Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! Yes. It’s the season of goodwill and Strange Notations from a Laborious Life hopes all of you have had a happy and joyful Christmas and are looking forward to celebrating the end of the year and welcoming in the new. Let’s hope there is plenty of fun and laughter to come in 2018 and our television screens and social media profiles carry a little less of the bad news which has unfortunately intersected with our lives in the last twelve months.
Strange Notations would like to join the festivities and put our own unique stamp on someone’s Christmas and New Year by offering a free giveaway. Yes. Free stuff!
Now don’t get too excited. We are not doing the Oprah Winfrey show and offering all sorts of expensive gifts to you we are simply giving someone the chance to win a peaked cap (pictured above) with the blog title on the front. A little thank you for reading and hopefully something which might come in useful on a sunny day in 2018.
Of course we are not going to let you have one too easily. You will have to answer a question correctly first. I will take the first three correct answers in the feedback section of this blog. Doesn’t matter where you are from. I will happily pay postage if you are not from Australia.
And our question? Well, I am an Australian and a cycling fan so our question will be skewed towards both those things. Please keep reading.
Q. Who is the only Australian to have won the Tour de France?
Now it’s up to you. It’s pretty easy really and even if you don’t know a quick Google search will bring you the answer very swiftly.
I see a list of most popular baby names in Australia for 2017 has been published and it may be of passing interest to some to know that Oliver and Charlotte are the two most fancied for boys and girls respectively.
There does seem to be a throwback to earlier times with William, James and Thomas featuring prominently for the lads and Amelia, Olivia and Grace popping into the top ten in the pink.
Henry at 13 and Harry at 28, Charles at 77, George at 38 and Edward at 48 also make the list showing the continuing royal influence in Australian cultural life. Fletcher and Christian also appear at 91 and 89 respectively although I can’t be sure if many parents are familiar with the main protagonist in the saga of the Mutiny on the Bounty.
Peter’s, John’s and Andrew’s seem to have gone by the bye replaced by much more exotic sounding monikers such as Arlo (52), Beau (70) and Chase (73). Muhammed graces the list at number 80, seemingly the only non-anglo name present. I’m glad I was born in 1970!
Notable for the girls are Ruby (17), Milla (34) and Aaliyah (88) with some old favorites such as Victoria (86) and Florence (97) just managing to scrape in.
But where have all the Matthew’s gone? What’s wrong with us? Matthew’s once ruled the world! Yes, my own name once dominated these lists finishing first or second for many a year and although I prefer the shortened version and have never really had a particular fondness for the name it was nice to be on top of the heap.
One used to run into Matthew’s everywhere and I suppose one still can if mixing in a certain demographic but just hold your horses. Matthew appears to have finished 69th. Respectable I guess but it seems the halcyon days of the Matty’s are gone. Welcome to the future and say G’Day to Ethan (7), Leo (18) and Hudson (23). Tip your hat to Levi (27), Oscar (26) and Carter (75). Please hold the door for Evie (11), Ivy (20) and Ellie (42) and make way for Maddison (26), Addison (62) and Savannah (41).
I suppose it could be worse. Matthew could have gone the way Clarence or Horace, names which are never used anymore. We are still in there fighting. This is a call to arms to all Matthews. Let’s make something of ourselves. Let’s push those barriers and aim for the top ten once more and put ourselves back where we belong. Our challenge, our mission for 2018.
Back from a relatively quickfire trip to Melbourne to see Adele in concert. I don’t need to tell anyone reading this post that Ms Adkins is the biggest singing star in the world at the moment and probably the greatest talent of her generation. You will always get argument of course but no-one else has the ability, charisma, stage presence, personality and iconic songs to match her. Not even Beyonce. A quick check of Twitter profiles sees Adele with 28.7 million followers to Beyonce’s 14.7 million. Telling? Perhaps.
The concert itself was flawless and Adele shows a great command of herself and her show. She sings just as well live as she does on iTunes and has a self-deprecating sense of humour and a potty mouth which, when combined with her working class London accent seem made to go together and cause no offence. Whatever you expect of Adele she will deliver. A self-aware and professional performer who may not even have reached her peak. She’s only 28.
