Wednesday, August 26, 2015

A Week to Forget

Things started badly when I got an urgent phone call from my neighbour.
All my cattle had got out and had been herded into her place from the edge of the highway by a passing motorist.
This is our worst nightmare scenario.
I was puzzled to where they had got through as we had just repaired and strengthened the southern boundary fence.
A little investigation found they had made their way through a large swamp area that had always been considered impenetrable as it is extremely boggy with a mass of 3m high sword grass and entangled melaleuca scrub. It has never been fenced, even by the previous owner.
Well, after 25 years, that myth was finally debunked!
It was impossible to join up the two sections of boundary fence through the swamp due to the terrain so we had to fence off the entire area. This was a major job estimated to take 3 days.
My neighbour agreed to keep my cattle at their place while this was attended to. I transported hay over there to keep them fed.
So the co driver and I , with a lot of help and expertise from Neighbour Bob, got to it. Indeed on the afternoon of the third day we had it basically finished albeit tired, sore, insect bitten and barb nicked. We were short a few star pickets. They could be sourced and put in the next day. Then we could get the cattle back.

Or so we thought.
That night the heavens opened up and for three days we endured over 300mm (12.5inches) of relentless rain.
A deep low pressure system had formed off the coast and was not going anywhere.
Our creek flooded for what was probably the second worst time.
So not only can't we finish the 'swamp fence' but the cattle are 'stranded' on the other side of the flooded creek and who knows what other fence damage the surging water has done.
All we can do is sit and wait for the rain to stop (it's mainly showers now) and the flood water to recede.
But we are not too badly off compared to some others.
The areas to the north of us have had a lot more rain and many houses have been evacuated. Roads are cut in many places. A dam was, at one stage, in danger of collapsing.
Reports can be found here.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Book Reviews / August 2015

Continuing on with my list of Amazon freebies, I thought A Saucy Murder with a wine country theme might convince me to read more murder mysteries.
Unfortunately this was not the case.
This book falls into my 'silly' category.
Very simplistic plot, with lots of suspects, wanting the reader to believe, initially, a sauce (that everyone ate but with only one consumer dead) could be the murder 'weapon'.
Plus the author seems to be a bit of a food snob and a brand name dropper.

You should never judge a book by its cover but the cartoon nature of this one was a dead giveaway as to the contents.
A lightweight time waster.
At the age of three Leslie White was taken from a workhouse and put into a children's home by his single mother. He spent twelve years there. He went "into service" at the age of 15 and worked his way up in various aristocratic households.
But he got sick of serving the rich and famous for little financial gain and moved to Switzerland to become a waiter at two important hotels earning substantially more money. It was here he met whom he thought would be the love of his life but WWII intervened and he was forced to leave. He never saw her again.
He joined the army and was evacuated from France during the dark days of the conflict at the time of Dunkirk before being sent to Italy. In between while stationed on the Isle of Mann he met his future wife.
From Workhouse to Vienna is a long book with a great deal of detail, much of it trivial and unfortunately repetitive, which can lead to skimming. But that aside it is an interesting insight into life in Britain between the wars. The plight of the British working class and the divide between the rich and poor in the 1920s and 30s is laid bare.

The final chapters concern Les's army service during World War II in a special services unit that operated behind enemy lines.These vividly describe the hardships and perils of war. Written by the author from discussions with and notes from Les, I found this book fascinating from a social history point of view.
The poignant letters from him to his wife and subsequently her and a daughter he had never seen are a worthwhile inclusion.
All the book needs is a good editor.
The Man Who Never Was should not be confused with the 1953 book (and 1956 film) of the same name. That was a (almost) factual account of Operation Mincemeat during WWII. This book is also about WWII but is fictional and covers far different subject matter. Why the author would use the same title is a mystery to me.

The book has two time lines, one at the end of WW11 and the other 40 years later.
In the 1980s during the demolition of an industrial complex a body is found in the foundations. From the objects found near the remains it appears this is a German Luftwaffe pilot who had been in a nearby POW camp.
The police of the day begin what seems to be an ordinary murder investigation.
But it isn't.
Something more sinister has taken place and the British secret service becomes involved.
Keeping the plot and the characters straight takes a bit of effort with this book but it is worth the effort.
HRC: State Secrets and the Rebirth of Hillary Clinton covers the period from her surprising defeat in the 2008 Democratic primary through her reconciliation with the Obama Democrats, her appointment to and tireless work as Secretary of State, the demise of Osama bin Laden, the reelection of Obama with Bill Clinton 'on board', the Benghazi Affair and her stepping down in early 2013 for what was to be her preparation for another run at the presidency.

