Friday, January 26, 2018

Australia Day 2018

Today is Australia Day.
Commemorating the landing of the first fleet at Sydney Cove in 1788, the day continues to become more controversial as time goes on.
The original Australians, along with many others, see this as 'invasion day' and instead of uniting the country it increasingly divides us.
Indeed it is pretty hard to find another country in the world that celebrates its national day on the date a foreign power arrives on its shores and takes over.
Some local councils have refused to take part in any celebrations this year much to the chagrin of the federal government.
Whether a new national day is possible is in the lap of the gods.
The 1st of January 1901 was Federation (the day Australia actually became a nation) but any celebration on that date would conflict with New Years Day.
Some have suggested 9th May, the anniversary of the day in 1901 when the new nation took practical form with the first sitting of the federal parliament in Melbourne, again in 1927, when the Parliament moved to the new capital, Canberra and finally in 1988, when the current Parliament House was opened.
Works for me.
Talking of things Australian, I had a number of inquiries about the song sung by the public gallery in Parliament after the passing of the SSM Bill in my 1st January post.
Was it the Australian national anthem?
No, but some think it should be.
It is called I am Australian co written by Bruce Woodley of The Seekers fame and Dobe Newton of The Bushwackers, an Australian folk and country music band or, more colloquially, a bush band.
Advance Australia Fair, the current national anthem, was written by Peter Dodds McCormick in 1878 and was selected to replace God Save the Queen (King) in 1984.
The words have been changed a number of times in an attempt to modernize it, but the terrible 'Our home is girt by sea' line seems to thwart all efforts. Girt? How awful is that!
The one criticism that resonates with me is "AAF is so boring that the nation risks singing itself to sleep, with boring music and words impossible to understand."
Compared with so many stirring national anthems around the world, ours is somewhat embarrassing.
There was one version, however, that shows what can be done with the song. That was at the opening of the Sydney Olympics in 2000. No rendition has ever reached such heights since.
There are a few other songs which people think could be more appropriate eg. Waltzing Matilda but a song about sheep stealing is not for the national stage. I Still Call Australia Home by Peter Allen always tugs at the heartstrings but again, maybe not serious enough.
I think we are stuck with the current dirge for some time to come.

Talk of becoming a Republic raised its head again. After the success of the SSM postal survey the Prime Minister suggested that might be a good way of assessing the public's interest in changing our status. The monarchists among us immediately started pooping corgis and the PM's thought bubble was quickly dismissed.
However the reality is the Queen is getting on (91 years old) and it has been generally accepted that the end of her reign as Queen of Australia would be a good time to completely break our British ties. Whether this will come to fruition who knows but the Labor Party now in opposition has promised to hold a compulsory plebiscite on the issue if (or more likely, when) they come into power next election in 2019.
After the defeat of the Republic Referendum in 1999 (55:45), I accepted I would never see it happen in my lifetime but there just could be light at the end of the tunnel.
Perhaps the anniversary of our becoming a republic could then be our national day.
It might also be a good opportunity to change the flag and get rid of the British Union Jack in the corner to make severing of our colonial ties complete.
Update 27\1\18: Unprecedented protest rallies against Australia Day across the country yesterday.
Reports here and here.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Vintage 2018 / Update 2

Weather over the summer so far has been a strange mixture of blazing hot and very cool.
Rain has come in downpours generated by some pretty severe thunderstorms. It hasn't been unusual to get 25mm in an hour.
We have also had some very strong winds but no vine damage, just some net tearing.
Having said all that we haven't been under too much disease pressure within the vineyards.
We have been able to spray at suitable intervals and have only used a downy mildew curative once, as a 'just in case'.
There has been no insect pests as usual. Kangaroos remain a problem.

Yields on the Semillon, Tempranillo and non kangaroo eaten Cabernet Sauvignon are excellent while the Pinot Noir is very poor ie. lots of leaves, no fruit.
That could just be caused by the location of the block which is somewhat partially shaded during the day and maybe fruit initiation the previous season was poor because of that.
We will have to wait until next year to see if a similar situation occurs.
I deliberately planted the block in a cooler part of the property to try to get the best out of this cool climate variety. The rows are also orientated east/west instead of the preferred north/south.
Both decisions could have been a mistake.
They are already harvesting Semillon in the Hunter Valley, 350km to the north of us, which has a very similar warm maritime climate. But tests on our fruit have shown low Baume readings so far.
I guess the warmer weather around the Hunter this year has caused this early ripening.
I will wait until I hear that our local premium Semillon producer, Coolangatta Estate, has started their harvest before I do more intensive sugar level testing.

The Tempranillo bud burst was a bit uneven this year so bunches are maturing at varying times. Luckily there is plenty of foliage on the vines so the 'younger' fruit should reach suitable maturity before we run into shrivel problems with the 'older' bunches.
Of course we always run the danger at this time of year of increased rain activity.
This could cause increased disease pressure, fruit splitting and juice dilution.
But we have to live with that in the Shoalhaven.

Monday, January 01, 2018

2017 ∕ That Was the Year That Was

A Happy New Year to all my readers!
The first half of 2017 was a relatively busy time for us.
We had an extended trip to the USA visiting New York and South Dakota as well as a short road trip through western Iowa.
May June seems a good time to go to the USA as all the bad winter weather has gone and the worst of the summer weather is yet to happen.
Our next trip is planned for 2019.
The co driver continued on with her quilting having success in the local show with a number of awards, ending up most successful exhibitor.
Vintage 2017 was a mixed success with the Semillon being very drinkable and in much demand from neighbours and friends.
The reds were a bit of a disappointment.
So far, the 2018 vintage is looking reasonable.

Politically, our conservative government blundered along getting little done. A major distraction was finding numerous members of the upper and lower houses were dual citizens which is illegal under the constitution. Even the deputy prime minister was involved. This lead to resignations and by elections.
The same sex marriage debate took over the country during the last quarter. The Marriage Act had been changed under the Howard government in 2004 preventing this.
It would have been easy enough to change it back in about 30 minutes but the conservative right as part of a delaying tactic insisted first on a plebiscite (which was never going to happen), finally relenting to a non binding postal vote costing the tax payers $115 million. 80% of the population took part with the result 60% for, 40% against.
The Parliament finally did the right thing, with only 5 dissenters and a small number of abstainers, and legalized SSM to unprecedented scenes both on the floor and in the public galleries of the lower house.

Meanwhile our treatment of refugees confined to offshore facilities continues to be a stain on this country's reputation.
When Donald Trump praises our PM for doing well in that area it just shows how bad the situation is.
Another blot on our landscape was the resultant report following the wind up of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.
This inquiry had lasted 5 years. 16,953 people who were within the Terms of Reference contacted the Commission. They heard from 7,981 survivors of child sexual abuse in 8,013 private sessions.
Unfortunately our major religious institutions did not fare well under the microscope.
But they were not the only ones who should hang their heads in shame.
2,562 matters have been referred to police.
In sport our national Rugby team ran hot and cold, our cricket team as usual did well 'at home' but not away. At least they already have regained the Ashes from England in the current test series which will run into 2018,
Locally our Rugby team, the Waratahs, were just awful. But we will persevere again next season.
We enjoyed watching the WSL from many of the great surfing spots around the world with a local woman, Tyler Wright from just up the coast becoming world champion the second time in a row.
No big celebrations from us as usual this year. Our valley is quiet as a mouse.
So it's a warm welcome to 2018.