The only other artist I have ever heard who sounded as good live as he did on record was Johnny Cash-one of the legends of popular music who I managed to catch on his last Australian tour in 1992-an experience which has never dimmed in my mind.
Our tickets were in the bleachers at Etihad Stadium so Adele herself was a mere dot in the distance but the large screen above her stage gave us an up close and personal view of her performance and it was impressive to see how hard she was trying. It was her last show in Australia after a long tour but you wouldn’t have known it. An exceptional performer who has probably already attained a legendary status.
We stayed in East Melbourne in a comfortable enough apartment complex just off Victoria Parade. I love this part of Melbourne. Old style homes abound and walking the streets gives a feel of what it must have been like living here many decades when life was simpler but perhaps harder. The old church above in Hotham Street has been converted into apartments and a quick check of real estate prices today revealed that one of those abodes recently sold for 2.5 million dollars!! A little out of my price range.
Explored Bridge Street in Richmond and had dinner in Victoria Street, wandered Fitzroy Gardens and took a tram to St Kilda, pounded the promenade and ventured out onto the pier. A fine weekend shared with our great friends Michael and Julianne.
I hadn’t been in Fitzroy Street St Kilda since I was 14 when my Dad and I came down to follow the Melbourne to Warnambool bike race which started at Port Melbourne that year. Fitzroy Street at the time was noted for it’s frequentation by “Ladies of the Night” back in those days (and I must point out I was well and truly in bed before that sort of business was plied!) but is much more upmarket now and St Kilda is very much a jewel in Melbourne’s glowing crown.
As we were strolling down Fitzroy Street an elderly gentleman rounded the corner in front of us and I immediately recognised him (although it was lost on Linda) as the figure of Ron Barassi, legendary player and coach in the VFL/AFL and probably the most influential figure in the history of Aussie Rules football. Of course I was too scared to accost him and ruin his day by asking for a snap on my iphone but for a sports fan it was a bit like seeing God wandering along the street. We are a bit insulated from sporting heroes here in Canberra. Perhaps they are seen out and about in Melbourne all the time?!
We perused the markets at the end of the street and I bought myself a reasonably expensive hat. I normally wouldn’t fork out $40 on a handmade Panama style piece of headgear but it was as warm as the far side of Venus and a brilliant blue sky was giving the sun plenty of leeway to scorch my skin. Another hour in that heat and you would have mistaken me for a tomato to be sure.
The hat certainly saved me some discomfort even though I felt like a bit of dandy among the beautiful people of St Kilda.
A tram ride home and a short rest and we were off again to the aforementioned night with Adele and were all suitably satisfied.
Monday dawned steamy but wet and yet the weather had cleared a little by the time we boarded the flight home. As if sighting one living legend of Australian sport wasn’t enough, providence granted that we should sight another on our flight home. Adam Gilchrist, the heroic, legendary wicketkeeper/batsman was sitting in business class, two seats in front of us. Linda of course had no idea why I was pointing out the tall and lean stranger and gasping at the fact yet another famous face had appeared in our path on our short trip away. She claimed she had heard of him yet she surely wasn’t as incredulous as I at the close encounter. Again, I left Mr Gilchrist to his own devices and noted that he was accosted by a cricket fan at the baggage carousel and was suitably polite and friendly considering the interloper was trying to coax him into a surely unwanted conversation about cricket. Nice to know he lives up to his reputation as a nice guy.
And that was my weekend. Legends, friends and the sights of a great city rolled into one. One can’t ask for much more.
I had a nice acknowledgement from the author of the new book “Mrs Kelly”, Grantlee Kieza who read my last post and concluded that the Kelly story will be debated for centuries. I certainly don’t agree with some of his conclusions but can still acknowledge the value of his work. Our national identity and character is still being created, we are after all a young nation and talking about one of our great stories and looking at it from different perspectives only contributes to our national narrative. May it long continue.
