Friday, September 30, 2011

Running away from home

A few weeks ago I ran away from home. It was about ten to five in the afternoon and I had to do a couple of jobs down the street anyway.
Max and Sam had been having a fight involving the biffing of various objects at one another as siblings do. Predictably it ended in tears with both brothers denying any wrongdoing. Clearly in my mind one of my sons wasn’t telling the truth. This reluctance to accept responsibility managed to transform me in the briefest of nanoseconds from “Happy Mother of the Year” to one very angry and frustrated parent; picture the female equivalent of Lord Voldemort (the most powerful dark wizard of all time in the Harry Potter series). I informed them they were both grounded until further notice and only just managed to stop myself from saying till they were eighteen.
Declining Henry’s offer to come with me, I grabbed my keys, glared at my children and quoting Captain Lawrence Oates of Antarctic exploration fame, said “I am just going outside and may be some time”. Unlike Captain Oates I didn’t leave my tent and head into a blizzard and certain death. I headed down the street in my trusty Nissan Wagon for a bit of “me time”. Had I been a bloke this “me time” would possibly have turned into a trip to the pub and the companionship of my mates, it was nearly 5pm after all. Sadly I conceded the pub may not be the best choice for a single mother having a meltdown, so I went off in search of friends instead.
Finding my friend Ilka down the street, she empathised with me about the frustration of being a parent and the naughtiness of offspring, however she was on her way home to cook dinner. Drats!
Completing my down-the-street jobs of dropping off paperwork with the accountant and purchasing a smoke alarm I decided I was not yet in a happy enough frame of mind to resume my parental responsibilities. So I called around to my friend Joy’s childfree home. She put the kettle on but then reconsidered and opened a bottle of 2007 Restdown Shiraz instead.
There’s nothing like talking things through with a friend to help you get some perspective. Together we made a list of all the things that were worrying me and agreed it was a minor miracle I wasn’t in a foetal position on the floor crying and that really, being grumpy with my children and walking away for an hour or so wasn’t all that bad. We also made a list of all the good things going on in my life and in true Libran style I managed to make the lists balance. On some occasions my fuse is far too short to count to ten.
Sometimes walking away from a situation is the best way to calm down and recharge your batteries.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

What it's like to skydive

Terminal velocity are two words that really shouldn’t be in the same sentence….. not when you’re about to go skydiving. (Apparently a skydiver in a belly to earth free-fall position reaches a speed of about 195 km/h before the chute opens). Last Saturday the Elders weather site was predicting a near perfect forecast for Nagambie and I was booked to jump out of a plane at 14,000 feet.
My ground support crew comprised Max, Sam and Henry, co-driver “GPS” Jane and Squadron Leader Edgar Pickles DFC & Bar, by 8.30am we were on the road to an excellent adventure. The plan was to enjoy a sumptuous lunch at Plunkett Fowles Winery at midday followed by skydiving at 2pm. However we arrived about an hour ahead of schedule, so at the urging of my youngest son we popped out to Skydive Nagambie via the historic Kirwans Bridge to see if it would be possible to jump before lunch (Henry was concerned that lunch might make me too heavy for the parachute ….he knows what my appetite is like).
Stepping out at the drop zone you could almost smell the adrenalin. There were skydivers everywhere and I thought I would have Buckley’s chance of jumping early. I introduced myself to Louise (Accelarated Free Fall Instructor, Drop Zone Safety Officer and Drop Zone Operator), she smiled and said “No problem, you’ll be in the next load; it leaves in 15 minutes”. I was quickly introduced to my new best friend, Tandem Master Ryan who fitted a harness to me and then went over the sequence of moves we would perform once we exited the plane. Then it was big hugs with the boys and the rest of my support crew before climbing aboard the PAC 750XL turboprop and beginning our ascent to 14,000 feet.
Finally we reached the required height, the door opened and the solo jumpers exited. Suddenly it was our turn.

