Tuesday, January 26, 2016

South Coast Wine Show 2016

The South Coast Wine Show is over for another year. This was the 17th.
There were 111 entries from 13 vineyards and wineries.
8 Gold, 10 Silver and 42 Bronze medals were awarded. That is a success rate of just over 50%.
Two new classes were added this year ie. white and red wines made in the region from grapes outside the region. Both attracted good support and resulted in quite a number of medals.
Previously, entries were restricted to wines made with 85% of grapes from the region.
Of course not all of those wines are actually made in the region. Due to a lack of winery infrastructure or a lack of capacity of local contract wineries, many vineyards send their grapes elsewhere to be vinified.

A prime example is the multi award winning Coolangatta Estate who send their grapes to Tyrrell's Wines in the Hunter Valley, a few hundred kilometers to the north, to be made into wine.
The public tasting on the day after the judging was well attended despite the horrific weather.
The NSW coast has been subject to wild thunderstorms and torrential rain for several days at a time over the last month.
From a grape growing point of view, with harvest just around the corner, this situation is definitely not wanted.
But I digress.
Full details of the Wine Show can be found here.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

The Australian Citizenship Ceremony

Australia Day is the 26th January but our local council, a few years ago, changed the Australian Day Citizenship and Awards Ceremonies to the week before. Due to increased numbers of attendees at the ceremonies, Council thought hosting a more formal evening separate from the more relaxed and recreational Australia Day celebrations was a better option.
From what we experienced this evening it was the right decision.
This year the event was in our nearby town so there was no need to travel an hour or so north to the administrative hub, Nowra, and back in the busy holiday traffic.
So, along with 40 others from all over the world, the co driver took the final step in her commitment to becoming an Australian citizen by taking the pledge and receiving her certificate from the Mayor, Joanna Gash, in front of around 200 people.
It was a constant source of amusement to everyone that so many of the British conferees had taken so long to become citizens. One had lived here 64 years!!!!! Of course there are historical reasons for this but nevertheless they were all given a light hearted ribbing by the audience and even by the mayor herself who was originally from Holland.

The ceremonies were followed by nibbles and drinks.
But where did the new Australian celebrate the occasion? At a Thai restaurant of course. Fish cakes, chicken satay, sweet potato curry with prawns and stir fried chicken with chilli jam, dried chilli and cashews.
Now we are busy applying for an Australian passport (her permanent residency visa was immediately cancelled on citizenship being formalized) just in case we need to travel urgently.
She will also be registering to vote as soon as possible in case the current 'terminally ill' government calls an early election. Voting at all levels of government is compulsory in Australia.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Book Reviews / January 2016

For the last few years I have relied mainly on Amazon via their Kindle Store for my reading matter although occasionally I have returned to hard copies, either bought (books are SO expensive in Australia!) or from the local library.
Recently I became aware that our library had given its members access to free down loadable audio books and e-books as well as magazines.
This is through a web site called OverDrive.
I believe it has been in many countries eg. USA, Canada, UK etc. for a few years.
They have a great range of titles covering many genres.
Seems like Amazon may be now given the 'flick' in this household in favour of this new (to us) service.
Now to some reviews:
At 15 years of age Bob Carr joined the Australian Labor Party. From 1983 to 2005 he represented a southern electorate of Sydney in the New South Wales state parliament, the last 10 years as Premier.
During his 'retirement' he was still politically active championing many causes.
Then in March 2012, Prime Minister Julia Gillard announced that Carr would be nominated to fill a casual vacancy in the Australian senate caused by the resignation of a sitting member. She also announced Carr would become the new Minister for Foreign Affairs.