I also had a reply from someone who is most decidedly an anti-Kelly zealot. A lady who runs a blog which seems to have an aim of destroying the Kelly myth. Now that’s okay. To each his own and differing opinions are allowed in this great nation of course but I must say she did get a little personal but I have found that arguing with people with such entrenched views is pointless. She is obviously very well researched and that’s great and difficult to counter but she reads history with a different eye to me. Having several relatives who have served time in prison for capital offences and having seen the way a small element of the judiciary and law enforcement abuse their authority has perhaps blurred my vision of the Kelly legend. So be it. Some view the story in black and white. I see it in shades of grey.
Any great national story is open for debate and we have seen recently with Australia Day passions rising on both sides of a debate about the validity of celebration of the European settlement of this continent. Anzac Day is another which often stirs controversy although the sanctity of the occasion often mutes opposition to the commemoration.
The United States is ripe for such controversy given their tumultuous history and one only has to study events such as the battles at The Alamo or Little Big Horn to see passions rise and verbal fisticuffs on display. The rise of folk hero Davy Crockett who died fighting the Mexican army in Texas is a fascinating display of myth-making.
Of course these people died a long time before I was born. I never knew them. The chapter of that book is closed. Their travails have no effect on the life I live so I don’t see the point of getting too wound up about history. I enjoy it but I would like to influence the future not the past.
The building of myths and legends is what makes up the living organism of a nation. The nation which deny’s it’s myths and legends is barely a nation at all. Of course there is always a more prosaic explanation for any event and men and women, heroes and villains are sometimes seen through a lens of national desire, needs or wants.
Good authors will keep poking at our history and produce good work. Then it’s up to us to read what they say and then make up our minds. Be adventurous and grab a history book. Our own story is pretty inspiring.
The Olympics are over. The five ringed circus which captivates most of the world is pulling up stumps and sending it’s advance party to Tokyo, the scene of it’s next orgy of sport, drama and corruption in 2020.
I used to get worked up about the Games and while I still watch a bit of it the cynic in me takes over nowadays and I wonder if the the Olympic movement has outlived it’s usefulness and purpose. Nothing lasts forever-not the strongest empires nor the hardiest of hearts. Why should the Olympic Games be any different?
Olympic ideals were shredded long, long ago and it seems that we tie our national self worth up in a bundle with Australian pride and measure it in the amount of gold medals we win. Not silver, not bronze. Gold, gold, gold.
We are not the only nation which does this although I think sport is hardly as important today in the Australian psyche as it was even twenty years ago. But eight Australian Olympic champions is apparently too few as far as the powers that be are concerned;too much money has been spent for too little return. Sports funding will be looked at. Heads are on the chopping block. Our natural sporting enemy-the Brits-have become a an international sporting powerhouse and those pesky little Kiwis crept up on us on the medal table and had their best ever haul. Australians are seen by our greatest rivals as sportingly inept. The Wallabies are a national joke. The cricketers were whitewashed in Sri Lanka. Quick! Declare an emergency! Let’s rip money off health, school and infrastructure spending and channel it into our national sporting teams. Maybe, if we gear our national strategy towards “total sport” and put our economy on a war footing, all taxes being committed towards the prosecution of sporting excellence then perhaps our national pride can be restored. Who needs schools or roads? Let sick people die. We only need the strongest, the fittest, the fastest in our new Orwellian Australia. But, was it really that bad?
Australia finished about tenth on the medal table with 29 medals, 8 of them gold. This was far short of what the Australian Olympic Committee predicted or expected but you take a few hits at the Games. A couple of close and unlucky quarter-final losses put out some of our teams who were expected to do well and some of our swimmers didn’t perform as well as hoped in their pet events. Our cycling program was a disaster but I predicted it would be but all the nations which finished above us have populations far larger than Australia’s and of comparable nations only Holland can be mentioned in the same breath in terms of success although we beat them too.
New Zealand did very well with 18 medals, five of them gold and are telling all and sundry that per capita, they are the greatest sporting nation on earth. Cringe inducing yet not unlike the self-conscious Australia of twenty years ago.
