Thursday, May 24, 2018

The Biggest Morning Tea

Forgot to show the food, but you can see the band belting out "Amore"in the background

I hate to admit it,  but I‘ve just had another terrific morning tea. I’ll have to stop this, I’m putting on too much weight, but the consolation is that it was for a good cause.

This was part of  Australia's Biggest Morning Tea which is held right around the country on May 24, to raise money for the Cancer Council. The money goes towards research, prevention and support for those who are suffering from cancer, and their families. Since one in two Australians are likely to be diagnosed with cancer before they turn 85, it is not surprising that this is the most popular and successful fundraiser in Australia. Money raised within the state stays here. 

That's Romilla in the centre, thanking the band and those who helped in the kitchen, the donors of prizes and the guests

Ours was hosted by a lovely local lady, Romilla who has been doing it since 2003. So far she has raised $250,000 not counting today. This has become a real community event each year with entertainment and frantic bidding on gift vouchers donated by local businesses and others. There are also trade tables, raffles and a big plant and produce stand -everything but the dancing girls. Besides the feel good factor from doing something faintly noble, it was also jolly good fun.

If there isn’t already a Biggest Morning Tea happening near you, it’s not too late to host your own. Any time throughout May and June is fine. Click here to register or find out how it’s done. 

I’ll have to get walking again soon, but we haven’t had the best of weather. We had devastating winds last Friday and positively biblical rains and floods the week before with school closures, cars being swept down our city streets, power outages and so forth, so today's bit of sunshine has been a most welcome change.

Monday, May 14, 2018

High Tea at Hadley’s

Not so imposing from the street these days, but Hadley's Orient Hotel is once again grand and decadent inside

There is no doubt about Hadley’s Orient Hotel. It has the ambience and romance which the Canberra to Sydney train lacked -prices to match of course, but a lovely experience now and then. Mother’s Day was the perfect occasion.

Potted palms, comfortable leather armchairs and paintings fill the lounges

Hadley’s is a Hobart institution. Established in 1834, it has had chequered fortunes in its 184 year history, but was always the place to be. Many of the infant colony's leading lights such as surgeon, naturalist and parliamentarian William Crowther, or lawyer, and esteemed expert on biology and zoology, Morton Allport made their home here and it was also popular with the odd premier, Prime Minister and politician. Other distinguished guests included stars of stage and screen such as Errol Flynn and Dame Nellie Melba (1909), triumphant Antarctic explorers Mawson (1911) and Amundsen (1912) and a smattering of royal visitors, sports stars, musicians and comedians. 

Special guests include Errol Flynn and Polar explorers Mawson and Amundsen. When Amundsen arrived, looking dishevelled and accompanied by his dogs, he was given a room under the stairs because it was feared that "...he would be the sort who might leave without paying." He was feted three days later after his achievement was acknowledged by the King of Norway                                                                      – excerpt from Hadley's Courier

Always an early adopter of the latest technology, Hadley's was among the first places to have electric light, telephones, an electric lift and hot water. At one stage it even even boasted a skating rink* and has since been host to theatre restaurants, discos and numerous bars. Since 2014 however, it has been restored to its former splendour, befitting its historic position as a favoured hostelry of the well -heeled and famous.

The light - filled atrium has hanging plants on its walls. It's packed today. We have to stand in line until everyone is seated

The architectural scale is grand. While waiting for the doors of the atrium to open, we are invited to wait in one of the luxurious lounges. The grand piano plays. Chandeliers hang from high ceilings. Historic prints and water colours line the walls. Potted palms occupy vacant niches and fresh flowers adorn low tables. At last we are shown to white wicker chairs and seated at tables dressed in white linen with crisp linen napkins. Discreet but attentive waiters fill our glasses with bubbly. Then the teapots arrive – Green Rose for my daughter, French Earl Grey for me, followed by tiered cake stands of wicked delights.  It takes us three rounds of one Hour parking to finish and still there’s a morsel over, plus the packets of fudge all the Mums have been given.

In case you were wondering what High Tea was all about, you can read about it here - just click to enlarge the photo –excerpt from Hadley's Courier

A bit of food porn -Sorry, we'd already eaten the top layer before I thought of taking a photo

I should never drink in the morning. It does me in for the rest of the day, but the pleasant glow remains. Should I ever accidentally get rich and famous, I am looking forward to trying the 71 guest suites, especially the Explorers' room. Wish me luck. Don't worry if you missed out on High Tea for Mother's Day. They serve Traditional Afternoon Tea  from 2- 5 pm. Wednesday to Sunday, but you do need to book. 

