Monday, August 3, 2020

Silly After Action Report - Pynda Avenged

A large body of Greek soldiers made their way cautiously up to the outskirts of the village.  They were primed, ready and remarkably well equipped; some of them had shoes.  Captain Constantine Apatosoros stared at the village with a grim, fixed expression.

"Today," he muttered, more to himself than to his soldiers who had long ago learnt not to listen, "today Pynda will be avenged.  Today we humble the swine from Rome."

A corporal too close to earshot to plead deafness nodded encouragingly.

"Absolutely sir, we'll avenge the crap out of Pynda but first there is the little matter of the foxhole directly in front of us."

"A foxhole?  I spit on foxholes!  Send some troops to clear it out."

"Yes sir," replied the corporal mentally reviewing which of the men in the command he disliked the most.

From somewhere a whistle blew and a crackle of firing broke out all along the line. The corporal grabbed the most convenient soldiers and jerked a thumb.

"Oi you lot, foxhole."

The nearest soldier rolled his eyes,

"Look, who the hell is Pynda anyway?"

"His sister, she had her camera pinched on a Contiki tour of Rome.  He's never really got over it."

Mike Sexton wanted to play WO29 - Pynda Avenged and since it meant I got to command the Italians I happily agreed.  Having made an absolute pigs breakfast of the relatively simple task of invading Greece the Italians are now reaping the whirlwind as the Greeks come storming back to retrieve the approximately six square feet of Greek soil currently under the yoke of Rome.  I command a bunch of Italians from the Ferrara infantry division who aren't so much defending as simply unable to get out of the way in time.  The Italians are sitting in a small village and the Greeks want it back.  To win Mike needs to control more buildings within four hexes of what appears to be an arbitrarily defined point in the middle of the village.

To temporarily stave off the inevitable I have a distinctly seedy bunch of Italian troops lurking in buildings, woods and the two foxholes which is all they could apparently be bothered digging.  I have thirteen first line squads, a pair of half squads all "guided" by three officers the best of which is an 8-1.  Support weapons consist of a single medium machine gun, a single light machine gun and a 45mm mortar.  The 45mm mortar is the infantry equivalent of the L3 tank.  It's small, its useless and it turns up everywhere.

Steaming forward to seize the village Mike has fourteen squads of first line Greeks (ie much better than their Italian equivalents) led by a trio of officers headed by a 9-1.  In support are four light machine guns and one medium.

The first problem that the Italians have (apart from crap troops, lousy leaders, unreliable support weapons and an idiotic high command) is that there are a lot of places for the Greeks to set up and the Italians don't really have the troops to cover them all.  Naturally I popped the 8-1 leader, the mmg and a half squad into the church steeple so I had some view of the approaches.  I set up the bulk of my forces to cover an approach from the east while popping a couple of disposal units (and I just described the entire Italian OB) to the north in case Mike brought troops on in that direction.  The plan, insofar as there was one was that if Mike attacked from the east stern resistance was the order of the day.  If he attacked from the north I would reposition my troops to hopefully slow him down.

Mike attacked from the north and northeast which promptly put a lot of my force out of position.  Fortunately a single squad lurking in a foxhole would cover itself in glory.

End of Greek turn 1

Mike came on hard from the north edge (bottom) with two battlegroups each one charging for one of the two squads desperately showing the Italian flag (white).  In the northeast he deployed a couple of squads and sent the resulting halfsquads forward on a concealment busting mission while a squad and mmg sat under opportunity fire waiting for his chance.  Mike's results were mixed.  At pointblank range in the open its difficult for even the Italians to miss and a couple of halfsquads broke and one actually died under a withering hail of 6.5mm rounds.  To show his displeasure Mike's sniper put a bullet in the shoulder of an 8-0 hiding in the trees to rally the inevitable broken units.  The result was that the broken units were better off trying to rally themselves.  On the far right of the board a single Italian squad proved unable to stand up to Greek advancing fire but closer to the centre it was a different story.  Here lay Mike's nemesis, a single 346 squad in a foxhole.  No, I don't quite believe it either.