Diary of a Foreign Minister
documents the day to day business and life of this position for the 18 months he held it before resigning on the demise of the Labor government in September 2013.
It may sound a glamours life style travelling the world on the public purse but it obviously takes a special person to keep up the pace and their wits about them in what seems a permanent jet lagged state.
His meetings with world leaders, search for decent food, exercise regime, the inevitable screw ups, furtive days off to pursue his love of the arts and history make interesting reading. His brief mention of the internal combustion of his government at home from time to time sheds new light on that saga. 
Carr's term coincided with the final stages of Australia's successful campaign for a UN Security Council seat.
He walked the tightrope of strengthening Australia's relationship with China while not upsetting the USA alliance. He participated in the ongoing peace process in the Middle East, particularly Palestine and Syria.
He was also very active in the Asia-Pacific region helping to bring Myanmar 'out of the cold', strengthen our ties with Indonesia and giving voice to the smaller Pacific Island nations particularly concerning climate change.
The book can be an insightful and amusing read but is more likely one for the political junkie.
Lex Marinos is an Australian actor probably best known for his part in the now probably politically incorrect TV show "Kingswood Country"(1980-84).
He grew up in a rural town of Wagga Wagga, a son of Greek immigrants who owned, as a lot of Greeks did at the time, a cafe'.
Moving to Sydney in a time of great social change (60s and 70s) he decided, after a university arts degree and much to his mother's anxiety (his brother was a doctor), to pursue a career in entertainment.
He was soon aware, despite parts in theatre, film and TV that his acting ability was limited. He turned to directing (film and stage), event and festival organization (a segment of the Sydney Olympic Games Opening Ceremony), radio comparing, sports commentating as a few diversions.

Rex grew up in the same era as I did and his story resonated somewhat. Of course our lives differed in the fact he was of 'foreign' immigrant stock not Anglo. He was 'a wog' and had to overcome all sorts of prejudice and stereotyping.
He experienced the Australianization (or rather the deBritishization) of the entertainment industry when having an Australian accent, putting on plays from places other than the UK or making Australian films was no longer frowned upon.
Blood and Circuses (An Irresponsible Memoir) is a warts and all tale. He wasn't always a good boy!
But for those of us who follow the Australian arts and entertainment scene it is a great story of what went on and still does. His anecdotes of the people we knew and loved are extremely entertaining.
Probably a book just for Australians but then again also maybe for those interested in other countries' social histories.
Right at the beginning, in the foreword, of Smoke Gets in Your Eyes and Other Lessons from the Crematory author Caitlan Doughty issues a warning. It says 'For those who do not wish to read realistic depictions of death and dead bodies you have stumbled on the wrong book.'
With the opening line 'A girl always remembers the first corpse she shaves.' I thought that may have been a warning warranted.
But a chapter or so in you begin to realize this is a serious book about death and the funeral industry and its manipulative ways. Caitlan became obsessed with death at the age of eight after seeing a child fall from an upper shopping mall floor. Having completed a major in medievil history with an emphasis on mortality, she was ready for the 'real thing'. She basically walks in off the streets of San Francisco to become a crematory operative removing, preparing and cremating bodies. This involves a very quick learning curve.
The mood of the book continually swings from morbid humour to sadness and, at times, to extremely confronting descriptions of what goes on behind the scenes. Some of it can be difficult to read.


The author also returns to her academic roots to describe other cultures' funeral practices and compares them with those of our current Western society. While we may cringe at what goes on in other parts of the world, they would probably think we are just as weird. She also traces a history of dealing with death through the ages which can be quite bizarre.
Not a book for everyone but, for me, a fascinating look into an industry that most people have had contact with at some time but obviously, from the information presented here, only on a very superficial level.
I have always wanted to travel to Japan. It would seem easy to get to from Australia but the airlines that fly there from Sydney seem to want a lot of money for the short 10 hour flight. But the destination is still on my bucket list.
In the meantime I had been looking for a short and concise history of Japan.

With A Short History of Japan that's exactly what I got.
This is political, social, religious and cultural resume' that ranges from the 'Divine Ages (Jindai)' pre 660BC to the end of the Meiji era in 1912
What I didn't notice before downloading the book was that it was originally published in 1915!
But in the end, that didn't matter as most of us know what went on in Japan after that date.
An interesting read but for someone who really only wants a bird's eye view of Japanese history.
And as a follow up to the above we purchased a hard copy of DK's Eyewitness Travel Japan.

DK Eyewitness travel guides are our travel bibles and we have never been disappointed.We find them an essential tool for planning and when we are under way.
Hopefully we will be able to use this one 'on the ground' one day.

Friday, January 08, 2016

Happy Birthday, Elvis

The King would have been 81 today.
Then again, for those that believe he 'never left the building', he could still be flipping burgers in some isolated country town cafe in Idaho.
We bought a page of cool Elvis stamps while in the USA last year when mailing some local letters.
One was undeliverable (wrong address) and was returned to us........in Australia.
So I get the franked stamp!
Thanks US Postal Service.
And in Parkes, New South Wales, 360km west of Sydney the annual five day Elvis Festival attracts fans from all over Australia.

