Sunday, July 31, 2011

Mellie at the Movies

This afternoon, we saw Captain America: The First Avenger.

I've really liked the other 'Avenger' movies, my favourite being Thor, I think. I know that on the whole, super hero movies are pure movie popcorn, but I can't help falling for them every time!
I liked the X-Men movies and Spiderman (the first 70 times I watched it - Oli was a touch obsessed), it always gave me that emotional tweak (especially number 2 for some reason), and as I kid I had a super crush on Christopher Reeve.
There have been some bad ones. I didn't get into Fantastic Four as much as I thought I would, and the Green Hornet had some boring bits, but on the whole, super hero movies are cool. I like being able to switch off my brain for a while.

Captain America was probably not my favourite, but still enjoyable. The first half especially was very good, with the setup and development of the story. Stanley Tucci played his German doctor as a sweet and interesting character, and Tommy Lee Jones was great as the gruff (when isn't he?) but likeable Colonel. Even Chris Evans, who was just annoying in Fantastic Four was good. He played the weedy Steve Rogers very believably (with some amazing CGI!) and was entertaining as the propaganda-spouting Captain. Even Hugo Weaving, who's in danger of being typecast as the creepy bad guy, was good. He certainly did the German accent convincingly.

The period style was well put together, with beautifully created New York streets, and some great war-room and society scenes. The effects were good, and thankfully not too much of the action went on in darkness.

There was a lot of unbelievable stuff in there, especially the 1940s 'technology', but hey, it's a superhero movie, so I'm prepared to suspend judgement on that one. The love interest angle was a little predictable and there were a couple of scenes that weren't explained well or played out to their potential.

Still, it was an enjoyable movie, which left me keen for the Avengers movie, due out next year.

I'd give it 3.5 out of 5.

Oh, and it had the Wilhelm Scream too, something that's captured my attention lately. It's a recorded sound effect that's a bit of an in-joke in the movie industry. It's been used in lots of different movies, from Star Wars to Indiana Jones to Toy Story (see below). Ever since I found out about it, I notice it in everything. I've even got the app on my phone (all it does is the scream!). Now that I've told you about it, you'll notice it everywhere too!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Missing my boy

I guess the pain of losing a child never goes away, but the pain does tend to ebb and flow, and perhaps dim over time.
There are days when they're in the back of your mind, but so many things keep you busy that you don't have time to reflect on the 'loss' part. They're just a beautiful face in your mind.
Then there are other days when there are reminders everywhere. Little things that trigger memories, the sadness or the sense of loss. I've had a few of them lately.

And they're different too. When Oliver and I were in Melbourne, the things that we did triggered a lot of happy memories of Sam: Oliver getting the hiccups in the car reminded me of how Sam used to laugh until he got the hiccuos (poor kid, after a while, he curbed his laughter to avoid it!); or our trip to the aquarium reminded me of the time we went to the Sydney Aquarium when Sam was about 4. He walked out over the tank that was underfoot and completely freaked out when he realised he was standing over a fish tank. Funny stuff.

Most of it is brought on by things that happen to his friends or peers. Lots of them are doing things that really make me feel Sam's loss. It's the things that I know he'll never get to do. Some of his friends are getting into (and out of) serious relationships, many of them are getting their Learner's permits and getting accepted into colleges. And his best friend is turning 16 this week. For some reason, 16 is significant to me, I'd have liked to see Samuel at 16.

Don't worry, I'm not miserable, just having some of those moments where I feel it. Life still goes on, and we do all the normal happy things, but there's always that in the background. There are still times when people say stupid things when I feel like screaming at them about how good they actually have it, but I guess they're not as frequent either.

When it comes down to it, I just miss him so much.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Farewell to an old friend

On Friday night, our dog Merlin passed away.

He was nearly 17 (in human years), so he'd had a pretty good run. Still, it was a sad occasion, made bearable (and manageable) by some wonderful people.