Mike sent a pair of (admittedly CXed) squads up against these heroes and my boys survived the ensuing CC.  A melee would rage which I would win without fighting (inspired by Sun Tzu or possibly Sabaton).  Two other melees marked the limits of Mike's advance.

All of which gave me just enough time to scramble some out of place troops through the rear areas and over to the right where a bunch of Greek squads were gobbling up territory.

End of Greek turn 2

It has to be admitted that while my troops were only so-so when it came to rifle fire they definitely stood up in close combat.  I'm not sure if I inflicted too many casualties on him but they tied down Greek troops for far longer than I had any right to expect.  In the crucial foxhole my guys inflicted absolutely no casualties on the attackers, they settled for hiding at the bottom of the foxhole and praying while I swept the hilltop with mmg fire.  It took a couple of turns but both Greek squads broke and by some miracle my guy didn't.  This was major as it took out a pair of Greek squads and turned what should have been a wall of Greek attackers into two widely separated and disjointed attacks.

Which was good because Disjointed Attack A (on the left) was getting up to steam.  A combination of firepower and close combat took out a pair of Italian squads and the wounded 8-0 died an unlamented death without contributing anything to the fighting apart from taking a sniper's bullet that could have hit somebody useful.  Mike reinforced the remaining close combat and eventually won the day freeing up more troops to add to his push.  I had managed to move unemployed squads over to the right to give a cheery welcome to his flankers as the pushed out of the woods and I reinforced the church as well.  The church building was worth double points and I absolutely could not let it fall.

End of Italian turn 2

In a wooded hill on the left my halfsquad with the mortar sat in secluded impotence waiting to see if Mike would wander into a woods hex before he decided to take out the annoying question mark and to my delight he did.  A halfsquad pushed forward from Mike's recently captured buildings and stepped boldly into the woods whereupon the much maligned 45mm had its moment of glory breaking the cocky interloper.  Mike killed to halfsquad manning the mortar immediately afterwards but I had already gained more of a result from it than I expected.  I surrendered a little territory (and a couple of victory buildings) on the right in return for maintaining a solid and largely concealed front while Mike got his troops lined up for his final push. To add insult to injury he captured my mortar and started peppering the church with mortar rounds which fortunately did as little harm to me as they would have to him if the situation was reversed.

End of Italian turn 3.  Mike is battered but pushing forward.  I'm hiding behind stone.

Mike charged a halfsquad towards the church, perhaps a turn too early as the remainder of his force wasn't in position but I wasn't able to kill it and a melee raged in one corner of the church.  Meanwhile a rally attempt had battle hardened one of his squads to a 458 (because the Italians weren't outclassed enough).  On the right my troops cowered under their concealment counters and disdained to return the fire Mike's flankers were throwing at them.  This plus some judicious skulking allowed  me to keep that flank intact as the final turns approached although he did manage to strip my concealment.

Things are starting to get dicey

Which was useful as Mike was throwing everything else he had trying to break into the village on the left.  I traded a squad for a halfsquad in the church to maintain sole ownership but I was running out of troops and had little chance of reinforcement as pretty much everything else was trying to hold off Mike on the right.  Mike broke his (formerly my) mortar which at least freed me from an irritation and I scuttled the steeple dwellers downstairs, being up there now was more of a liability than an advantage.

End of Italian turn 5.  Mike is about to launch his forlorn hope

Mike readied his final charge while I rearranged the deck chairs on the Titanic and hoped for the best.  Mike charged his troops forward in the face of  determined Italian fire which is to say we've determined that the Italians were firing.  He managed to swing a couple of, apparently bullet proof, squads around the outsides of the village to target a couple of buildings in the rear but his main force was crushed in the streets and with no chance of seizing the necessary buildings Mike conceded partway through his turn six.