Sunday, January 03, 2016

Coin Currency

I am always a bit bemused when travelling in the USA that the penny is still in use and needs to be 'coughed up' regardless.
Australia did away with the 1¢ and 2¢ coin many years ago rounding up or down to the nearest 5¢.
I saw a TV program on 'the penny' which intimated it cost 1.7¢ to make and could go no cheaper.
But the push to eliminate it is opposed by 67% of the American population for varying reasons, mainly economic.
Our experience was there were no dire repercussions when our 1¢ disappeared from circulation.
Now we find out that our 5¢ is costing 7¢ to produce.

What does 5¢ buy these days?
Apparently half a slice of devon (baloney), one third of a cocktail frankfurt, two red grapes or almonds or blueberries or cashews or Twisties and one twelfth of a Freddo frog.
So while there are no plans to get rid of it I guess they will continue to be generally thrown into the back of a draw or stashed away in a bottle somewhere.
While the coins remain legal tender, there are restrictions around how they can be used. Section 16 of our Currency Act states that merchants are only required to accept up to $5 worth of any combination of silver coins, after that, it is no longer legal tender. Good luck handing over 100 5¢ coins at any business these days.
By the  way, the US Mint reports that a nickel costs 8¢ to make.

Friday, January 01, 2016

2015 / So That Was the Year That Was

Sydney welcomed the new year in with the usual spectacular midnight fireworks display over the harbour watched live by 1.5 million people.

On the south coast, a world away, all was pretty quiet and we were in bed by 10pm!
2015 was a busy travel year for us.
First to Bali in June for the daughter's and Nicko's wedding with a two quick side trips, coming and going, to Singapore.
It was a lovely few days in Indonesia on the beach near a quiet Hindu fishing village in luxurious accommodation.
And of course the simple ceremony was just perfect.

Then to the USA in October to visit family with a side trip to Houston for an International Quilt Show where the co driver had a prize winning quilt hanging.
Overseas travel plans for 2016?
The 2015 vintage was a bit of a disaster. Travel to the USA in late 2014 left the vines to their own devices during a critical period of development. The weather gods were not kind and persistent rain instigated an unstoppable fungus epidemic. Apart from the Cabernet Sauvignon which, being a later variety, escaped most of the fungus scourge, we did not bother harvesting the other three varieties. The wine produced from the Cabernet was, however, mediocre at best due to the ongoing wet conditions.
Lucky this is only a hobby, not a money making concern.
The co driver was full in quilting mode the whole year with a little bit of knitting thrown in for good measure.
Apart from her Houston success, she was also a multiple prize winner at the local rural show.
'Wonky Baskets' / Modern Quilts, Own Design / 2nd Prize/ Houston

I finally realized a lifetime ambition and began taking art lessons.
Within six months I became aware that this activity was not for me or at least not via a formal process. I now won't die wondering. However unfinished paintings wait for a return of inspiration.
On the farm we had to deal with a 1 in 25 year flood and escaped cattle. A bit of a stressful time but our good neighbours came to the rescue and all turned out well in the end.
The highlight of our sporting year was the Rugby World Cup in the UK. Australia did a lot better than most supporters expected (as they were in the so called 'Pool of Death"), failing in the final to beat the New Zealand All Blacks.
The Webb Ellis Cup (also known as 'Bill')

And finally, on the political scene, Australia had a change of Prime Minister in September, not via the electoral process but by a 'bloodless coup' within the governing party. Can't say too many people regretted this. In my 50 years as a voter I have never witnessed such dysfunctional leadership including his many bizarre personal decisions known as "Captain's Calls or Picks".
Sadly since September 2013, when the LNP got into power, Australia was not the country I had lived in for the past 69 years. One can only hope under the new leader (or possibly a new government in 2016) there is a retreat from the precipice of ultra conservative politics.
The Best Picture of the Year

So 2016 is here.
Lots, as usual, to look forward to, living as we do, in a little bit of paradise.
All the best to my readers for the New Year, wishing you health, wealth and happiness.