Cameraman Jono stepped outside and gave me the thumbs up, Ryan sat on the door ledge and I hung out into the abyss, feeling reasonably secure in the harness. Ryan tipped forwards and we were out. 

The noise of the wind was incredible as we headed south; Jono seemed to be buzzing around us like a demented blowfly with a camera and I hoped my top was modestly in place. We did a few 360 degree spins and the ground still seemed a long way away. After about a minute of free-falling (the longest 60 seconds in history), Ryan pulled the ripcord; it felt as though we were being sucked back up as the canopy opened and rapidly slowed our descent. The noise ceased and we floated down at a leisurely pace, enjoying the incredible view of the countryside and the glorious spring sunshine.
Ryan steered us safely in for landing, which was less scary than I had been anticipating. Earlier that morning I had read a quote by Captain Charles W. Purcell “Out of 10,000 feet of fall, always remember that the last half inch hurts the most”. At that point I decided to stop all research into skydiving until after I had completed my jump. My friend Rossco, an aeronautical engineer and ex-paratrooper had told me their motto was “Knowledge Dispels Fear” I had replied that I preferred my own motto of “Ignorance is Bliss” when it came to jumping out of a plane.
Back on the ground and very happily reunited with Max, Sam, Henry, Jane and Edgar, we headed off for our very delicious lunch. All in all an amazing life experience that I wouldn’t mind repeating.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Where our food comes from

Where our food comes from and educating urban Australia. Two generations or approximately 50 years ago, the majority of Australians still had close ties with the bush. They either lived on a farm or had grandparents, close relatives or friends who lived on a farm. For many city kids back then, the school holidays meant a trip to the bush to catch up with their country cousins. They had the opportunity to experience milking the cows, feeding the chooks and collecting the eggs, picking the fruit and vegetables, seeing a sheep, steer, chook or pig being killed to provide the meat for the family. Sadly, today this is not the case.
It would appear there is a growing number of people in urban Australia who are anti-agriculture, in particular anti-animal agriculture. I suspect this may be due largely to the fact that many urbanites are disconnected from the bush and simply don’t understand how the food in their supermarkets got there.
The vast majority of Australian farmers were horrified along with the rest of Australia when the Four Corners program broke the news earlier this year on the way cattle were being slaughtered in a small number of Indonesian abattoirs. Clearly something needed to be done quickly to assist these abattoirs in achieving a best practice standard that the majority of Indonesian abattoirs already maintained.
The Australian government’s decision to abruptly suspend all live export of cattle to Indonesia not only affected Australian farmers and the multitude of businesses and their employees that are linked to primary production but the people of Indonesia who rely on Australia to provide 25% of their beef. Australia effectively cut off a food supply to another country. How would we have felt if roles had been reversed and it had been Indonesia supplying us with 25% of our beef?
On a brighter note, rural tourism in the form of Farmer’s Markets are experiencing rapid growth and popularity. Reaching more of the Australian population and encouraging face-to-face communication between the city and townsfolk and the farmers who produce the food.
Thanks to the hard work of a dedicated few, our district is holding it’s very first Koondrook Barham Farmer’s Market this Sunday at James Park near the bridge in Koondrook. On the same day is the Koondrook Spring & Car Boot Sale in Apex Park. Start at one market and head down the Koondrook River Statue Walk, through the historic Arbuthnot Sawmill to the other. Invite your city friends, make a weekend of it and bridge the city/country divide.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Bucket lists and trivia nights