Of course the key to all this is money. Money buys you sporting expertise, scientific training and medical procedures which other countries can’t afford or aren’t willing to pay for. Britain finished second on the medal table, only the United States being superior and ahead of China-their national lottery system which pays for sport in the United Kingdom proving it’s worth in the wake of being got up for the 2012 London Games. Best of luck to them. If they want to spend that sort of cash for two weeks of national pride every four years then more power to them. But I’m content with the way we have gone even if there has been some disappointment.
I’m happy with the amount of investment we are putting into sport and if that equates to us “only” finishing tenth on the medal tally at the Games then so be it. If we are forced to take slings and arrows from the Brits and Kiwis for our perceived failings in sport then let them come. We still live in a great nation.
I would rather investment in things which really matter. Art and science. Innovation and technology. Let Australia be among the world’s best in these things. Let’s sharpen minds as well as bodies. And let’s not stake our national self-worth on a sporting orgy of dubious authenticity and relevance.
Enjoy the Olympics by all means but remember-it’s only a game.
Photo of the day is the old Exhibition Building in Melbourne, just outside the CBD. The photo was taken this last weekend during my latest trip to Melbourne which Linda and I undertook with friends, ostensibly to watch some AFL football. There use to be a velodrome out the front of this building before the Second World War. It was used before the North Essendon board track was built. It is of course most famous for being the building which held the first sitting of Australia’s Federal Parliament in 1901, an event made famous by Tom Roberts’ painting. Very historic indeed.
Of course it’s back to reality now. Back to work. I’m tired. I’m aching. I have a long term problem with my foot which can only be from standing up on concrete floors all day. I’ve woken up with a stiff and sore middle finger on my right hand. Not sure what that is from (it’s not from flipping the bird!) but it’s a little swollen from my knuckle to the joint of the finger. My back is sore which is nothing unusual and I really would just like to stay home rather than go through the motions one more time today. Alas, it’s not to be and I will struggle on though my heart won’t be in it.
I have often wondered about people who claim to love their job. Do they really mean it? Is there really such a person who jumps out of bed every morning, chomping at the bit, keen to race the rat, willing to give their soul for the greater good and the benefit of someone else? Surely they would rather stay at home and watch the telly, surf the net, do anything rather than face 8 more hours of emasculation at the hands of a Nazi love child?
Of course there are plenty of ambitious folk who get satisfaction from what they do and that is what is missing in my work life I guess. Just going through the motions every day hardly makes you feel worthwhile. Achieving something, or I suppose believing you are doing so is just the tonic for making work bearable. A modicum of satisfaction relieves the monotony I guess.
Was it John Lennon who said “life is what happens while you are planning other things”? It is very true. It just takes a long time for those “other things” to roll around. Anyway, I’m still alive, in relatively good health and the future is promising. Now, if I can only find a way to become one of those people who loves their job.
Hope you all are enjoying your work today. Take care.
Sometimes I wish I didn’t like cycling so much. The sport at the top professional level is still soaked in dope and invested by double standards. Convicted dopers will ride the Olympic Games road race yet others guilty of the same offence have been ordered to stay at home. The reigning women’s world champion who missed three out of competition doping tests and was provisionally suspended as a result has had her ban lifted because the first test wasn’t conducted using the correct procedure. So much for rules! If she wasn’t British imagine what the anglophiles would be saying about it? She has been almost unbeatable this year. That will be one tarnished Olympic gold medal in my opinion should she win it.
Chris Froome won another Tour de France in a style reminiscent of a certain Texan whose name is now never to be mentioned. But Froome wouldn’t dope. He just trains harder. Wants it more. He’s a once in a lifetime athlete. He’s a nice guy and he says he has never done anything illegal. Blah, blah, blah. We’ve heard it all before and been lied to a thousand times. If it walks like a duck, talks like a duck, it’s probably a duck.
