Friday, June 29, 2012

Royal Ascot and Black Caviar

Black Caviar coming down the straight at Royal Ascot

Behind the Barr in Britain

Last week Edgar and I successfully travelled to the other side of the world aboard one of Qantas’ massive Airbus A380 aeroplanes. The lie-flat seats of Business Class certainly helped to minimise jetlag. When we touched down at Heathrow we were invited up into the cockpit to meet our pilot, Captain Woodward. To Edgar’s delight he was allowed to sit in the “driver’s seat” and discuss at length the plane’s flying capabilities and technical details.

It is amazing being in London with all its history and magnificent architecture. This extraordinary city was founded over two thousand years ago and today has a population of nearly eight million people. Last Friday we visited St Paul’s Cathedral for a couple of tranquil hours. First founded in 604 AD, the magnificent present day building was designed by Christopher Wren and completed in 1710.

Certainly it is a building that allows you to feel closer to God. I very nearly got a whole lot closer… as we were leaving I wanted to cross the street to get a better photograph. Believing I was crossing a one-way street, it wasn’t until a loud blast from the horn of a large (and very close) red double-decker bus coming the other way that I realised my mistake. Was it divine intervention that allowed me to run faster than Sam Barr in his 100m dash at the Barham High School’s Athletic Carnival earlier this year? Or did I hear a mighty voice say softly, “Damn, missed again.” ?!

On Saturday Edgar and I dressed in our finest outfits and set out for Royal Ascot catching the train from Waterloo Station. The first race meeting ever held at Ascot took place over three hundred years ago on 11 August 1711 and was instigated by Queen Anne. Royal Ascot is held annually over five days with members of the British Royal Family attending each day.

Ron Clark and his family met us at Ascot train station and took us to the Macdonald Berystede Hotel for coffee and a chat before the races.
Edgar with Ron Clark

Ron and Edgar had both flown together in 100 Squadron during World War II and this was the first time they had seen each other since the war ended. We spent a great hour with Ron and his family before being transported to Royal Ascot where we joined 60,000 people who had also come to see Australia’s champion mare Black Caviar race in front of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

We spent the afternoon in the Furlong Club where we enjoyed excellent views of the day’s racing. Seats were at a premium so while Edgar went off in search of champagne I hunted down a couple of spare seats next to some fellow race-goers; I introduced myself to Aileen, Carol and Adrian who had come down from Suffolk to watch the races. They were great people and very welcoming, pouring me a glass of Pimm’s before I’d even had a chance to sit down.

Around 2pm the Queen, Duke of York and other members of the British Royal Family arrived in horse-drawn open carriages. Rain threatened but fortunately it held off until the Royals had completed their parade. At 3pm I left Edgar with our bottle of French Champagne and took my camera to the mounting yard to catch a glimpse of BC before her big race.

Arriving back at The Furlong Club (quite a distance from the mounting yard), I found that Edgar had managed to secure a prime viewing spot on the outside balcony next to a beautifully statuesque blonde named Dawn and her husband Paul. The atmosphere was one of extreme excitement and anticipation as the horses jumped from the starting barrier.

By the time the horses had come into the home straight the cheering had reached a fevered pitch. From where we were watching it looked as though Black Caviar had started her final sprint a little too early and suddenly the two French horses Moonlight Cloud and Restiadargent where closing the gap with alarming speed. It was about then (had I thought of it at the time), that it may have been appropriate for me to quote the line from “My Fair Lady” as recited by the late Audrey Hepburn and shout, “Move your bloomin’ arse!”

A subdued mood descended upon the crowd as we all anxiously awaited the results of the photo finish. The suspense nearly killed me and I along with the rest of the crowd let out a collective sigh of relief when Black Caviar was announced as the winner.

After the last race The Queen Alexandra Stakes, the day concluded in the finest of English traditions, with singing around the Bandstand. We were provided with complimentary union jack flags and songbooks with the words to classics such as Rule Britannia, Land of Hope and Glory and the British National Anthem. It was an uplifting experience to hear thousands of merry race goers singing along together.

Getting back to Ascot train station was looking like a logistical nightmare for Edgar and his wheelie walker amongst the thousands of people. Our new found friend Dawn came to the rescue and flagged down a police car, who then pulled over a hire car and directed the driver to take us to the station before picking up his pre-booked customers. Once at the station yet more police guided us through the masses and got us safely onto the train.

Our memorable day ended with a late dinner at the Wolseley Hotel, just down the road from our accommodation at The Royal Air Force Club, Piccadilly.
Edgar and I at Royal Ascot

Friday, June 22, 2012

EAEEAE: Edgar and Annie's Excellent Epic Adventure to England

Edgar and Annie’s Excellent Epic Adventure to England (EAEEAE).