The point at which Mike conceded

It has to be admitted that I was lucky.  My dice were good, not outrageously so but consistently just a little lower than average when I needed them to be, very important when commanding six morale troops.  I passed more morale checks than I deserved, one squad even self rallied which surprised both of us.  Many thanks to Mike for the game.  One more turn would have seen the defence crushed but as it was the Italians live to surrender another day.

Captain Apatasoros stared at the suddenly unobtainable village with a face like thunder.  Standing at what they hoped was a safe distance his men waited for the storm to break.  One of them nudged the corporal,

"Do something," he whispered hoarsely, "he's going to blame us for this mess." 

The corporal looked around wildly then a sudden smile spread over his face.  Reaching into his uniform he produced a camera and approached the captain.

"Sir we recovered this from the body of one of the Italian soldiers."

Captain Apatosoros snatched the camera, tears of happiness rolling down his cheeks.

"Oh little Pynda, see what your big brother has found."

As the captain skipped away singing a happy song one of the soldiers stared at the corporal.

"Where did you get that camera?"

"Pinched it off some Italian chick while she was on a Contiki tour of Athens."

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Plague Update #32

As Victorians start to get comfortable with phrases like "charnel house" and "necropolis" it is time to take a look at one of our near neighbours to see how they're doing in the whole pandemic.  To the north of Australia is a large, mountainous island the right half of which is occupied by the nation of Papua New Guinea.  So far Papua New Guinea has managed to keep reported cases of COVID-19 to a minimum by the simple expedient of not conducting any testing.  PNG authorities are also fortunate that there are so many other reasons why people might suddenly die ranging from tuberculosis to tribal warfare.

Unfortunately it has proved impossible to maintain this positive start.  According to this blog's tropical hell hole reporter the government has been forced to introduce strict limitations on human contact and social gatherings.  For the first time in the nation's history they have banned crusades.  So if you were planning on gathering your vassals, raising the Banner of Christ and making war on the infidel I'm afraid that you're going to have to give Papua New Guinea a wide berth.

At this point it might be instructive to mention that due to quarantine requirements our tropical hell hole reporter is currently doing her reporting by looking out a hotel window.  More specifically she is looking through the bottom of a wine bottle and out a hotel window.  Nevertheless she was adamant that no crusades were taking place in the street her hotel was situated on.

It isn't just crusades that are going to suffer either.  Pretty much every sort of war is going to become incredibly difficult when you have to observe social distancing rules.  It's difficult to launch a bayonet charge when you have to stop 1.5 metres from your objective.  Airstrikes will be needed to drop hand sanitiser on the enemy simply so we can come to close quarters.  Occupational Health and Safety Officers are going to be the most feared people on the battlefield. 

With peace in our time thus inadvertently achieved I took a quick look back at how my homeland is doing.  The answer is, patchy.  Some parts of it are doing rather well, specifically those parts that are refusing to let the other parts visit.  As an inhabitant of one of those other parts I feel somewhat miffed while guiltily admitted I would be demanding the same if I lived in a more disease free zone.  In NSW new cases are still popping up but even with the fresh outbreaks we've seen nothing on the scale of Victoria where their infection rate has has if nothing else given some of our dodgier retirement homes an excuse for their death toll.

I tried to contact this blog’s mounting death toll reporter for a complete update but she’d called in sick.

Tales of 1001 Posts

In the dim and distant past a young woman, so the story goes, managed to persuade a drooling psychopath not to kill her by telling him stories.  She would break off the story at an interesting part and said nutjob would have to postpone her execution in order to hear the rest.  This went on for a thousand and one nights which indicates that he was a remarkably tolerant and patient psychopath or alternatively, deeply stupid.

Without any such literary critic hanging on my every word it has taken me considerably longer to produce my own little milestone.  Yet here it is, my thousand and first blog post and I've managed to achieve it without having to marry a sword waving maniac or, for that matter, create anything novel, exciting or imaginative.  Fortunately such things aren't necessary for fame nowadays.  Having said that fame still manages to elude me.  A colleague who has writes about nutrition actually gets paid to hawk various products on her blog, it is fair to say the likelihood of that happening to me is rather on the low side.