My enthusiastic grip on the sport has loosened a little. I didn’t watch every stage of the Tour this year.These days my life catches up with me sometimes and I actually get tired.Maybe it’s me who needs a shot of EPO?! I can’t be bothered sitting up to all hours watching the metronomic precision of Team Sky as four of their domestiques grind the competition into the ground killing the race as a spectacle. And Froome just sits there, twiddling his little gear. He looks like he is riding to work.
Of course there are many who will turn a blind eye or simply don’t believe that these sporting giants have feet of clay. So be it. I won’t attempt to change your opinion if you leave me to mine but there are times I just wish I didn’t like cycling so much.
I’ll still be watching the Olympics, cringing as jingoistic, nationalistic pride overwhelms the nation when we win our 104th gold medal in the pool. (God, those swimmers have white teeth! Does anyone else actually compete in the Olympics?!) But for me, the dark cloud of doping will still hang over the games. But I’ll be another one who turns a blind eye. I’ll enjoy the sport, I just won’t take the results very seriously.
It was interesting to hear the comments of Australia’s chief sporting official at the Games, Kitty Chiller when asked about doping bans which have been applied to Russian athletes. She replied that those Russian cheats won’t be competing against our clean Australian athletes. Gulp! Let’s hope these aren’t famous last words.
Not the greatest photo ever taken to be sure but it conveys some of the scene which greeted Canberrans when they awoke yesterday. Shot from my bedroom window it shows the snow covered hills of the Tuggeranong Valley with a solid cover of the white stuff;the roof of the house in the foreground also showing significant snowfall-heavier than I have seen in a long time.
What the photo doesn’t show is the the fact that it was still snowing as I depressed the shutter and did so for a fair while longer, causing many a crash across the city as commuters struggled to work in conditions alien to them.
I drove Linda to work. She was worried that icy conditions may impede her driving whilst she struggles with her sore shoulder. She was obviously confident in my ability to handle the slick stuff. It wasn’t the snow which made life difficult on the run into town. It was my fellow drivers! Yes, Canberrans can’t help but tailgate at the best of times and the icy conditions made no difference to several who seemed to want to get a good gander at the bumper bar of Linda’s car. We managed to avoid any collisions despite the best intentions of our companions on the road and I made it home in one piece.
I was actually quite ill yesterday. I had picked up a cold the day before and it had worsened overnight. Normally I would have struggled in to work and made the most of it but the fact that I had been required to drive the forklift outside for half an hour on Monday and Tuesday made my decision to stay home an easy one. Mucking around outside on a five degree day with possible snow flurries sweeping across the capital wasn’t part of my plan for Wednesday. A runny nose and pounding head aren’t the greatest requisite for operating powered equipment not to mention the stupidity of working outside when you are sick. So I stayed home and am all the better for it today.
The day is much nicer today. Still cold but a warmish sun is making life a lot more pleasant for us. The snow has melted off the low hills but the ramparts of the Brindabellas still have a fresh cover and create an appealing vista as you drive into the Tuggeranong Valley.
I am feeling much better and will toddle off to work in a couple of hours. Hope the day is fine wherever you all are and I will be back again soon.
To Brexit or not to Brexit, that was the question. Of course the question has been answered and the rest of world doesn’t like it. Britain is leaving the European Union.
Yes, a referendum which Prime Minister David Cameron called to shore up his own position in the British Conservative Party back in 2013 has backfired spectacularly-costing him his job and sending jitters around the world. Britain, riding on the back of fear of open borders and immigrants taking jobs and promoting terrorism and a feeling the European Parliament is impinging on the British sovereign right to govern herself, voted narrowly to cut ties with the continent.
The “Remain” campaign seemed on course for a victory as the polls closed but the only vote that counts is the one on election day-and an upset ensued.
From a distance here in Australia I hadn’t taken a lot of notice. We are too far away from Europe to be looking at the minutiae of everyday politics in the United Kingdom but we are certainly taking some notice now.
The recriminations started soon after the earthquake subsided. The Prime Minister, his reputation and credibility in tatters, resigned the morning after the vote. Londoners, much more cosmopolitan and progressive than the rest of the country voted overwhelmingly to stay and thus many denizens of that great metropolis, feeling emasculated, have signed a petition calling for London to secede from the United Kingdom(!).
