Tuesday, December 23, 2014

It's Not Christmas If...

You are eating tofurkey. which is coagulated soy milk. Soy milk is of course not milk at all it is juice. Bean juice. Nothing says Christmas as much as a slice of coagulated bean juice. If, for whatever reason, you are vegetarian or vegan then part of the deal is no turkey. Roast vegetables, salads pastas, there are endless options now days but tofurkey should not be one of them. Same goes if you are considering serving facon for breakfast on Boxing Day.

You are leaving out the fruit, from your plum pudding. Without the fruit (read plum – the clue is in its name) it is just a pretty plain pudding.  In the same way a hotcross bun without fruit is just a bread roll.  If you don’t like Christmas pudding then don’t have any, enjoy the icecream, shortbread or any of the other array of desserts on offer. If you do exercise your right not to eat any pudding then you also lose your right to find a coin in your dessert. The coins go in the pudding. No pudding = no coins. You do not have the joy of breaking your teeth or burning your tongue on a coin of insignificant financial value.

No-one cries whether it be a child bawling because the new-fangled, movie inspired, wifi enabled toy they received is blue and not green which is their new favourite colour that they had not told anyone about. Or the teenage girl because she has had her mobile phone and tablet removed for the duration of gifts and the family meal meaning she can’t Instagram images of every “lame” gift and mouthful of food she eats whilst maintaining permanent contact with her current boyfriend which is “serious this time” on the basis that the relationship has lasted more than 3 weeks.

No one fights. Either the re-engagement of combatants in a long standing feud after the Christmas lunch truce, or from a new argument resulting from excessive alcohol consumption, inappropriate comments or actions throughout the day, Christmas must have a fight. There needs to be doors slammed, people storming out of the house or people sitting in fuming silence. It is a Christmas miracle or all three are achieved

The presents, once unwrapped, aren’t sorted into three piles; keep, return, re-gift. Whilst on the topic of gifts Christmas is not complete without a battery operated device gifted without the batteries and at least one present broken beyond repair before the end of the day.

There is not a game of backyard cricket (maybe specific to Australia). The youngest player should always get 2 outs when batting and the rules for six-and-out and automatic-wicketkeeper. The game of backyard cricket also gives another opportunity to get someone to cry or start the fight.

There is not an afternoon nap. Regardless of the location; at the dining table, on the couch, in the car on the road between family gatherings (not the driver) or on the back veranda, people of all ages need to doze off for at least 45 minutes.

You have not watched a version of Charles Dickens A Christmas Carol. It does not matter if it is the classic or “The Muppets” or Scrooge it must be watched. Other cheesy Christmas movies can be substituted, Miracle of 34th Street, Home Alone, Elf etc but are not quite the same.

At the end of the day everyone does not crawl into bed feeling both utterly exhausted and underwhelmed by the whole experience wondering what on earth the fuss was about.

You are not eating leftovers well into the new year, particularly ham, turkey and desserts. It becomes an annual challenge to use the leftovers in as many different was as possible. Risotto, pasta, sandwiches, pies, stews, omelettes and casseroles, some following recipes others just made up based on all the other random ingredients found in the fridge and the back of cupboards. Every meal completed with a slice of Christmas cake. At the time of purchase the bigger cake size was selected with a nagging fear that it was still not going to be big enough to feed everyone. 10 days after Christmas you are left wondering if it will ever end. If you did serve tofurkey and discovered you have lots of leftovers…that’s because you served tofurkey for Christmas.

Friday, December 19, 2014

I'm Santa...

Will the real Santa please stand up! Now days it seems as though every retail outlet has their own in-store Santa it makes it very difficult for families and children in particular.

I know  that all of the “fake” Santas work as assistants to the real Santa, passing on the requests from children and advising on the good and bad lists. The gift requests are of critical importance and the use of intermediaries, in my opinion, present an unacceptable risk of gifts being forgotten or misinterpreted.

Only the President is entrusted with the nuclear codes, not every member of the government.

Whilst it is easy to pick some of the assistant Santas, visible elastic around the ears holding up the bead, pillow corners visible between the buttons of the tunic. Others are more cunning and much harder to spot.

Children need to be weary of divulging their most sincere Christmas wishes to a fake.

Growing up in Adelaide I was quite aware that there was only one real Santa Claus. He lived in the Magic Cave which at the time was housed on the top floor in the David Jones Rundle Mall store.

He was the real one, the whole state knew it. We all saw him arrive in town on the second Saturday of November in the world famous Adelaide Christmas Pageant. The grand procession lead by SA Mounted Police Greys, the world champion Drill Team, Ellie the Elephant, the Pageant Queen, Nipper and Nimble stopped the city.