It must be admitted that this blog is, well "designed" isn't exactly the right word, for a rather niche audience.  Said niche audience consisting largely of those who share my sense of humour and are interested in my goings on.  That translates to the three surviving members of my immediate family.  In fact this isn't so much a niche audience as a cranny audience.  From time to time I try and hector, persuade, beg and emotionally blackmail my friends and colleagues into reading my blog.  Sadly most of them would rather perform dentistry on themselves than do so.  I feel pretty secure in slagging them off as they aren't going to read it.

There is no structure or guiding principle behind this blog, it literally is whatever my brain happens to vomit out at any given moment.  Nevertheless over the years certain themes have developed.
  • Birthday greetings for historical figures (mainly various emperors).  These are easy to write as I simply cut and paste wikipedia and add my own commentary.
  • Travel commentary.  Again dead easy, you just have to go somewhere even if its only a light rail station
  • An intermittent series about the doings of a Tasmanian cow which ended with his sad demise
  • After action reports from a war game that I play.  These are actually the most popular as I hawk them around various gaming sites and people click on to them before they realise what they're doing
  • My interactions with a colleague in Tasmania who provides me with material so I don't have to think of anything original
  • And recently taking advantage of the coronavirus outbreak to add to the level of disinformation surrounding the pandemic
The flesh on the above skeleton is provided by an adhoc collection of mind spittle that I toss in whenever I have spare time, could be bothered or really have nothing else to do.  There are one or two entries that I'm genuinely proud of (don't ask for examples) and a number I now find deeply embarrassing (too many examples to mention) but I've decided not to remove any of them as I feel that would somehow be dishonest.

Along the way I have learned a little more than I really wanted to about my fellow human beings.  I wrote a post entitled "Dinosaur Snuff Porn" which turned out to be one of the most popular I ever wrote.  Imagine what someone must have been googling to come across that by accident.  Another post on archaeology gained a reply from someone who had a disturbing intimacy with the minutiae of human burial.  I'm hoping he was a funeral director and not a serial killer.

The person most to blame for the preceding thousand posts is my father in law, Herry Lawford who suggested I start this blog in the first place and held up his own much more coherent and intelligent blog as an example.  Herry is now in much the same situation as Doctor Frankenstein when his monster started terrorising the local villagers.  Fortunately social distancing rules preclude the organisation of a torch wielding mob to storm his castle.

Thank you to everyone who has read this blog (Mum, Dad, Geoffrey) if there hasn't been anything to interest you yet there probably will be in the future.  Given the scattergun way my mind works I will almost certainly touch on a subject close to your heart eventually.  Then I will mock and misrepresent it for posterity. This is the great thing about the internet.  It may not teach you anything but it allows you to be ignorant on an almost infinite variety of subjects.

Monday, July 27, 2020


And finally I've done it.  I have reached the end of the line.  The light rail crawls painfully up the incline leading to Central railway station and collapses gasping from its exertions as its passengers crawl infant like from their metal womb.

Yes here I am at Central the ultimate destination of the light rail (unless you're travelling in the other direction of course in which case the ultimate destination is Dulwich Hill).  It has to be admitted that the light rail stop is a little bit of an afterthought for NSW's premier public transport hub.  I believe it used to be a bus terminal.  One gets off the light rail and slinks through an ill lit side entrance before entering fully upon the magnificence that is Central Railway Station.

And what magnificence it is.  Built back in the days when public buildings were supposed to be impressive rather than hateful Central has lots of handsome sandstone, a wacking great clock and a domed roof.  In fact the only really aesthetically displeasing thing about the original station is the people milling about inside it.  Like most similar venues around the world Central railway station performs two vital public services.  It is a transport hub and an impromptu homeless shelter.  The disturbing thing is that the homeless are neither the worst dressed nor the most obnoxious people you will find there.