Trevor, our lovely waiter hams it up

Many thanks to my darling daughter for a lovely morning.
- and No, this is not a paid ad for Hadley's!

* There's some disagreement here. Hadley's Courier says it was a roller skating rink, but  Postal History Records  show it to have been an icerink, not so far fetched given that the  then owner had icehouses on Mt. Wellington, from which he had ice brought twice a day.

Wednesday, May 09, 2018

In praise of cubbies and other outdoor pursuits

A local Cubby seen on the Dave Burrows Walk  - someone needs no lessons or encouragement!

As the  post about Parks and Playgrounds has been one of the more popular ones of late,  I wanted to write a bit more about outdoor play, especially as I have just read that only 8% of Australian children now play outside. This seems unthinkable. I’m showing my age here, but when I was growing up, staying inside was a form of punishment. It only happened when we were sick or naughty or hadn’t done our homework. Of course there wasn’t much television then, nor were there any distracting computers and not only hadn’t we heard about stranger danger,  there weren’t too many strangers about either. Nevertheless, despite these changes, several things are happening here and there to make outdoor play both possible and safe again.

It’s a pity that enjoying nature now requires organisation and direction, but over in Yanchep in Western Australia they have just had their second hugely successful Cubby Town which attracted an estimated 5,000 people. As well as being able to make structures with material provided  - mostly cardboard and tree branches, children could also enjoy nature crafts, a mud kitchen, a climbing wall  and a high ropes course. 

Although Cubby Town is a joint venture between various organisations and departments such as Parks and Wildlife, the local council, the Department of Sport and Recreation and so on, it is largely the brainchild of Nature Play WA  a non - profit organisation devoted to encouraging children and families to spend more time outdoors. As their website says:

 Children who play in natural settings are more resistant to stress; have lower incidence of behavioural disorders, anxiety and depression; and have a higher measure of self-worth. Children who play in natural settings play in more diverse, imaginative and creative ways and show improved language and collaboration skills.”

Child advocate, Richard Louv, author of “Last Child in theWoods” agrees, saying that many modern affllictions such as obesity, depression and attention difficulties can be attributed to “Nature deficit disorder.”

The good news is that you don't have to live in Western Australia to reap benefits. If you are stuck for ways in which to bring nature back into your life, Nature Play has excellent resources for families schools and individuals on their website, regardless of where you live. For instance, you could start your own Family Nature Club in your neighbourhood, or devise your own Passport to an Amazing Childhood. There are tips on how to build an adventure playground with due regard for safety and there are lots of activities which you can try by yourself. Be inspired and don't forget to check out the list of  51 things everyone should do before they turn 12.

Friday, May 04, 2018

Squawk! – A Science Experiment

The 'ducks' converge, Lake Ginninderra, Canberra

It was like a scene from Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds.” We –that is my two year old granddaughter, her Dad and I had gone down to Lake Ginninderra in Canberra to do a bit of duck feeding. We called them 'ducks' but really they included all kinds of water birds  both native and domestic– coots, herons – colloquially known as “garbage chickens,”  one large black and white domestic duck, several native ones and a swan.

It was an experiment really. Knowing that it wasn’t a good idea to feed them bread, especially the native birds, we had three kinds of duck food with us – mixed bird seed, dried peas and cooked rice to see which the ‘ducks’ would prefer. 

They came from near and far, even this swan....
...  and an actual duck

Soon they were converging on us from all directions and they weren’t at all fussy about what they ate. There was a veritable feeding frenzy which got so bad that we had take refuge behind a low palisade of rocks to stop them ripping the little baggies out of Miss Two’s hands. Even that barely slowed them down. The big duck and the swan were already making their way up and over the rock embankment.

Still they came

Then someone has arrived  with a loaf of white bread

Just as we feared being attacked, someone a little further around the lake broke out a bag of white bread. There were a few seconds of confusion as ducks streamed in both directions – then they took off en masse. “Ducks” have no loyalty.

After a moment of confusion they were off. There is no loyalty amongst ducks

And the upshot of our experiment? Yes, there was a slight preference for peas, but junk food wins every time!