For the next 6-7 weeks Santa would happily greet children inside the Magic Cave and listen to their wishes before posing for photos (available in the gift shop for a nominal fee).
Image Source: weekendnotes.com

Understandably the queues were long.

My family made the annual pilgrimage to the Magic Cave more than once. My parents on seeing the length of the queues would then suggest that we go do some shopping in Rundle Mall and return later when the lines would be shorter.

It never felt the same when re-entering the Magic Cave later the same day. Things looked unfamiliar. When quizzed my mother would explain that we had just entered via a different door or because so many of the children had gone home it just felt different.

It was only years later that she explained that after walking us up and down Rundle Mall for a little time in and out of various stores she would then take us into Harris Scarfes (opposite David Jones and not home of the Magic Cave) to visit a fake Santa.


This explains why my gifts were close but never exactly what I wanted. As the message got passed down the line from the fake Santa to the real one the finer details got lost. When I wanted G.I.Joe I got Action Man, similar but without the kung-fu grip. Adidas had a range of sneakers called “Romes” white leather with the trademark 3 stripes. I got “Jeans” blue with 2 stripes.

For the sake of the children, identify the living person of the man called Santa Claus.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Enjoy Summer In Melbourne

image source: dftours.com.au
Collingwood Children’s Farm

Located much closer to the CBD than one would expect to find a farm, it is only a short drive or a pleasant walk along the Yarra. Collingwood farm is a modern day, sustainable version of Old McDonald’s farm. Full of all the animals you would expect. The seven hectare property includes gardens, animals, markets and a café.

There is opportunity to milk cows, pet guinea pigs, ride horses, bottle feed new born animals and roam with the goat. The famer can attract big numbers of family gatherings and children’s parties. The size of the property means that there is still plenty of room to roam away from the crowds.

The food in the café is delicious, alternatively take a picnic and sit quietly somewhere on the grounds. The cafes and bakery of Abbotsford Convent are also just next door. Stay for an hour, stay for a day

Families $18
Adults $9
image source: dftours.com.au
Children $5

DF Tours

DF Tours offers 2hour Photographic Walking Tours in and around Melbourne CBD. They are great opportunity to see some of Melbourne’s buildings, laneways and icons in a new and different way.

The tours also offer instruction in digital photography; shutter speed, aperture, and composition, making the tours suitable for novice and experienced photographers alike.  A great way to learn how to use the new camera you received from Father Christmas.

DF Tours offers both day and night tours on set dates, private tours and group bookings are also available.

All $50 Dec and Jan (normally $66)

image source: railgallery.wongm.com
City Sightseeing

The red hop-on-hop-off bus offers two routes in Melbourne, making it an easy and affordable way to travel between all of the major tourist attractions.
The CBD route has 15 stops including Federation Square, Docklands, Victoria Markets, Melbourne Zoo, Melbourne Museum and the Zoo. The St Kilda route, has 11 stops including Federation Square, The Shrine of Remembrance, Luna Park and South Melbourne Beach.

24hour and 48hour tickets are available. The bus includes onboard commentary in various languages. Through the website also offers package deals including entry into a number of Melbourne’s tourist destinations.

Adults from $35
Concession from $30
Children from $15
Families from $70

image source: dftours.com.au
Kayak Melbourne

See the sights of Melbourne from the unique vantage point of gently paddling along the Yarra River. There are different tours available that vary in length and have different inclusions including yoga and the Eureka Skydeck.

Instruction will be given to newbees. Paddling is a surprisingly relaxing way to get a lot of exercise and have a bit of fun in the water. What a great way to soak up the summer sun.

For the landlubbers there is also a bike tour available.

From $72pp

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

I Hate Christmas Shopping

image source: dftours.com.au
I hate Christmas shopping. There I’ve said it. I usually like a bit of retail therapy but Christmas shopping just breaks my spirit.

Its not the overly happy carols blaring in every retail outlet and mall – though the repetitiveness is annoying. It’s not the in-your-face and oh-so-tacky decorations. What the hell is tinsel? And, surprisingly, it is neither the crowds swarming to the exact same bargain bins you are, nor the size of the prams that, when unfolded’ are bigger than the car, they arrived in.

It is the selections of the gifts themselves. The higher the obligation – read extended family -  or the more you care and respect for the person – read partner closest friends – the harder it is to buy chose the right gift.

Colleagues, general friends and acquaintances are easy as the gifts can be pretty generic, something found at a local Christmas market. Thats what soaps, bath gels and candles are for.

Starting with the gifts you want to buy, those for the people you care for and respect the most.

Wandering through store waiting for the gift to “jump off the shelf” at you never works. The music, tinsel and flashing lights will dull your senses, so even if the perfect gift was right there on the shelf in front of you would be oblivious to their presence.