The first of many...
I was 7 months pregnant with Samuel when we got Merlin. Anthony and I had been living together for a couple of months in our rented place, and we decided we'd like a dog.
We went out to the RSPCA on Boxing Day 1995, as we knew there would probably be some dogs out there. As soon as we saw Merlin, we knew he was the one. He was called Schooner then, but despite being told that dogs didn't take to name changes, he soon became Merlin (he got that name mainly because we were into wizards and dragons at the time. I guess we still are).

Merlin settled in well. Despite the fact that he was a large dog (he was a Labrador-retriever cross), he always thought that he was just 'a head' (as Anthony used to say) and could never understand why he couldn't fit on anyone's lap, or why only part of him made it inside.

He was very good with Samuel - very gentle and calm; taking all the ear and tail pulling that Samuel could dish out. Not once did he give us any reason to doubt his loyalty of Samuel's safety.

Merlin and Cheese
Not long after we moved in to our house here (March 1998), we got Cheese (Samuel named her - it was his favourite word at the time!). She has been Merlin's constant companion ever since (and just between you and me, she's a little sad at the moment).

Merlin and Cheese were not really inside dogs. They came in occasionally, but because they were usually filthy (I think I've mentioned before, our yard has a fairly large percentage of dirt/mud), they were mostly 'outside' dogs. But that was OK, because they had their own lounge suite. They tended to push the limits, but rarely stepped over them...

The Dangerous Dog
In about 2000, we were entertaining some friends. Their young son, who was 'entertaining' Merlin, got a scratch on his face when Merlin got a bit too excited. It was a bad scratch (with blood etc), and they decided to put in a complaint against him.

The Dog Control people confiscated him, and at first they were going to have him put down, but after having him at the pound (jail) for a while, they decided he wasn't really dangerous (just between you and me, they thought he was a bit of a pussycat. They knew straight away that he wasn't actually dangerous, but had to follow some kind of procedure), but that because of the incident, would have to be labeled 'dangerous' (the first Dangerous Dog in Canberra actually). We had to make some changes to protect the 'public' So we built higher fences and put a sign on our gate and then he came home.

Of course he wasn't dangerous. We had many other people (including kids) visit that didn't get 'attacked' by him, and kept a wide range of pets, such as chickens, rabbits, geese, ducks, rats, a cat and parrots, all of which were decidedly unharrassed by Merlin.
Actually, our house has always been a bit funny that way, our pets have always gotten along well, despite their natural predator/prey tendencies!

Merlin was technically Samuel's dog, and Samuel was usually the one who fed him, walked him and played with him, but Merlin's loyalty was firmly with Anthony. He followed him everywhere and did exactly as he was told by Anthony.

Getting Old
In the last couple of years, Merlin had slowly lost many of his faculties: his hearing went a while ago, then his sight, and finally all his muscle tone. He was so skinny you could put your hands together around his middle (this was despite his ENORMOUS appetite!)

After Sam died, Merlin definitely felt it, and was very low for a couple of months. We actually thought we might lose him quite early on. But he seemed to sense that it wasn't the right time; that it would be too much for Anthony to take, so he held on. Almost every night, while we sat eating dinner, he would stand at the back door and bark. At nothing in particular. I said that he was showing signs of dementia, but Anthony always said it was because Sam was there. That he was saying hello.

Time to Go
Just after we'd gotten back from Melbourne, Anthony felt that it was finally time for him to go. Merlin had gotten very listless, he wasn't eating or doing much at all. Anthony called our sister-in-law Rachel, who is a vet, who came over to have a look, and to help him on his way.
We were very glad that she could do this for us, and that Merlin could go peacefully, at home, surrounded by people that loved him.
All of Anthony's brothers came over, and his mum even drove all the way back from Sydney (she'd only just got there) to be with Merlin. She had a special relationship with him, as he lived with her for the 18 months that we lived in the granny flat at my parent's place.

So while we were all there with him, Rachel gave him the needle, and he let go. It didn't take much. He was definitely ready. I won't mention the prank he played on us all - let's just say the house stunk for a was a very Merlin-like prank!

