Friday, December 30, 2011

Boxing Day Test '11

What a test! Bringing this Aussie team back into earning the respect it should - well the all-rounder bowlers at least!

With Belinda delayed from Sydney on Xmas night cos of the crazy Melbourne storms, we postponed the airport pick up til Boxing Day, which made for an early morning start. All set for a start, with the earlier morning rain clearing, and Australia to bat first when we arrived to our AFL Members seats for the day with Cass and Flash and their big crew. A slight, silly momentary rain delay in the middle of the first session, we watched as Ponting started in building an innings. The day ended with the former captain out for 62, and debutant Cowan top scoring.

That night we headed to the Royal Standard for what in becoming a Night 1 Waving The Flag gathering tradition. Lots of catch ups with the ever-growing group, including people I have met in South Africa, the West Indies, and this year's Sri Lanka trip.

Decked in out chick pink, Belinda and I had breakfast on the way in through the city and then met Melissa and Springer for Day 2. Sitting with Luke and the small group on Level 4 of the MCG, we had a pretty fun and silly day. A decent dig by our bowlers with the bat then led to the beginning of the India innings, and the Swarmi Army's excited anticipation for Tendulkar's 100th 100...not to be here though.

After special water at the cricket, the sheilas in pink walked down to Richmond, and had a pint in the front room of the Corner Hotel, before dinner and sangria at Mexicali Rose. The night ended at a disappointing Swan, where a whole lot of nothing was happening. Very sad.

12 wickets fell on Day 3, with a stunning (not the worst) Aussie batting collapse seeing us at 4/27 at one horrific point. The day opened with a pretty exciting hour when the Aussie's had the ball, but it was the failure of our top and middle order batmen that was the tale of the day. Huss and Ponting managed to collect some runs, however, to hold the game in the balance at the end of the day's play.

The best day, of course, was the day I was back at the office, yesterday - with the radio in my ear, doing very little work, given how exciting it was. Australia in a shock win, by 122 runs!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Xmas '11

Wow, Xmas has sped past us again, in a whoosh of frenetic activity, catching up with people, and a rush to get work done before a handful of days off. Still largely in denial that it was really upon us, I have managed to get through the other side of the silly season.

One of my first catch ups was a trip out to visit Andrea, and see Cooper and Charli. Amazingly, gifts for these soon to be 5 year old twins was the first purchase I made in the lead up to Xmas, actually back in October! Unheard of! I popped out to see them, and hang out for the afternoon on my day off. We exchanged gifts, Andrea and I had coffees and caught up, and we even made fake snow with the kids. Was so great to spend this time with them.

Having boycotted the work Xmas party this year in protest of it's less than original idea, and the lack of accommodation for us Regionally based Consultants, I was keen to ensure I enjoyed the lunch planned for Xmas Eve Eve. Having done all that I could for the week, after having some truly harrowing things happen to my clients in the build up to this tough time for people with a mental illness, our Ballarat office headed out to Pipers By The Lake for our lunch.

Here we also exchanged our Shit Kringle gifts....inspired by something I had read, and replacing that silly idea that you can get anything good for someone as a gift for $10. This was very funny, with random exchanges including Xmas toilet paper, a sex shop goodie bag, a tacky Aussie touristy souvenir, and Post Adelaide Football Club Xmas baubles.

After lunch and many white wines, Michelle and I then requested to be dropped off at the Lake View for a continuation of the Xmas white wine in the sun theme. Eventually some of her mates joined us after their Xmas break up, and we went into town for dinner. Michelle and I ended up sitting in the intimate window table for 2 for amazing pizza and more wine, at The Main Bar. One of my favourite places in Ballarat at the moment!

Next we walked back down into Sturt Street as the sun was fading, and introduced Michelle to the amazing Portico on Sturt, where we sampled more wine, chilled band, and awesome atmosphere. Janelle joined us here before we walked across the road to end the night dancing at Irish Murphy's.

Xmas Eve landing on a Saturday called for an afternoon session, so I had booked a table for lunch for Melanie, Renee, Michelle and little Nisha and I, at Lake View, to get started. After lunch, Mel and Renee and I moved to the front room, and settled in for the mini-Ballarat reunion that is Xmas eve out.

Dinner was a Xmas catch up with Dad with the girls and Heath, across the road at the Boatshed. Back across the road for more drinks and catching up with people, Michelle eventually dropped by and drove me home via Katie's and Dave's Xmas lights display.

After all that, Xmas Day was a more subdued usual, with plans to drive down to Melbourne for the cricket. I joined the girls and Heath at Mum's for a (delayed for me) breakfast and gift exchange. We then enjoyed the traditional Xmas lunch spread, before popping out to our Aunt and Uncle's to catch up with the extended family. Back home in the afternoon, a seafood dinner outside in the fading light of the day in the backyard was a perfect way to finish the silly season!