You have an idea for a gift, in fact you think it is a great idea. You go to the shops, lots of them, only to discover that the gift you thought was perfect either does not actually exist or it costs double the limit you set yourself.

Then there are the obligatory gifts, those that come with the highest of expectations and the most damning of judgements. It is expected that the gifts are obviously of a certain monetary value quality. The gift is also expected to be quite personalised for the receiver – monogrammed handkerchiefs don’t count. Ideally they also reflect the relationship between the giver and receiver. Ironically the higher the obligation, the lower the actual relationship.

People with a much known passion appear, on the surface at least, to be easier to buy for. In reality you become paralysed by the fear that you bought the cat lover them the same porcelain figurine of a mother cat cleaning its kitten’s anus for a birthday 2 years ago.

Oh to be a child again where gift giving was a simple as wrapping up loose change or decorating a pinecone with glitter a giving them to siblings.

Visit  dftours.com.au  for unique photographic gift ideas including: photographic walking tours, prints, smart phone & tablet covers, t-shirts and cushions. Gift certificates are also available.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Movie Review - Fury

This is full of spoilers, so be alert (but not alarmed).

Unlike Brad Pitt, I miraculously survived Fury, but I was left with many unanswered questions. Questions like why did Hollywood, 69 years after the end of the war feel the need to produce a propaganda film? Are there still ally soldiers scurrying across Europe looking for “Krauts” that need a bit of pepping up?

What the hell was the eggs for lunch scene all about, and why was it so damn long? Norman sits down to play the piano whilst his comrades are raiding properties to rid the earth of the scourge that is Nazi military, yet the sound of the music does not result in a quick and brutal response from the troops outside. Neither did the movement of Irma at the window as she cooked the eggs. On the cooking of the eggs, did Irma cook the eggs really slowly or was Norman REALLY quick in the bedroom with Emma? The loved up couple were ready before lunch was served.

How fortunate was it that when the house in which Irma and Emma resided was bombed in an airstrike and the building collapsed on top of them that Emma’s body ended up neatly on top of the rubble? Her position made it easy for Norman, who falls in love as fast as he orgasms, to bid her an emotional farewell.

Was the tank “fury” made by the A-Team? Just like the cast and their 1983 GMC Vandura G-class cargo van and their endless cavalcade or homemade armoured vehicles constructed by welding rubbish bins to golf carts, the tank was indestructible. No amount of bullets, missiles or anti-tank artillery can stop this vehicle or its inhabitants. Finally a land mine does break its tread, the equivalent of a flat tyre. Something not even B.A. Baracus had to contend with.

Now stranded in the middle of a crossroad, the very crossroad they were there to defend, they have to defend themselves against a platoon of SS soldiers. How did they know they were SS troops? Brad Pitt told them so, apparently he could tell by the sound of their singing.

The fight commenced in broad daylight, yet suddenly changed to middle of the night. I know in the Arctic Circle that sunset can last days if not weeks, but can it change in a blink of an eye from day to night in Germany? I don’t know I have never been there.

The inhabitants of the tank fight courageously killing off hundreds of German soldiers. Singing SS soldiers no less. They kill them in a way only an American tank lead by an all-American hero in an American made movie can. Many of the German’s were on or at the base of the tank at the time they were killed. They fell into the mud around the tank. Where did the mud come from as there was no rain? That aside, who moved all of the bodies off the road onto one of the four verges surrounding the intersection? As the camera pans up, all of the German casualties are clear of the tank leaving the vehicle sitting like a round-a-bout in the centre of the cross road.

How did Norman know the footsteps on the tank the day after the battle were those of American troops rescuing him and not German troops ensuring everyone was dead? Maybe Brad Pitt taught him how to discern military allegiances by sound – the same way he good discern the oncoming Germans were SS troops. Thankfully he knew he were American and did not shoot them when they opened the hatch.

Who cleaned the window on the rear door of the ambulance? When filmed from inside the ambulance the window was covered in dirt and grime from the road making for an eerie and gritty shot as Norman looks out of the ambulance at the death around him. Then the angle changes to outside the ambulance looking back at the distressed Norman as he drives away. Now the grime is all but gone so that the window perfectly frames Norman’s face.

Despite all of these and many more questions arising from this Sony Pictures production but the biggest is Brad Pitt’s hair. Ignoring the very non military style, it is always perfect. No amount of time inside or riding a top of a tank or hours wearing a helmet, not even endless battles will mess this do.

At worst it looks as though a mate has given his hair a quick tussle, but the quiff only moves from salon perfect to carefree. Either way his hair was always at the ready for a fashion photography shoot or a red carpet.

They shall not grow old as we that are left grow old

Age shall not weary them, nor bad hair days condemn…