Of course Central has undergone a lot of additional work since the handsome sandstone building was unleashed on the general public in the early years of the twentieth century.  You can mark the age of each additional update largely by how displeasing and visually repugnant it is especially by comparison with the original building and earlier additions.  By the time one gets to the latest platforms we're talking clapboard walls, narrow tunnels and a tiling system that seems to have been inspired by mid twentieth century public toilets.

I'm being a little unfair of course.  Central station is currently being renovated and therefore doesn't look quite its best at the moment.  As I cast back over the weed choked fields of my memory I realise I can't remember a time when Central wasn't being renovated.  Parts of are always blocked off, detoured around or have that helpful yellow and black tape that tells you either work is in progress or a gruesome murder has been committed.  I literally cannot recall a time when the entirety of Central station was open for the general public to frolic in.  Possibly to bring a little unpredictability to our otherwise routine riddled lives the particular parts that are boarded off or surrounded by tape change from time to time.  I rather suspect that there isn't any renovation work going on at all and the whole thing is an elaborate ruse to help justify the ongoing inconvenience.  It's also possible that I have misidentified very cheap and tacky permanent fixtures as being under renovation.

Still for all its flaws Central is still the only place in NSW where you can absolutely guarantee that you will see a train.  It might not be going where you want to go but at least it gives the lie to the persistent rumours that our entire train fleet was sold some years ago to an amusement park in South Korea.

And Central isn't finished yet!  Renovations may be more notional than actual but new work is definitely proceeding apace as workers hack out new tunnels and stations for the upcoming metro line.  I'm not sure why they bother as Central has two underground stations already built that have never been used but I suppose they have their reasons.  In the meantime I will stride past handsome sandstone walls, down a flight of stairs into what looks like a repurposed maintenance tunnel and then along until I get to another flight of stairs that will lead me up to a platform tastefully decorated in the most fetching particle board offcuts you can find in a Bunnings leftovers bin and wait for a train to cart me home.

Saturday, July 25, 2020

Silly After Action Report - The Tiger of Toungoo Part 2

As Dave and I started our second session of the Tiger of Toungoo I was cautiously optimistic.  On my left my forces were somewhat tattered but still pushing forward while on the right I had managed to shepherd a sizeable force towards what was obviously Dave's main defensive position albeit more by luck than judgement.  The weeks break had given me time to formulate a strategy to carry me to ultimate victory.  Even as I type this I can feel readers rolling their eyes.

I had plenty of time and decided it was time to hasten slowly.  On the right I would prepare myself for a final assault on his bastion.  The major difficulty here was his his squad/hmg combo sitting snugly in a pillbox guided by that mighty 10-2.  Between smoke and my flamethrower I hoped to at least neutralise them.  On the left I would pause, reorganise and then launch a renewed assault once everything was in position.  It will come as no surprise that a lot of this didn't happen.

The first order of business on the left was to tidy up (ie; win) the close combat still raging in one of the buildings.  The surprising self rally of a half squad helped with this and I pushed it forward along with another (striped squad) to join their doughty comrades already fighting with the bayonet.  On the far left having definitely determined that neither of my mortars had any smoke I pushed forward dispossessing some dummies of a building and, drunk with success, sent a mortar carrying halfsquad into the large building.  Success was somewhat mixed and by mixed I mean absent.  The melee raged on and in the next turn Dave would wipe out my entire force for the loss of a halfsquad.  The halfsquad I sent into the large building was sent to join its ancestors by a squad Dave was keeping apparently for that purpose.  Things on the left were, if anything even worse than when I started.

In the centre and right though surprising success was achieved.  I discovered one of his fortified building locations but nevertheless managed to break the squad occupying it.  At the cost of only a couple of sacrificial halfsquads I managed to distract the remainder of his defenders and snatch the fortified location for my very own.  Now my troops would have the benefit of the +3 defence, which was good because there was a squad sitting in the very next building hex and so far all I had managed to do was make it fanatic.