Hope you had a good one!

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Princess Mary in Melbourne

Two weekends ago, I stayed down in Melbourne after a gig, and awoke on the Saturday morning to rain and gloom. That did not detract from the day's plan however, as Jenny and I left the house and headed for Broadmeadows, of all places.

Here, we joined the small gathered crowd under umbrellas to catch a glimpse of the visiting Princess Mary of Denmark, who was attending to launch eSmart, a cyber-anti bullying campaign for children, as part of the Alannah and Madeline Foundation, at the Hume Global Learning Centre.

As the official cars arrived, we saw Mary and husband Prince Frederik arrive, along with Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Victorian Premier Ted Ballieu. Just a quick look at the Princess walking inside, before each of the guests went inside for the launch and lunch.

Jenny and I then left, to catch up over a much overdue brunch in Moonee Ponds.

Australia has definitely been aflutter about Princess Mary, and family's official visit, over the last month. And so many people have been asked why they are so enchanted, and people reply because she's beautiful, etc. Which she is. But the reason she captured my attention is the fact that she is an Aussie country girl, who has met a lad at a pub in Sydney, and married him - to become the future Queen of Denmark! She now has the joy of her 4 beautiful children, has needed to learn Danish language and culture, and lives in a gorgeous palace! The fairytale!

But in addition to this story if that fact that she is a well educated, accomplished Aussie woman, one of four children herself, Mary now has the luxury to work on meaningful projects like being the International Patron of the Alannah and Madeline Foundation, and using their work to share advances in anti-bullying and child safety to school in Denmark, through programs with Save the Children. She is also patron of the Danish Refugee Council, and a host of other foundations working towards women's health issues, arts, refugee and mental health campaigns. She has also launched The Mary Foundation, focusing research, funds and best practice initiatives against bullying and domestic violence. A truly remarkable role model!

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Melbourne Victory v David Beckham

Last night I met Mary in town, and we made our way to Etihad Stadium for the friendly between Melbourne Victory and touring LA Galaxy. Having followed the pandemonium since Becks arrived in Melbourne I, like so many of the crowd, was just there to see him play live.

Of course, this match was originally billed as Harry Kewell verses Becks, which would have been a treat for the eyes. But alas, Harry was interviewed on the sidelines during the match, clearly not taking part.

We arrived just as the teams were lining up, for no actual fanfare, before they separated and dispersed to start the match. As the sun was still in our eyes up on Level 3, in the balmy Melbourne night, we could really only tell when Becks was near the ball by the squeals around the dome, puncturing the otherwise silent crowd. Kind of eerie really, with completely no atmosphere, no home cheersquad.

Melbourne Victory missed some shots early, and then managed to grab a few goals. A penalty involving Becks saw LA score towards the end of the first half, with the Irish Keane slotting it through.

Another penalty to LA, and Keane, after half time, and the scores were even, and that's how it stayed for the remainder of the match. Despite all the substitutions that went on for the second half, Becks stayed on til the last minute of normal time.

A fairly lacklustre game, ending in a penalty shoot out that was not explained to the crowd. A missed opportunity to bring soccer to Melbourne public, surely. The visitors the eventual victors.

It was pretty amazing to see one of the most famous people of the world run around and do what he does, arcing the ball as he does on a couple of occasions. Becks showed a real leadership presence on the field, constantly directing his teammates to where he thought they should be.

After the match he was interviewed on field, although the sound didn't carry through the dome. He then acknowledged the crowd, and after not swapping his jumper with any other player, took his shirt off and picked someone in the crowd to give it to. A full showman act!

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Georgia Fair and Howling Bells

Walking into a near empty Karova on Friday night, Katie and I were asked for ID (!!), and then met by Melanie and Gina for our night of music. Ordering at the bar, we surveyed the handful of people sitting at the tables at the back. Pretty disappointing, given the line up.

Georgia Fair got started, to the empty space in front of them, and gave us a good run through of most of their new album. The boys were engaging nonetheless - but such a contrast gig to the album launch I went to just a few weeks ago.

The headliners for the evening then set up, and the room filled a little more. The Howling Bells' Juanita started the set by beckoning everyone up closer, which helped to fill the front of stage. Playing a mix of their new album material with their older, recognised racks, Broken Bones was played early. A Ballad For The Bleeding Hearts was amazing and Setting Sun was also a stand out of the set.

Juanita talking about playing the last song, and someone called out about it, and she admitted that yeah, they would do the song, go off, come back, and do another, so she decided to skip that silliness and just complete the last song of the set.

Given the small crowd, and the volume of wine consumed, Katie, Gina and I ended up chatting with the band afterwards, thanking them for bringing their live show to little Ballarat, and for not forgetting us. I remember recommending that they stop and take a photo with the Giant Koala on their roadtrip to their next show! Hope they did!
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