Neighbours and friends and dogs

I like my neighbourhood. I’ve lived here for over two decades, having moved into the house in August 1998. My suburb is called Murrumbeena, which some wit has defined as an Aboriginal word meaning “Cant afford to live in Malvern” (for those not in the know, a nearby more exclusive locale).

The reason I like my neighbourhood so much is the neighbours – all friendly, and most considered friends. One in particular is Andrew, who lives almost directly across the road. Andrew and Christine brought their new-born baby Melina across to meet us way back in 1999, and we’ve shared our lives, with all the joys and sorrows, in the intervening years.

I was prompted to write this post as a result of receiving a couple of photos of me at his place, attending what was probably my last social event before the current lockdown. In particular, one of the pics shows Jemma, his dear dog who unfortunately had to be put down earlier this week (old age). When I say his dog, it was actually his father’s beloved companion, and Andrew happily took on responsibility when his dad died a while ago. Though old and somewhat ungainly, Jemma had been managing walks with Andrew, Melina and Liam (2nd child, keen photographer, not-so-keen mathematician) until the end.

The occasion (another of Andrew’s legendary barbecues) was an end-of-season party for Melina’s football team, Melbourne Victory. They had (unfortunately) lost their final match to their old rivals, Melbourne City, and Andrew kindly offered to host a gathering before the team members headed back home (some a VERY long way e.g. USA and England). If you hadn’t realised already, Melina is an immensely talented player (see proof below), as well as being a nice neighbour and fellow surfing nut.

The person I’m talking to is Myles Jack, boyfriend of Darian Jenkins, the U.S. player on the right. He was spending time in Australia at the end of his playing season in the NFL. Andrew had mentioned him, as he had been hoping to get Myles to join us at a Super Rugby match, so that he could see players in action without all the protective gear in which he is usually attired (although it’s perhaps understandable, given his contract is in the many millions!).

It was a lovely casual gathering, and the team members seemed a very friendly bunch. I managed to chat with a few of them, including the outgoing and demonstrative goalkeeper Casey Dumont, who described in detail the moments that led up to the opposition goal that sunk their season. One player I’d watched and enjoyed, given her obvious skill level (that subtle use of time and space we admire) and passion for the game, was Emily Menges (from Portland) who happily posed with me for a pic.

I’m informing Myles of the little-known fact that the USA twice won the Gold Medal for rugby at the Olympics.

Jemma was not the only dog in attendance. As you can see, also present was Caesar (dog next door), with whom Jemma had a somewhat fractious relationship. I’m not sure of the names of all the players in this next photo, though that’s Casey in the weird white getup (it was an optional dress-up party) next to Darian. All in all, a fun day.

If I seem a little wistful, it’s probably true, as we all quietly get on with our currently restricted lives. But of course there’ll be better days to come, and more memorable moments with my neighbours.

“Ho perduto due corone!”

Ho perduto due corone! – My two Rosary beads are missing! – these were the first words (not that I understood them) uttered by Linda’s mother as we arrived to help her with the recarpeting of her bedroom. We got there nice and early, as the carpet layer was due at 8:30 am. It was no great surprise that the Rosary beads were missing, as she is nearly 90 years old (not Linda, her mother) and legally blind. She can apparently still see vague shapes, and manages to live alone in her house and beloved garden, with the regular assistance of Linda and her two sisters, one of whom lives next door. Continue reading

Martin Weller does it again!

I’m older than Martin Weller. So his new book, 25 Years of Ed Tech, doesn’t seem to cover a long enough period to me (reminder: print is a technology). Nevertheless, it’s a full and enriching outline of the impact of the internet and associated technologies on education, so you’d better read it. Thanks to Martin and Athabasca University Press, the online version is free. Continue reading

A comment from Rodney Trotter

I don’t get many Comments on my blog, so when I receive one I take notice. When someone does comment, I’m automatically sent an email with the details. What particularly caught my eye with a recent one was the name of the sender: Rodney Trotter. This is of course the name of one of our heroes (Del Boy’s hapless younger brother) from the wonderful UK television series Only Fools and Horses, so my curiosity was aroused. Continue reading

On the joy of (largely) unknown books

An advantage of retirement is the time that becomes available for reading. I relish it, read regularly, and love discovering (largely) unknown titles. Most are discovered serendipitously; wandering among the shelves of bookshops (new and second-hand), visiting op-shops or meandering around markets. Particular examples include Lady Spy, Gentleman Explorer, which caught my eye simply because the biography’s fascinating subject was a Murphy, and Bad Faith, which tickled my fancy when I read on the blurb that an alcoholic Tasmanian, Myrtle Jones, was intimately connected with the worst Nazi collaborator of the French Vichy government in WW2. Other exciting reads include those that offer a fresh, and sometimes personal, perspective on well-known events and historical events. My favourite example is V2, an autobiographical account of the German rocket programme of WW2 by the German General responsible for its oversight, Walter Dornberger.

These books are relatively well-known. There are also many that are published (or self-published) in small numbers that remain unknown to the general reading public. We get to hear about them only by chance or through a friend associated with their publication. I have a few interesting instances. Continue reading

Why you should visit Hong Kong now

Earlier this month I spent five days in Hong Kong. You should go. Why?

  1. Hong Kong is still one of the world’s great cities
  2. There are very few tourists
  3. You can visit Disneyland and Ocean Park and not queue for rides and attractions
  4. There are bargains to be had – the markets are quiet
  5. Hong Kong has sites and attractions you haven’t seen yet
  6. Enjoy a country walk to a beautiful beach
  7. If you’re rugby fan, you MUST attend the Hong Kong Rugby Sevens at least once
  8. It’s safe: Hong Kong people support democratic reform but deplore violence
  9. It’s cheap – packages with major carriers are a bargain, and the public transport system is a dream
  10. It would demonstrate your support for the HK people

Continue reading

Bach loved beer!

St David’s Cathedral organ

I was introduced to Johann Sebastian Bach as a boy, while a chorister in St David’s Cathedral in Hobart. We were blessed with a world-class organist and choir master, John Nicholls, who knew no greater pleasure than blasting out Bach on the magnificent church organ. As the choir was located close to the organ, we not only received it at full volume, but could feel the vibrations through our feet. Continue reading

CoL and rugby

There’s been a weird confluence between the Commonwealth of Learning (CoL) and rugby this month. Not only is the rugby world focusing on the Rugby World Cup, but the open learning community has focussed on Murrayfield, the spiritual home of Scottish rugby, via CoL having its ninth Pan-Commonwealth Forum (PCF9) at said venue. I didn’t know that Murrayfield Stadium is also a conference venue, but it makes a certain kind of sense, and I wish I’d been there! Continue reading