And how are we?
The worst part about having pets is when they die, usually because they go long before anyone else on the family. It's a hard lesson to learn, but an important one. Harder for Oliver, because he's experienced too much death in his short lifetime. He mentioned this (that many people/pets that he knows have died) a couple of times, and I really felt for him, poor kid. Still, I'm glad he was there with Merlin in his final moments, and that he understands that Merlin lived a full and happy life, and was put to sleep because it was the best for him. Let's just hope that's it for a while though.

Oh, and a final note - Cheese is now firmly entrenched as an 'inside dog'. We were conscious of  her close relationship with Merlin, and worried about her pining for him, so we invited her inside. Lorraine (Anthony's mum) came over yesterday and gave her a bath, and she has definitely taken to her role. She doesn't need to be asked twice to come in, and has a permanent place on a blanket in front of the heater. Ah well, she's old (she's nearly 14 now), and she's nice to have around.

Saturday, July 23, 2011


Some things I noticed on my travels:

The highway is killing small towns.
I must say, I am very happy that many of the towns along the Hume Highway are bypassed (do you know at the moment you can drive all the way from the NSW/Victoria border to Melbourne without passing through a single town?). It turned the 10 hour/two day trip of my youth to a fairly manageable 6 (ish) hour drive. But in the couple of towns I turned off into (or passed through - there are still three towns in NSW that haven't been bypassed yet), there is a common theme: a slightly shabby look to the shopfronts, as well as quite a few closed ones. Tarcutta was looking the worst by a long way -  lots of boarded-up shops and barely a parked car to be seen. I remember stopping there a few times as a kid, and I definitely remember it as more vibrant. Holbrook is quieter than I remember, but the little craft/antique shops still seemed to be getting a few customers. I wonder how both towns will fare as they are bypassed. I wonder how Albury/Wodonga is going? Although they are probably big enough to sustain themselves.

Many people are completely oblivious to everything around them.
One thing I've been trying to do, especially in crowded streets/shopping centres, is to get Oliver to be more aware of his surroundings. He often walks out in front of people or gets in the way of people with prams etc. He's certainly not the only one! There were so many times when I had to stop walking to avoid fully grown adults that stepped straight out in front of me. And then there are those that walk straight into your photo, or viewpoint (the Tutankhamen Exhibition and the Skydeck being prime examples.

Melbourne drivers are much easier to work with.
In Melbourne, there is heaps of traffic. And the roads are, in places, pretty crappy. And in the city they share the roads with trams. All of which makes the drivers assertive and sometimes impatient, but on the whole, very considerate. Apart from the very quick 'beep' if you stay at the green light too long, I've always found Melbourne drivers most likely to merge well, let you into their lane, and obey the speed limits, even in road works! In contrast, the last 40 minutes of my trip yesterday was almost harrowing, with traffic flowing at least 20km above the speed limit, and aggressive tailgaters all the way through the roadworks (I can't wait for the GDE to finally be finished!). Canberra drivers are spectacularly awful!

You never break down in a convenient place
As I was driving with a cold, my head was a little woolly. After about 2 hours, I was getting very drowsy, and decided to stop for a little nap. Silly me though, I left the lights on, and when I went to start the car again the battery was flat. So there we were stuck at the Lake Mokoan rest stop. Nothing but a toilet and a picnic table. Luckily, the lovely RACV guy got there in about an hour, and we were on our way, but you'd think I could break down in Glen Rowan or somewhere slightly interesting, or with a cafe at least!
It's happened before too. A couple of years ago, we broke down when coming back from Merimbula. Halfway up Brown Mountain. And then there was the time that Anthony and I broke down about 30 minutes out of Cooma. And the time I lost a trailer tire halfway between Cooma and Canberra. I must have the worst breakdown timing ever!

The world isn't easy - but we can't help everyone.
One thing that Oliver noticed and commented on frequently were the homeless people in Melbourne. There were lots of them - mainly older men, begging for change. It was a good opportunity for a talk about the reasons this can happen, and how we can't help all of them (although I try and do my bit, with a donation to Mission Australia each month- they do good things for young homeless people). There was a time when I probably would have put change in each hat that I passed, but I'm a little more cynical these days. I'd be happier taking them to a shop and buying them a sandwich than giving them money for 'food'. It;s amazing how many people step over them though, like they're invisible.

