One cheeky rabbit has missed the curtain call.
Today is a pretty special day in Australia. No it is not because Le Tour de France 2016 starts later tonight (that is a special day for the whole world, not just Australia). Today the whole of Australia voted in our national election to decide on the next government. Some people see this as a hassle, but I reckon it is pretty awesome. When I said the whole of Australia voted, I meant it. Australia is one of the few countries in the world where voting in the national election is compulsory. It means everybody has a say, and everyone’s vote matters. Obviously some votes matter more than others because people are located in seats that are considered “swing” seats.
But the reason why I think it is special is that there are so many things about the Australian democracy that we can be thankful for. Firstly, the elections are run professionally by the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) in exactly the same way across every State and seat in the country. They are a totally independent body from the government of the day and run things pretty smoothly. If they get things wrong it is a national scandal, but they don’t really do that. The AEC do a very good job in making it easy to vote and removing any blockers for Australians to cast their vote. Probably the most important function of the AEC is that they are the ones who call the election – not some invariably biased news media company.
Second, our election day is always held on a Saturday so that nobody has to sacrifice their work time (unless they work weekends) to vote. Even if they do have work commitments on the day, they can vote early via postal or pre-polling booths. For this election over 2 million people have voted before election day, and it looks like that number will keep getting higher.
Third, our polling booths are safe. There is no heavy police presence at any of the booths, and for the most part the local community primary schools are the venues. There is no risk of people being attacked at the booth, no risk of a terrorist incident, and no need for an independent United Nations force to help ensure that the election is fair and free of corruption. More importantly there is no chance of me getting attacked because I vote for one party over another (a lesson that Mr Trump could learn).
Fourth, because the polling stations are held in central locations within our communities it is an opportunity to bump into local friends. While I voted this morning I bumped into three people I knew and had a good old chat. This community atmosphere is prevalent everywhere, where everybody acknowledges what we have come together to do. And people are patient too, as I found out this morning – my queue was longer than I have previously experienced, but there was no impatience as everybody understood that we were all “in the same boat”.
Fifth, many polling stations have a sausage sizzle! There is even a website that tells you which ones will have a sausage sizzle. Volunteers quite often man the grill, and the funds raised go to the local community facilities. I went early this morning so skipped the sausage sizzle, I will have to make up for it tomorrow at Bunnings Warehouse.
Sixth, we have more than just two parties putting their hand up to represent the people. While practically only one of two parties will be able to form government (Labor [left] or Liberal [right]), there are many viable alternatives that can represent the many walks of life within the electorate. There are some properly “bat shit” crazy parties on one policy platform positions but because everybody has to vote the well tuned Australian BS detector does its job. For the independents that do get up, they typically punch well above their weight and represent well their electorates.
Lastly, in the round up we know that whoever wins the election we will not wake up tomorrow with our country drifting towards a dictatorship or police state.
All up we are pretty lucky as Australians, in a free and liberal democracy with well established institutions of state that protect us all. This guy below is favoured to win as I write this post. Let’s hope for him that his fortunes change and the political comment in this photo does not ring true for the next term of government.
P.S. election out of the way, bring on Le Tour!
I woke up this morning to the shocking news of the attack in Istanbul, Turkey. Like the attack earlier this year in Belgium, I was aghast at the horror of the attack. But my immediate thoughts went to a work colleague who Turkish by background, but currently resides in Australia. When I got into the office I checked in with him to see if all his family and friends were safe. Fortunately they were.
Then he told me of a statistic that I did not realise was true. Since the beginning of 2016 there have been hundreds of terrorism related deaths. At first I didn’t believe it, but then the reality sunk in. Living in a wealthy first world Western country we have very blinkered media coverage about what is going on overseas. I did some digging and found a Wikipedia article listing all the global acts of terrorism for 2016. Based on the count from this article, to date there have been over 250 deaths in Turkey with many times that number injured. That number will only increase after the airport attack.
Shocked cannot begin to describe the feeling I had in uncovering this morbid statistic. March and April were nasty, and had close to 30 attacks combined. I knew the situation in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Somalia was appalling, but the situation in Turkey and Pakistan is bad.