Many people from the Remain camp, almost predictably, have poured scorn on those who voted to leave calling them racist and lamenting that uneducated people have the right to vote. So much for an inclusive democracy. Britain hasn’t been so divided since King Charles I lost his head thanks to Oliver Cromwell!
It seems to be a habit in the modern world that the defeated party in such scenarios resort to insult and petty put down after the event. Is having a different opinion really an indication of stupidity or racism on the part of your opponent? Is being worried about open borders and the threat of terrorism really an invitation to be called horrid names?
Any campaign which so bitterly divides a nation leads to lies and misdirection being thrown into the public domain and I daresay both sides of the debate were guilty of such things. But plenty of intelligent people voted for and supported Brexit so it wasn’t just the ignorant unwashed who decided they didn’t want their future decided in Brussels.
I can understand the fears of those who voted to leave. I even agree with some of their argument about the European Union and it’s flaws. It’s beyond the scope of this blog to discuss the reasons for or against remaining in the European Union but I must say I probably would have voted to maintain the status quo. I think there is strength in unity in these troubled times and surely problems can be worked out from the inside rather than by erecting walls and barriers.
I think, despite prophecies of doom and gloom from the defeated and the insulted, that Britain will survive and probably prosper despite bidding farewell to union with the EU. Time will tell of course but it will be ironic if the greatest danger comes from within. Scotland voted overwhelmingly to remain and it seems only a matter of time before a push to break away from the UK is resumed. Northern Ireland also voted to remain and although the likelihood of them abandoning Britain and throwing their lot in with Eire is low, there must be some discomfort in Ulster at the result.
Most of all I wish the people of the United Kingdom of Great Britain all the best. For a thousand years they have bent history to their will and they are doing it again. Once again they are showing the world that they can’t be ignored. For better or worse they have made their choice.
I’ve been perusing the employment pages today and it is always sobering to realize I have no sale-able skill in anything! Even the smallest of administration jobs need a prospective employee to understand office applications on a computer. There was a cleaning job going at Defence headquarters at Bungendore. Night cleaner. Hhmm. I’ll keep looking for a while thanks.
Then again, I can run a Barcode Sorter, A Culler Facer Canceller machine, a letter sequencing machine, can sort mail by hand and drive a forklift. That’s a skill set the average punter can’t deliver! Unfortunately, in the real world, apart from driving a forklift, none of these skills can help me find another job.
Speaking of forklift driving, I was required to do my first spell on the machine at work yesterday. I can’t say I was nervous. Just a little wary of myself. It would be easy to drop something and the ground outside is very uneven and I had to make sure I didn’t run into any bollards or concrete posts. I was slow but I managed it without a problem. I just have to remember the little things. Turn headlights on. Check where I am going. Don’t go too fast in a turn with a load. Don’t drive with the forks raised. Don’t drop anything!! God, wouldn’t there be a hullabaloo if I did? Anyway, all went without incident and it was good to actually get some time on the machine. Experience is invaluable.
I could skill up a bit more I suppose. Do some courses, online or in person. But I am too lazy. I lose interest. My mind wanders. I may be stuck where I am for the duration. What a horrible thought.
I did a course in Freelance writing a couple of years ago. It is probably something I could try to do for a living. But again, interviewing people and dealing with editors, setting prices etc, is not something I would be pro-active in. Then there is research-another sore point for me.
I suppose I could try and do some writing that may sell. There is a myriad of jobs for writers out there although I am not sure if I am a fit writing for companies or copywriting. I could try short story writing. I don’t think novels are my thing. Maybe photo-journalism? I suppose I would have to buy a camera?
I’m open to any suggestions for writing topics. Drop me a line if you would like me to research and write something on this blog. Totally free of charge of course. I also have a Facebook page for my blog and you can drop me a line there too. Just search for @matthewsumnersblog on Facebook.
So, on a cold, blustery and windy Canberra day I will bid you farewell. Hope to hear from you soon.