Great architecture and artwork really does make a city better
There's been a lot of controversy here in Canberra about public artworks. But after spending a few days in Melbourne, I firmly believe that the more there is, the better. Melbourne is a beautiful city (I think), and part of that is because of the way it looks. There are some amazing old buildings that have retained their heritage value, but there are also lots of amazing quirky, interesting looking buildings:

 and lots of cool sculpture and street art.

It really does make the place look interesting. There were so many people (including me) taking photos of artworks and buildings, surely it's good for tourism too. We need a few of them in Canberra...

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Mellie at the Movies

As soon as the movie started, I regretted not having watched part 1 recently. It must be at least a year since I saw it, and I had forgotten some plot points.

I should say from the beginning that I am not a huge fan of the Harry Potter series. I didn't like the first 4 movies much at all, nor the books now that I come to think of it.
But they did get better as they went along. Books 5-7 were better, and the movies were slightly more watchable.

This last HP movie was definitely the one I liked best.  Of course it does have some advantages over the last one - setting up a story is never as exciting as the climax, after all.

The young actors have also improved with age. Emma Watson (Hermione) is not nearly as annoying as a teenager, and Daniel Radcliffe (Harry) seems much more at ease. I liked how Neville Longbottom's character had grown into something a bit more substantial, and Matthew Lewis carried it quite well.

The action scenes were very good, if not a little dark (why does all the good action happen at night?), with some excellent special effects creating a fairly exciting battle. I also loved the Gringott's Bank scenes (I won't spoil for you but there are some fantastic effects and creatures...). There was enough death and destruction to keep everyone happy, with the more gruesome scenes artfully managed, but not to their detriment I think.
This movie also made me feel something. Unlike Transformers, I had cause to get involved in the story, and I must admit to shedding a tear at certain key points. Very surprising given my previous ambivalence to the story, but in my defense I am a bit flu-ey!

There was never enough for me to call it a classic - Maggie Smith was a little detached (although I enjoyed her scenes) and Alan Rickman, one of my all-time favourites, was almost too understated. He did have some good opportunities to show more of his character though.There were some important scenes that were glossed over, and a couple that either weren't necessary, or were too long.

Nevertheless, it was a good finish to the series, and a nice way to spend the afternoon.

I'd give it 3.5 out of 5.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Do I have to come home?

This is what I see when I look out m hotel window.
It's not the traditional 'Melbourne City View', but it's still a nice one. There's the markets, a tram that wanders by every 20 minutes or so, the big container cranes, and in the distance, the big pillars of the Bolte Bridge.

I like Melbourne. Very much. If I had to live in another city it would be this one. When I asked Oliver if he'd live here, he said 'yeah! there's so much more to do here!'. Then he mentioned that he'd miss the family. Bless him. Damn families, stopping us from doin' stuff! ;p

We've had a pretty great time. For the first four days, we stayed pretty close to Eric and Karen's place (where we were staying). We visited my Grandpa a few times - he went to hospital for a night while we were here, so we went and visited him there too, we went swimming with my aunt and cousin (Oliver loved the wave pool), and I even managed to fit in almost a whole day of relaxing on the couch.

Which is probably why my body decided to let me get sick!
I haven't been sick in quite a while, but on Monday, I woke up with the definite signs of a cold. See, I just shouldn't have relaxed! Because today, I've got to drive home, and I'm feeling less than wonderful. It's going to be a loooooong trip...

Nevertheless, we've packed a lot in to our three days in the city.
On Sunday when we arrived, we went to the Queen Victoria Markets, where Oliver drained my wallet and I picked up some yummy olives and things (which ended up as my dinner!). Then we went down to Federation Square to the 'Art of the Brick' exhibition, which was pretty amazing:
This thing was HUGE! And made completely out of Lego!

We wandered through the town, ending up at the midtown Myer store's toy section (surprised??), which is pretty cool, with lots of Lego models, and too much Lego for sale!