Last Friday night I arrived home almost victorious from my first ever trivia night. My apologies to my table for my mistaken belief that a barrow was the term used for a neutered male donkey…… if only we’d had a hog farmer on our table…. or if only I’d listened to the greater knowledge of local butcher Rohan who was sitting next to me… What an excellently funny night organised by the Barham Primary School as a fundraiser. To the amazement of some of my friends, I had never before attended a trivia night and had in fact announced it was “on my bucket list”.
How many of us have a list either written down or stored in our minds, of things we want to do, achieve or experience one day? The phase “bucket list” became widely known following a 2007 film of the same name starring Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman. The two central characters are both very ill and compile a list of things they want to do before they “kick the bucket” and then set about accomplishing each thing.
Around the first week in January I like to compile a “List of Goals” for the coming year and it never fails to give me satisfaction to review the previous year’s list and tick a few things off. I am a bit of a fan of lists in general; shopping lists, things I must do before the day is out lists, household chores lists, bookwork lists, things to plant in my veggie garden lists, how to spend thirty million dollars when I win first division lotto lists.….
Having a bucket list is a way of reminding us of what we want to achieve in this life. Reviewing it on a regular basis keeps us on the path to achieving our goals and having some excellent life experiences along the way. So often we put things off, using excuses like; it’s not the right time, I’m not old enough, I have to finish school first, I can’t afford to take time off work, I don’t have the money, the children are too small, I’m not fit enough yet, I’ll do that when I retire. Bucket list ideas need not be all “big ticket” items like climbing Mt Kosciuszko, travelling the Trans-Siberian railway from Vladivostok to Moscow or jumping out of a plane at 14,000 feet (although it’s great to have a few of those on there too), include some easily achieved, simple fun things that you’ve never done before like attending a trivia night, playing a game of lawn bowls before you turn 20, 50 or 100, climb to the top of Pyramid Hill, hire a kayak and go for a paddle on the river, walk around the Barham Lake with a friend.
If you haven’t already done so, I highly recommend an outing to the Golden Rivers Theatre Group’s “Pride & Prejudice” for an evening or afternoon matinee of beautiful singing, fine acting and laugh out loud humour. Our talented local thespians and their equally talented production team are at it again with their annual performance. Just watching the hilarious array of facial expressions produced by Catherine Dawson aka Mrs Bennett is a treat in itself.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Why our kids can't win (or lose)

AFL recommendations for junior players and why the Raiders Under 11s can’t lose…… or win.
For the past two seasons our Under 11 football team has been prevented from losing or winning thanks to the wisdom of the Central Murray Football Netball League’s Board of Management.
The Central Murray Board has submissively followed an AFL recommendation “to make junior football less competitive and remove the pressure from the younger players”. What they haven’t said, but is commonly acknowledged at club level, is this recommendation came about because of poor crowd behaviour in some areas of Melbourne.
Poor crowd behaviour is not an issue for clubs within the CMFNL. Perhaps we are just a happier bunch up here in the country with a stronger sense of community? Or maybe we have a better grasp on good sportsmanship? Despite this fact the Central Murray Board still insisted the clubs follow their ruling of no scoring, no ladder and no premiership for the Under 11s. Despite the fact that none of the then 12 clubs within the CMFNL wanted those AFL recommendations adopted. I question the role of the Central Murray Board and if their dictatorship style of management is beneficial for the future of football? Was their decision to follow AFL recommendations purely based on the promise of financial kickbacks from the AFL?
Speaking with the Raiders Under 11s super coach, Shane “Jumbo” Guerra last week, he emphasised the importance to young players of both winning and losing. Stating while everyone wants to win, there are often more lessons to be learnt when you lose.
Anyone listening to Jumbo’s coaching advice to his young players at training on a Wednesday night or at a game on a Saturday morning, cannot help but be impressed with the strong respect he commands and the excellent sportsmanship he instils. Listening to the way some people speak to their contemporaries, parents, teachers or employers, respect and sportsmanship are important life lessons that appear to be on the wane in many areas of modern society.
Under 11s football is not Auskick. These players are fully paid members of the Koondrook Barham Football & Netball Club and yet they are denied the opportunity to play competitively in an official sense. In a world where concern is growing about the decreasing resilience of our young people and the rise of the “Nanny State”, I question how removing healthy competition is beneficial to our children?
U11 Raiders at Nyah, June 2011