In defiance of the prevailing trend my mortar on the far right managed to find a smoke round and dropped it neatly onto his hmg pillbox.  I wasn't quite ready to launch a full assault but I did sent my elite halfsquad forward with a demo charge on a sort of "recon by taking fire mission".  This halfsquad had proved to be a disappointment so far.  It had taken two morale checks so far and failed them both.  Kicked back into action by an officer it stepped forward.  It didn't break, this time it was killed outright and good riddance to the worthless bastards.

End of Chinese turn 5

The building on the left which had been the scene of epic close combat now had so many discarded Japanese support weapons that you could have opened a shop.  Possibly with that in mind Dave sent his remaining squad on the left back into the building leaving me with the irritating task of pushing him out of it all over again.  In the centre I managed to pin his fanatic squad (we checked carefully but we could find nothing to say fanatics don't pin) and then wipe it out in close combat.  With the centre thus reasonably safe (despite a pillbox commanding the street) I shuffled forces led by by 9-1 to the left.  They would recapture the Japanese weapons store or die trying.  I think you can see where this is leading. 

On the right with his hmg pillbox choking under a cloud of smoke I tried the same trick with his other fortified building location.  Unfortunately the mortar crew had only brought one smoke round (those things are heavy) but managed to drop a WP round into the location instead.  Greatly daring I pushed a couple of squads across the street (aided by the fact that Dave managed to break an lmg in defensive fire) and seized a toehold in the building that was obviously the soul of his defence.  Just for laughs I sent a halfsquad that had spent pretty much the entire game hauling a broken mortar about the place in as well.  Sneering at such opportunism Dave sent a 7-0 into close combat with these hapless mugs and killed them.  I did manage to kill the owners of the broken lmg and maintain a hold on the building.

End Chinese turn 6 - things could be worse

On the left my 9-1 proved an invigorating presence, swiftly rallying a rabble of half squads and leading them forward to challenge for possession of the weapons store.  Into close combat they plunged, Japanese and guided by a 9-1, no more fearsome sight can be imagined.  They all died.  Every last one of them.  The scream I uttered when this happened was probably audible to Dave without skype.  The weapons store added more items to its inventory. 

Honesty compels me to admit that despite the soul crushing losses It left me in a good position for Dave's squad died as well and with that the left flank was cleared.  Such forces as I had left (about two squad equivalents and a 10-0 leader) could now move forward against what little remained of Dave's centre defenders (after gathering up all of the weapons).

Over on the right I achieve a solid result when my my last -1 leader guided a kill stack of two Japanese elite squads and lmgs and managed to break the squad in his last fortified location.  I also dropped a WP round onto the hmg pillbox to replace the recently departed smoke.  Dave was now running out of places to rout to.  In return and despite the WP currently obscuring his vision the hmg team managed to kill the halfsquad carrying the flamethrower.  I wasn't too concerned.  Splitting my kill stack I sent one squad out into the street to join their comrades in the large building while the other squad and the 10-1 moved in to collect the temporarily unowned flamethrower.

Things are looking disturbingly positive

Of course it couldn't be quite that simple.  As I tussled for the main building on the right with the remainder of Dave's defenders his hmg team earned their pay once again, firing out of the WP into the building containing my 10-1 and an elite squad.  When you have a 10-1 officer and an elite squad you can laugh at a 1MC right?  Not so much.  My 10-1 promptly rolled an eleven and wounded down to a 9-0.  Challenged by this the squad went one better and rolled boxcars.  My elite squad was now a broken, first line halfsquad.  I shrieked, I moaned, I may have wept.  In the centre the remnants of my left flank were industriously killing what little was left of Dave's force in those parts but my attention was gripped by the sudden tragedy on my right.