And that was only Sunday! On Monday we went to the Melbourne Aquarium, which was cool (if not a little overpriced, I thought), the highlight of which was the gorgeous penguins (sorry, don't have a photo yet). Then, in a slightly cheeky move, we went at had some lovely fish and chips down on the Docklands. There is a great new shopping precinct there, but by this time, Oli was footsore, so we headed back up for a rest, briefly showing our faces down at Melbourne Central (about 350m away from here) for dinner.

Yesterday, we went to the fabulous Melbourne Museum (again, no photos yet!). It is a very well put together museum with some fascinating exhibits, like the taxidermied (not a word, I know) Phar Lap and the wonderful indoor 'forest', where I was very excited to get up close and personal with a satin bower bird and his blue bits (such a bird nerd!). 
We also saw (after nearly 30 minutes of queuing) the Tutankhamen exhibition, which was fascinating, but probably over priced and over hyped for what it was. I was hoping for Tut's mask or at least his sarcophagus, but it was interesting to see some of the treasures he was buried with.

Wednesday's adventures didn't end there. We then walked down to Eureka Tower (one end of town to another). We'd been there before but Oli was keen to go again, and I wanted to see it all by night. It was very spectacular, despite the low cloud that came in every few minutes, at one stage completely obscuring our view!
Oliver was exhausted by this time, so we jumped on a tram which took us almost to the door, and tucked in for an early night. 

This morning, I've promised Oliver a buffet breakfast in the hotel's restaurant, then we begin the long trek home. I have a feeling it will take me a little longer than the trip here, but that's OK. It's been nice.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Road Trip!

Oli and I are heading off on a road trip tomorrow.
Early in the morning, we're going to jump in the car and start the long drive to Melbourne.
We'll sing at the top of our voices, drive with the top down and whistle at girls as we cruise past....

Or something similar. I'll let you know how it all turns out!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Mellie at the Movies

I love movies. I've talked about them before and, as you know, spent a quarter of my life (so far) working in a cinema.

As I have been thinking about what to write in my blog, I have toyed with the idea of a movie 'review' every now and then. I don't want to do it all the time, as there are plenty of people who do that already, and probably better. Such as my lovely brother-in-law, who runs the Facebook page I Love Movies (check it out, won't you? As a favour to me??)

I always fancied myself as a bit of a movie 'expert'. More because of the sheer volume of movies that I've watched than any particular talent, but isn't bluff and bluster half the work of being a movie reviewer? So bear with me, dear readers, as I share my opinions, wanted or not. Perhaps you can also share yours with me?

I'm going to start my first 'review' with Transformers 3:

As I wasn't a huge fan of the first two Transformers movies, I wasn't expecting much from the third instalment. 

The premise was good; that the 1969 moon landing was a front for an alien salvage operation (not a spoiler guys, I promise!), but the potential for a great story got lost somewhere in the ruckus.

Don't get me wrong, I do like a good Michael Bay movie. There's nothing like The Rock, Armageddon or the Bad Boys movies for some good ol' empty headed action.
And the action scenes are good I guess. They are well choreographed and shot beautifully (the city-in-carnage scenes were quite spectacular) but like the rest of the movie, they were empty. There was nothing in the movie for me to invest my emotions into. I didn't really care if the whole lot of 'em got blown out into space.

There were a couple of funny moments. John Malkovich was the best I have seen him in a long time (I've gone right off him since his horrible portrayal of a Russian mobster in Rounders, and his even-worse Frenchman in Johnny English). He was funny and not too over the top. What a shame there wasn't more of him. Ken Jeong made me cringe with the antics of his paranoid office worker, and Kevin Dunn and Julie white were funny (as always) as Sam's very 'interesting' parents.

Sadly, Frances McDormand (who I love, normally), John Turturro (another favourite) and Patrick Dempsey all seemed to be phoning it in, and Rosie Huntington-Whitely (as Carly) was...well...just awful. Though in her defence, she probably wasn't hired for her acting talents (once you see her in the white dress you'll understand).

I know it's probably a Michael Bay signature, but I cringed at the sight of the tattered American flag flying high, and the shot of Carly walking in slow-mo as chaos reigned behind her. ACH! 