I could pass judgement on the political situation that Turkey is in, but that does not make any better the senseless slaughter of innocent people in this attack. On top of that Turkey, along with Jordan, is shouldering a ridiculous amount of the refugee burden coming out of the Syria conflict (over 2 million). And now Turkey is squarely in the sights of IS following their approval for use of their Air Force bases for attacks on IS.
What is quite clear is the demonic nature of the attackers, clearly targeting indiscriminately people of all religions. To top it off, the attack occurred during Ramadan and just over a week from Eid. I am Catholic, so the way I could equate this is as if a group of fundamentalist Christians performed a mass attack on other Christians in the lead up to Christmas.
For my work colleague it is another sad day for his country of birth. He has trouble communicating this sadness to people oblivious to the challenges overseas. But I think this one image speaks volumes to the problem, and the challenges of a blinkered view of the world. I will let you be your own judge against this sketch.
I don’t normally write about this sort of stuff, but I could not stop thinking about this today. Like I did for Paris, I say a prayer for Turkey.
Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year. Maximum darkness – minimal daylight. In the Southern Hemisphere we host the Winter Solstice on 21 June while our Northern brethren bask in the long sun. But what should one do on this longest of nights?
Rug up? No.
Suit up? Hmmm…
Grab the bike lights? Now we are talking.
Helmets? You bet!
What to do? Night ride.
My boy, ‘The Pok’, and my little girl, ‘Kiki’, knew exactly what to do. They grabbed their helmets, and donned their jackets. I grabbed the bike pump and inflated the tyres. After a bit of faffing about we were ready to roll.
It was cold, but not too much. Nothing that a set of sleeves wouldn’t fix. Into the dark we headed, ‘The Pok’ on his Specialized and ‘Kiki’ in tow in the Chariot bike carrier.
We took to our regular harbourside route. And lo and behold the first race was declared by ‘The Pok’. As usual he called the race after he had punched it on the cadence. But his “Super” Mario Cipollini antics were not going to undo me this time. Papa bear had to lay the smack down, and beat my 5 year old son. I’m not competitive (much), he just needed to learn a bit of humility from his Dad.
‘Kiki’ was giggling in the carrier, lapping up the speed.
We continued around the wharves dodging bollards and weaving between light poles. This was the first ride that ‘The Pok’ didn’t stop pedalling going uphill. He put his head down and kept on pedalling. I rode beside him cheering him on, and his sense of joy at the top of the small hill was awesome to watch.
I turned behind to look at my little girl and she was sound asleep, oblivious to the two wheel fun.
‘The Pok’ took the lead and told me to follow. Hugging the waterfront, we were hitting the deadline to return home and get the kids to bed.
Circling back we had one final race, and the little man won… well, let’s just say he deserved at least one win.
‘The Pok’ pulled the pin and I grabbed his Specialized in my left hand while pushing my bike and ‘Kiki’ in the carrier back home with my right hand on my stem.
‘Kiki’ woke up just as we got into the garage and everybody was happy. 5 night kilometres in the bag and a brilliant night ride with my two kids. Looking forward to some more two wheel fun throughout the Winter months.
For the record – ‘The Pok’ hit 23kph in the sprint. Impressive for a little 5 year old.
In Australia we celebrate the Queen’s birthday around the second weekend of June. It is the official start of the ski season in Australia, and we get a three day long weekend. Never mind the fact that Queen Elizabeth II’s birthday is on a different day. So I took the opportunity to take the family on a mini road-trip to Country NSW, South West of Canberra. My Uncle and Aunt in their retirement have just moved to a town called Cootamundra, so this is a perfect excuse to go for a trip and pay them a visit. Even better, we had a second excuse for a trip to visit my cousin (their son) who is doing his medical studies intern year at a town called Young, some 50km North of Cootamundra. If I was going to go on a road trip, I had to bring the bike.