While you are reading this today (assuming all has gone well), Edgar and I are now in sunny England. As The Bridge was going to the printers on Wednesday evening, Edgar and I were arriving at Heathrow Airport, 6.35am London time.

Tomorrow (Saturday) we will be attending Royal Ascot to see Black Caviar in her international debut, racing in front of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II in the 1200m Diamond Jubilee Stakes.
Hopefully I will have found a suitable hat to compliment my frock.

Max, Sam and Henry had suggested I take my Moulamein Races bucket hat. The idea appealed to me because on the plus side, a Moulamein Races bucket hat would travel exceedingly well. However on the minus side, it may not be quite within the dress standards at Royal Ascot… perhaps if I attached a wide ribbon in Black Caviar’s racing silks colours of salmon pink with black polka dots?

Last week I successfully managed to spend a good deal of my time in a state of denial and procrastination. With Edgar in hospital with a sore toe I genuinely thought the EAEEAE might turn into The Greatest Adventure… That Almost Happened.

If it were not for the unswerving dedication of all the team at the Barham Hospital and Community Health, in particular Angie and our very patient doctors this excellent epic adventure may never have eventuated.

It took me until Sunday afternoon to emerge from denial and bask in that warm fuzzy feeling that is optimism; by Sunday night my bag was packed (sort of). As I type this it is Monday afternoon (18th June) and I can tell you all unequivocally that I will breathe a sigh of relief when we board the QANTAS flight QF9 tomorrow afternoon… and I sink down onto my very own business class seat. Wish you were here.

Friday, June 15, 2012

The Red Gum Food Group Festival

“A thriving household depends on the use of seasonal produce and the application of common sense.” Olivier de Serres (French agronomist sometimes referred to as the father of French agriculture 1539-1619).
Enjoying seasonal produce is one of life’s most simple and healthiest pleasures. Tender fresh herbs and baby new potatoes in spring, thirst quenching watermelons and ruby red grapefruit in the height of summer, Barham Avocados’ giant creamy Reed avocados and crisp new season apples in autumn and the arrival of mandarins and sugar snap peas at the commencement of winter are some of my personal favourites.
Beginning next Thursday 21st June, our inspirational seasonal produce producing foodies, the Red Gum Food Group will be holding their first big workshop festival, conducting twelve different workshops and events over four days.
The impressive array of workshops include learning all about succession vegetable planting and composting at Barham Primary School’s Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden; curry making; sourdough bread making at Barham High School; matching wine with food; a winery tour and wetlands walk at Jo and Don Hearn’s Restdown Winery; talks by acclaimed food writer and The Age newspaper columnist Richard Cornish; a family (food) movie night at the Faulkner Pavilion; making pasta and cheeses; join a panel of experts to discuss Australia’s Food Security; cooking with fire… culminating in an undoubtedly hotly contested camp oven cook off on the Sunday. Organizers are hoping to entice the district’s many enthusiastic weekend camp oven cooks out into the open for the afternoon competition (you know who you are).
With Club Barham holding their very popular annual four-day Jazz Festival at the same time (next Thursday to Sunday), locals and visitors alike can relish food together with great music by attending a mix of both events. Food, fire and music, is there a better way to enjoy wintertime?
Next Tuesday if all goes according to plan Edgar and I will be setting off on our epic excellent adventure to the other side of the world. With the itinerary looking nothing short of spectacular… keep watching this space.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Attending the AAMT National Conference

A couple of weeks ago I attended the Australian Association of Massage Therapists (AAMT) National Conference for the first time. This year Melbourne hosted the conference at the Melbourne Convention Centre situated on the banks of the Yarra River, a short walk from the Melbourne central business district.

Like many other professions within the healthcare industry, remedial massage therapists must earn a specific number of Continuing Professional Education (CPE) points each year to keep their provider number status current with the various health funds. Provider numbers are essential if a therapist’s clients wish to claim a rebate from their private health fund following a massage.

There are various ways of earning CPE points: completing nationally recognised courses, training and workshops, reading industry relevant textbooks and attending the AAMT National Conference. With Melbourne a mere three and a bit hours away hosting this year’s conference I took the opportunity to attend.

Not wishing to brave the Melbourne traffic or indeed park my trusty Nissan in Melbourne’s CBD for several days, I drove as far as Bendigo. Many thanks to former Wakoolians Susie and Woody for successfully getting me onto the Melbourne train with two minutes to spare and Team Ware for having me to stay at their apartment in Kew, any easy journey to and from the Melbourne Convention Centre each day on the 109 tram.

