar Lap had been seen. To my quiet satisfaction, the only bit of Phar Lap in the Museum was his (her?) preserved heart. Never mind. Hey! Check out that big tractor over there!

ATTRACTION No.3 - Parliament House.
Pissing down freezing rain and nearly dark by the time we reached the seat of all power in this wonderful country. We moved inside for bottled water and a snack before briefly chatting to Senator Kate Lundy and our local MP Joel Fitzgibben (who seemed a bit concerned Senator Lundy was stealing his future constituants). We were then put into the hands of a Danishly accented Parliament House Guide who was, um, fairly directive in his manner. Very knowledgable of course. But almost comically directive. 'Ve will now go THIS WAY. My accent is Danish. Yes it is very funny. HAHAHAHA!NOWLETUSGO! Mr Teacher! You will be responsible for one OR POSSIBLY TWO ROPES! IF YOU FAIL......YOU VILL PAY ZE PRICE!'. Educational genius or certifiable lunatic.....I am not yet decided.

With 3 National Attractions under our belt we moved with all pace to the Bush Capital Lodge at.....I have no idea 'cause it was dark and raining. Once fed (a chicken 'curry' entirely lacking in curry like attributes save for being yellow in colour) and inserted into our not all that spacious rooms, we rugged up and popped out for a short but invigorating stroll through the streets. A somewhat controversial decision amongst some of the parents as it had not really stopped raining and some of that rain seemed to be bouncing off things in a manner quite reminiscent of ice. Good for self-discipline and morale in my opinion.

Next: Scrambled eggs! War Memorials! Laser Tag!

Saturday, 7 December 2013


It's stereotyping is what it is.

See, at some point or another, if you ride your bike enough, you end up having to replace the rubber bits that go round and round on the outside of your wheels. And I think it's a sad indicator of the preconceptions of some bike shop proprietors that a man of my age and, cough, dimensions, fronts up for some new tyres and the default response is - 'That'll be for cross country right?'

Nice and safe that cross country riding. Maybe you'd like some extra gears so you can your fat arse up those nasty hills.

I'm being too harsh.

As scenic as the views frequently are, I have found that there is a limit to how many times I can ride up and down the local fire trails without it becoming a whole bucket load of boring. The whole reason I went for a mountain bike (as opposed to a road bike) was that long hours in the saddle grinding out the kilometres was not particularly attractive to me. Apart from anything else my arse just won't tolerate more than about 30kms before expressing it's displeasure in very colorful language indeed.

Which is why I've started throwing the bike in the back of the car and driving down to Ourimbah where some very nice people have spent what must have been a shit load of time and money building trails specifically to make things more interesting.

And why I've started digging these...

....up behind the chook sheds.

I figure if I twist and turn enough there's enough room up here to build a track for at least a couple of hundred metres. More, if I decide to get stupid and run it down to the main driveway. More still if it goes down to the dam and up the other side.

As a bonus - I'll save a lot on petrol when compared to the 60 km trip to Ourimbah and digging up dirt provides for a shockingly effective cardio session. Hell of a lot easier getting it all to hang together since the rain we got a few weeks ago made the dirt a bit more pliable as well.

Might hold off on throwing in too many jumps just yet. It's still a long way to the nearest hospital.