The first stop on our trip was the major regional centre of Goulburn. We chose this town to break up the trip for the kids, and grabbed a bite to eat at the local Worker’s Club bistro. But I was also lining up a morning ride around the town the next morning. Little did I realise that this would be ill-fated. At 6am it was -2 degrees Celsius (28 degrees Fahrenheit) and foggy. This is the coldest weather that I had ever set out to ride in and the one thing that I don’t have in my kit bag is gloves for this temperature. I was wearing full-fingered gloves, but they were only temperature rated to 10 degrees Celsius (50 degrees Fahrenheit). I was struggling after 2km in, where an intense pain began attacking every single one of my fingers and thumbs. By 4km the pain was so intense that it felt like screws being driven into the bones in my fingertips. This is the first time I had to cut short my ride due to weather. I couldn’t even pull off my gloves and helmet when I got back to the motel after 9km. If only…
On to Cootamundra
The morning was not all lost, so after the kids took to the local park in Goulburn we headed off to Cootamundra. It is a couple of hours drive Southwest from Goulburn (which itself is a couple of hours drive Southwest of Sydney). The weather had warmed up to a beautiful bright sunny Winter’s day with a gentle breeze, topping out at 13 degrees Celsius (55 degrees Fahrenheit). After a hearty welcome from my Uncle and a tour of their new abodes in Cootamundra, I kitted up for round two for the day. No maps or planned routes, just the new Speed Steed and a couple of bidons. Off I set and it was glorious. First I headed Northwest, into a very light headwind. I hit a dead end at the foot of a small hill where the road had gone from paved to compacted dirt gravel road. Unfortunately my attempt at riding “Strade Bianche” style would have to wait for another date as this road continued onto private property.
I doubled back on my route, heading back into town. But the ride didn’t stop on my return, and I headed out again but this time West towards the town of Griffith. The road was nice and wide, with little to no traffic and no dead ends this time. Then about 4km out of town was an intersection where I saw a rider coming towards me from the right. The locals always know where to ride, so I turned right and headed out North nodding my thanks for guidance to the rider as he passed me. Ahead of my on the horizon I could see another rider probably about 2km in front of me. That is how straight the road was, I could see more than 2km ahead on the tarmac. More importantly, I had a target to catch. My Cervelo S3 responded and the I picked up the speed past 36 clicks. 10km later I caught my prey, who started struggling when the road picked up to over 5% gradient. As I overtook him, I gave him a shout and even though he didn’t have the legs that day it was clear he was enjoying his ride too. I climbed another hill a further 5km ahead and then judged that daylight was waning – time to turn around. But not before posing the bike against the beautiful countryside.
The return into town was great, and mostly downhill. I took the longer route back into town which landed me South of where I started. A few more detours with some short sharp hill climbs and it was time to wrap up the ride before sunset with the inevitable descent of winter night chill. That was not before I swung by the local bottleshop in the town centre to grab my Uncle and Aunt a nice bottle of Pinot Noir, which is the Australian version of the Burgundy drop.
I will definitely come out and ride here again, given that my relatives have set up base here. The roads are not perfect, but are decent enough to have a good spin with lots of different routes around and neighbouring towns within an 80km round trip. The day may have started with a painful abort, but finished with a beautiful winter day ride leaving me with a smile on my face.
Our boy, AKA ‘The Pok’, says some really funny things with the reasoning of a 5-year-old behind his musings. Some of it is hilarious, or just bizarre.
The Pok has started school this year and it has been an experience for both him and his teacher. His teacher has been formally introducing both him and his classmates to words and letters. Each week there is a ‘letter of the week’ in which the children are asked to come up with words that start with the designated letter. The letter of the week is the only piece of learning that he is keen to share with us after school at home.
A few weeks in, it was with great joy at the dinner table that The Pok blurted out,
“Guess what this week’s letter is?”
I responded with “C” (I always say “C” – what’s in a name?).
He shouted, “Nooooo! It’s ‘F’ silly.”
My wife asked, “Did any of the kids say some ‘F’ words?”
The Pok recalled, “Somebody said ‘fish’ and someone else said ‘four’, but the class didn’t guess too many.”
I then asked, “Did you come up with an ‘F’ word?” Hoping to the heavens that our son did was not the kid to drop the “F” bomb in kindergarten.
The Pok pondered…
“Daddy, I said ‘fart’ and the whole class started giggling”.
Phew – at least he reached for flatulence and not profanity.