And before you shout 'but the kids will love it!', well I know of one 7 year old who didn't. Oliver's comment was 'how come the last movies are never as good as the first ones?'

Normally, I'd go and see an action movie for some pure escapism. Where I could leave my brain behind and have a good laugh, worry about the fate of the character/world/universe, and come out a little pumped on adrenalin. While I did laugh, this was probably only due to intentional humour once. 

Unless you're a transformers fan, or love looking at swollen-lipped supermodels draped over luxury cars, I'd give it a miss. 

I'd give it 1 out of 5. What did you think?

The hard times

There's a picture on our lounge room wall. A big group shot of about 20 people. It was taken at Easter about 5 years ago. Two people in that photo are now dead. Another has turned their back on the group that once welcomed them. Another story for another day, perhaps.

One of those people is Sam. The other is a friend of my mother-in-law, who passed away before her time due to a freak accident. She was only 59.
We went to her funeral yesterday. It was nice I guess, as much as a funeral can be. A fitting tribute to a lovely lady.

I was very proud of Oliver, who made the decision to go along to the funeral despite his feelings about death. He handled himself very well and seemed to take it all in his stride, which is good I guess.

When things were good for us, I used to look at magazines like 'That's Life' and 'Take 5' and wonder how individuals, or families could be surrounded by so much tragedy. I thanked my (whoevers) that those horrible things weren't happening to me.

Because they do seem to happen in clusters, don't they? Not that I'm saying that my life is completely tragic or anything like that, but it does seem that bad things happen in groups, rather than on their own.

Or perhaps it's my perception? I know I shouldn't overlook all the good things that have happened in the last 18 months, but it does seem that our family's had its share of crappiness.

Well, they say that when you're at the bottom the only way is up, and I have to believe that because I'm that optimistic person. There are still issues looming that have many people worried. But I'm hoping we'll all get through those...

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Airport Smooshiness

luggage-airport series
Picture from here
My mum and dad came back from overseas today (I've missed them a lot, but that's another story!), so I took the morning off to pick them up from the airport.

As a dedicated people watcher, I particularly like airports. More specifically the arrivals area of airports. Perhaps the cold and sterile arrivals lounge at Canberra airport is not the most welcoming and comfortable place, but it's still possible to witness some nice moments.

I think the airport is where you can really tell a lot about a person, and their relationship with the person they are waiting for. I saw a whole range of relationships today.

There was the guy that watched the stairs fairly closely but totally missed the person they were waiting for, who got all the way up to standing in front of him before he noticed. Cute. I don't think they were lovers though, because there was no embrace, barely even a hello.

There was the lady with the baby that had the him swept from her arms as soon as she walked through the door, then endured kisses from everyone. She didn't look like she enjoyed it so much.

There was the girl with the bright pink hair and big black boots that gave her grandmother a big, happy hug.

And then there was my favourite, the was the guy who was absolutely delighted to see his girlfriend, sweeping her into a huge hug and smiling from ear to ear. he couldn't stop smiling and barely left her side for a moment. So sweet.

All in about 10 minutes. I think the airport might be a good place to go when I'm feeling down, 'cause if I don't get a laugh, I'm sure to see something that warms my heart.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

I've got the blues...

For the last couple of days I've had blue fingernails.

Which is not like me at all. Mainly because I don't have nice fingernails, but also because I'm not really the 'blue nails' type. (don't ask me what type the 'blue nails type' is, 'cause I dunno - do you really think this is the time to discuss that??

But I did do it for a reason. Someone out there had declared the 5th of July to be Autism Awareness Day. (Not that it actually was - the real Autism Awareness Day was on the 2nd of April). Actually, it was someone on Facebook who had declared that today would be a 'paint your nails blue for autism' day. And I always do what Facebook tells me...

These days, there wouldn't be too many of us that wouldn't know someone with autism. I'm not sure whether it's more widespread, or more easily diagnosed, but either way, autism is something that everyone needs to know about. I didn't really know much about it until it became a part of my life. But I'm glad it did.