This year AAMT invited Massage New Zealand to collaborate with them and the conference attracted over five hundred massage therapists from around Australia and New Zealand. There was an impressive line-up of keynote speakers who spoke exceptionally well on their chosen subjects, a total of eighteen different speakers and workshop presenters covering a wide range of massage and health related topics.

Former AFL footballer Mark Bunn was the opening speaker for the 2012 conference with his inspiring and very entertaining talk called “Looking after No. 1”. Mark had studied both Western Science and Eastern Medicine for the last twenty years and reiterated the importance of being in tune with our body clocks and looking after ourselves for maximum health and wellbeing.

Mark’s health tips included getting enough sleep at the correct time ie: in bed between 9.30pm and 10.30pm and waking up between 6am and 7am (easier said than done for those of us that like to stay up until all hours of the night but I am at least making an effort to incorporate this into my life…). He shared his mantra “Eat Light at Night”, suggesting it was far better to make lunch the main meal of the day. Having a smaller, easily digestible meal in the evenings is conducive to a good night’s sleep. (I’ve embraced the big lunch… although I’m still working on reducing dinner…).

Presenters Lisa Casanelia (remedial massage therapist and senior lecturer at Endeavour College) and Cathy Stanguts (registered nurse and naturopath), spoke about their involvement in a trial carried out at The Alfred Hospital on cardiac patients between July 2009 and December 2010. The trial successfully showed patients who received massage therapy following cardiac surgery significantly reduced their pain, anxiety and muscular tension and enhanced their relaxation when compared with patients who received rest but no massage therapy.

These favourable results combined with the positive responses by staff and patients on the ward has resulted in a permanent massage therapy service on the cardiothoracic ward at the Alfred Hospital in Melbourne which started in April 2011.

I found it particularly encouraging to hear of these trials with massage therapy and traditional Western scientific medicine combining to produce better healthcare outcomes. In the past massage therapy was viewed by many in Australia as a luxury treatment, something you got when you went on holidays. Now more than ever doctors are recognising the benefits of massage therapy as a complimentary healthcare treatment for their patients. 

Friday, June 1, 2012

Why scary playground equipment is good for us

Scabs… where are they now?

No, I’m not talking about non-union workers brought in to replace striking employees. I’m talking about those healing crusts that form on our knees or elbows when we take a tumble and lose some skin.

Up until I was the age of about ten I felt as though I had permanent scabs on my knees and my friends did too. Ok, that might be a slight exaggeration but you get my drift. Scabs were not unusual; in fact they were downright common.

These days you hardly ever see children with scabby knees and the obligatory yellow iodine splotches. Have our children become infinitely more coordinated than past generations? Is this an example of evolutionary biology at its finest? Is it the natural selection process that Charles Darwin wrote about in his landmark 1859 book On the Origin of Species? I suspect not.

I suspect it may be a prime example of how we are being over-protective of our children and how our children are being cocooned inside their homes with ipods and other technological toys far away from bicycles devoid of training wheels. Are we wrapping them up in metaphorical cotton wool in an effort to get them to biological adulthood in one piece?

When I was growing up a visit to the Hay Park with my Gran was right up there on my favourite-things-to-do list. At the very top of my favourite-things-to-do-at-the-park list was riding the whirly-gig. This awesome piece of mechanical engineering was the highlight of any excellent adventure to the Hay Park.

The whirly-gig was a giant circular platform that sat about twenty centimetres off the ground. It was made of wood and metal with handrails radiating out from the centre and could be spun around at speed… Chinese restaurants have a similar concept in the form of their circular banquet tables (minus the handrails). 

A few of us kids would grab a handrail each and run beside the whirly-gig as fast as we could until it reached maximum speed. We then flung ourselves onto the platform and hung on for dear life while the g-forces threatened to suck us off the edge and into the dirt… which sometimes happened. Every so often skin would be grazed off and very occasionally I heard of a child who had broken their arm following a less than graceful dismount.

Back then parents didn’t ever think about consulting with solicitors with the idea of suing their local council for daring to provide playground equipment that wasn’t one hundred percent accident proof. The parents simply patched the child up and the child learnt to hang on tighter next time.

Resilience is the ability to recover quickly from illness, change, or misfortune. If ever there was a character trait that could assist us through the ups and downs of life, resilience is it.

Accidents and mistakes are essential ingredients for developing resilience in a child or adult. Luckily for us we mostly seem genetically programmed to learn things the hard way. Children naturally want to push boundaries and take risks. By allowing our children to get outside their comfort zones we are giving them the opportunities to learn, enhance their self-confidence and develop their resilience.

Parents of today (me included), need to work on overcoming our own fears when it comes to raising our children and allow them to enjoy the childhood adventures we once took for granted. Climbing trees grows resilience far better than sitting inside playing a computer game.