Lots of details and names (too many for the outsider?) to absorb in this one. But it does give some insight into the behind the scenes political manoeuvring within the USA system as well as the trials and tribulations of a major power's world diplomacy agenda.
Some have described the book as a four hundred page Hillary 'love fest'. It is easy to see where that opinion comes from.
Probably a book for the political junkie or one for those who want to know a little more about the mindset of the person who could possibly be (given the dubious quality of the gaggle of the 17 GOP candidates) the next president of the USA.
Australia is one of the few countries which has attended every modern Olympic Games.
Dangerous Games is the story of the team of 33 (29 men and 4 women) who made their way to the Berlin games of 1936.
It is also a story of the rise of National Socialism in Germany and the use of the Olympics as propaganda tool to legitimize the NAZI regime.
Olympic sports in Australia in the 1930s were recreational past times with those excelling doing so only from natural raw talent.
There were few facilities eg. no cinders tracks; no freshwater swimming pools, not many coaches, no money and little government interest.
The team was supposedly selected on times/heights/distances based on world standards but really was influenced by state rivalry. The country was only 35 years old and colonial attitudes still prevailed to a point where many of 'the best' missed out.
So it was a boat full of innocents and a minimal support group who set sail for the long six week journey to Europe.

What they experienced when they got there opened their eyes to how sport was viewed by other world nations at the time. Turns out it was already a business and success was a matter of national pride rather than an athlete's individual achievement. Baron Pierre de Coubertin's Olympic ideals were already in decay.
Author Larry Writer says "I came to believe that there was room among (the) excellent literature on the XIth Olympiad for a book about the seldom recounted experiences of the Australian team who competed. Who was in the team? How did they fare? What did they think of Hitler and his Nazis, and of Jesse Owens? Of each other? What was it like to be in old Berlin before it was destroyed by war?"
This, and more, he has achieved in an entertaining,well researched, interview based book.
Recommended for the sports nut and the historian.
And Leni Riefenstahl's stunningly photographed Olympia, the propaganda film of the Berlin games, can be viewed in its entirety on YouTube.
Update 10/11/2016"Probably a book for the political junkie or one for those who want to know a little more about the mindset of the person who could possibly be (given the dubious quality of the gaggle of the 17 GOP candidates) the next president of the USA."
How wrong (sadly ) was I!!!!!! 

Sunday, August 09, 2015

Another Trip to Canberra

Early morning start with the temperature down around 0°C which is very low, even in winter, for our part of the world.
The drive heads west from Batemans Bay along the Kings Highway up over the Clyde Mountain pass, through Braidwood and Bungendore and onto the capital.
I always enjoy the first part of the trip through the foothills of the Great Dividing Range. The scenery of the tall, straight and mottle barked Spotted Gums with the Burrawang understorey is unique to the south coast of New South Wales. It then changes into dense temperate rainforest as you start the climb.

The Kings Highway is notoriously narrow and winding and is the scene of many accidents. They are working on widening the road but the pass cut into the side of the mountain always presents problems with numerous landslips occurring, especially after heavy rain. They are constantly shoring up the mountainside. The pass section of the road is very steep with numerous hairpin bends and has quite a few safety ramps that are used by heavy vehicles which have lost control of speed or when their brakes have failed.
For a look at the road check out this YouTube video of the descent (speeded up to 40km in 7 minutes).
Note the landslip fences. For the concerned, the speed signs are in km/hr, not mph. And yes, we do drive on the 'other side' of the road.
When we got over the mountain pass the frost was so heavy it looked as though it had snowed. There was even some black ice.
Between the top of the pass and Canberra the scenery (and vegetation) once again changes dramatically with forest giving way to sparsely wooded rolling plains. This is sheep and cattle country.
It is also kangaroo country and the roadside is always littered with road kill. It can be a bit daunting driving this road at either dawn or dusk when these animals are active. Some are very large and can cause a lot of damage to a car when hit. Many of the carcasses have crosses sprayed on them as animal welfare volunteers check them out for joeys (babies in the pouches) who may be still alive. The cross signifies a check as been done. I noticed a few wombats had suffered the same fate.
Our main aim this trip was to visit the Canberra Quilt Show.
There was some amazing work on display. I liked the art quilts but many of the traditional ones had such intricate work there must have been hours (days/months?) of work involved.
Some examples:

The co driver has more show quilt pictures on her blog.
Then after another Chinese meal in Dickson for a late lunch it was back home down the pass 'pre kangaroo time'.

Thursday, August 06, 2015


By now I guess most people have seen the video of the shark attack on Australian surfer, Mick Fanning, during the final of the Jeffreys Bay WSL competition in South Africa last month.
By some miracle he was uninjured.
This is every surfer's nightmare.
There have been a number of fatal shark attacks in Australia this year.
They appear to be on the increase and shark sightings are more common place.
Surfers in our area have reported a lot more shark activity.

I had been surfing since the early 1960s and only gave it up a few years ago due to a recurring shoulder injury. During that time I had three close up encounters with sharks. The most memorable one was at Angourie on the north coast of New South Wales many years ago. This is a point reef break and the water is dark.
There was just my mate and I in the water. He suddenly yelled "feet up" and a big shark circled us on the surface twice before a swish of the tail and he was gone. We caught the next wave into the beach.
Surfers are constantly aware of the danger and you are subconsciously always keeping an eye out. But you can't let it 'get to you' or you would never go in the water.
I substituted my surf board with a belly board and the co driver and I had fun for a few years doing this.
But last year I began to feel shark phobia creeping up on me and now I am happy not to go into the water. Fifty years of denial may have finally caught up.
The co driver has suggested some therapy and has offered her crocheting skills. I have politely refused the offer.