Anthony's brother, Christopher (the second oldest after Anthony) has autism. He's the same age as me, so he hasn't grown up in the age of autism units and increased community awareness.
In fact, I think it's fair to say that his journey (and that of his family) has been a bit of a struggle.

When Christopher was first diagnosed with autism, his mother (my mother-in-law) was told to 'forget about him' - put him in an institution, because he was never going to be 'normal'.

Well of course she didn't (would you??), and that started a long line of doctors, carers, schools and community members who variously ignored it, wrote it off, and sometimes, helped.
But mostly it was her and the family, doing whatever they could. Because Anthony was the oldest, he did a lot of the helping (ever seen The Black Balloon? I haven't but apparently the scenes where Thomas chases Charlie - in his underwear - down the street are fairly typical of Anthony's pre-teen and teen years).

It has been hard, but it's fair to say that the doctors way back then were wrong. Because Christopher strikes me as pretty 'normal'. In that he lives on his own, has his driver's license and an arts degree. He's a talented artist that has had several exhibitions here in Canberra.

Sometimes he talks a lot, and he can get fixated on things, but he can be very fun to be around, and he's a very important part of our family life. My kids love him, and he loves them too. He was devastated when Sam died (we all were), and he spent many months creating this mural in Sam's honor:

It now hangs on our fence next to the other mural we put up last year.

Just like anything else that makes us 'just a little different' to whatever normal is, autism is something that deserves a little bit of understanding and a lot of 'awareness'. Hence the blue nails...

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Plastic Rocks and Padding

Oliver and I went for a walk today to the 'Adventure Playground'. It's about 3km from our house, so a decent walk. 'Cause Oliver wanted to go there and play.

Oli enjoyed himself. There's a flying fox:

and some swings,

and a nice long slide,

He had fun. But something's still missing.

The Adventure Playground has been around since I was a kid.But back then, the big slide was a big, high thing with only air underneath, not a bouncy soft fall. To get on the flying fox you had to climb up some bodgy tires and make a bit of a leap of faith. There was a great big rope swing, which sat next to a grandstand-like set of seats. The boys would all climb to the top and pile onto the rope, 10 kids at a time, and then swing higher than you would imagine anyone could go. There was also a cool wire bridge - just one wire suspended high above the ground, with a couple of extra wires for balance.

It was cool back then. There were big, high tree houses and a concrete slide that used to get covered in water in the summer. And one of those pods that spun around and around until everyone inside was well and truly sick.

Playgrounds have changed a lot since I was a kid. And not for the better, I don't think.

It seems that the agenda at the moment is to make everyone completely safe when playing - to the point that it's just not much fun to visit the park any more. I guess the kids don't notice, but that's because they don't know any different.

When I was a kid, there were lots of really high slides, that rocked when you climbed the stairs and were lots of fun on the way down. There were big wooden play structures that wobbled and dropped odd parts off periodically, and gave you a wicked splinter if you rubbed them up the wrong way. We had lots of fun climbing and jumping off - daring each other to ever more dangerous acts and timing ourselves as we raced around doing increasingly crazy things.

I may be paranoid, but I believe that the government (particularly the ACT government) is systematically removing every ounce of fun from our playgrounds.
Recently, they attacked our local park (the one out the back of our house), removing every tree branch that was within arm's reach (and there were some pretty awesome climbing trees), and they are in the process of 'revamping' a park near my parent's house. God only knows what they'll end up with. I think it will probably be a little plastic fort with a 1.5m slide and a distinct lack of fun, challenging playground fare.

It's not that I want to put my kids in danger, it's just that kids should have the chance to play, and climb and challenge themselves, and take risks. Maybe they'll break their arm, but then again, maybe they'll find out that they could do something they never though they could do. Am I wrong to think that a little 'danger' is better? Me, I figure that a kid can get in trouble anywhere (look at Sam - he died when he was in bed!), so surely they should be allowed some FUN!

TAMS (our local 'council') recently asked for our feedback on some of the playground spaces. I told them what I think. I hope a lot of others will too.  Our kids need the opportunity to play and be kids. Don't they?