Fortunately the god of bastard dice was about to prove that he was an equal opportunity psychopath.  In the next fire phase my wounded officer wiped the blood from his eyes and hoisted the flamethrower sending a stream of liquid burny stuff (if you want technical details read a different blog) into the pillbox.  Dave's 10-2 took a normal morale check and rolled an eleven.  That was pretty much the end.  With nowhere to run the 10-2 died a tigers death (alone in the woods killed by a human) and my surviving troops cleaned out the handful of remaining buildings.  It took until the very last turn but I managed it.  At the end I had captured every building.  From an at start OB of twenty three squads I had seven remaining, a number of them rather battered halfsquads of various types.  From twenty one squad equivalents Dave had precisely one.  Thanks to Dave for the game and for putting up with the hysterical shrieking and raving that is an integral part of playing me.

The end, at this point we had both suffered so many casualties we could have held the battle in a phone box

Corporal Adingi cautiously pushed aside the desperation morale counter he'd been hiding under and ventured out into the street.  There was smoke, blood and splintered wood everywhere but things seemed to be remarkably quiet.  There were also bodies, lots and lots of bodies.

"You there!"

Adingi turned abruptly raising his rifle only to lower it somewhat reluctantly when he saw an officer striding towards him.

"All right corporal," barked the officer, "round up whoever's left alive and send a message to headquarters telling them of the glory we've won."

Adingi ripped off a smart salute and waved over the half dozen or so remaining soldiers.  The officer glanced swiftly around to make sure none of the others were in earshot and whispered,

"How did you survive?"

"Spent most of the battle hiding under a desperation morale counter.  You?"

"Lurked in the background until everybody had killed each other then charged forward waving a sword once we ran out of enemies."

"Nice, how's Mum?"

"Hoping both the Adingi boys make it home from the war."

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Plague Update #31 - Special Mask Edition

Well wearing a mask is absolutely not mandatory in New South Wales, oh deary me no.  Our premier merely suggests that it might be an excellent idea if one has to indulge in any activity where social distancing is difficult.  For me that means leaving the house.  For those sharing their life with more than a stuffed puffin it could mean going to the bathroom.

I am nothing if not a socially responsible individual so when I stepped out of my flat today I had my mask securely in place.  The police who escorted me home politely pointed out that a gimp mask wasn't quite what the premier was referring to and why did it have a puffin beak on it?  Then they saw my interior decoration and decided not to ask any more questions.  In fact they seemed quite desperate to leave.

With my attempt to venture into the great outdoors thus thwarted I decided to reach out to my various correspondents to see what was happening in their disease riddled necks of the woods.  My first attempt wasn't too successful.  I might have mentioned I have a friend who has been using the outbreak as an excuse to justify his survivalist leanings.  I called him on skype and he put a bullet through the computer monitor.  At least I know he's still alive.

I wasn't too concerned as I really wanted to see how the outbreak was impacting those with families so I called up my colleague in Melbourne to ask how home schooling was going. Unfortunately she was passed out over her keyboard.  It's my own fault, I should really call her before ten o'clock in the morning if I want her at her best.  Undaunted I reached out to my New Zealand correspondent who I only remember in times of extremis.  For a moment I thought that I had reconnected with my survivalist friend.  He was dressed in camouflage gear, a face mask and was carrying a baseball bat.

Apparently he was sallying forth to do his civic duty.  Those in this country are aware of the ghastly failure of the hotel quarantine system in Melbourne.  In New Zealand things have been much better managed but there is still the issue of the occasional person slipping out of the hotel and making a break for freedom.  The response of the ordinary citizens has been thoughtful and restrained; they're organising lynch mobs on Facebook to hunt these malefactors down.  I wanted to speak more but I could see the bloodhounds were getting restless so I left him to it.

Which just left my Tasmanian correspondent.  Since its early hospital related COVID disasters Tasmania has been doing quite well.  I rather suspect its because the earlier issues have convinced those few Tasmanians who still had any faith in their hospital system that they were better off dying at home.  As such Tasmania is pretty much COVID free.  Which means I didn't actually have much hope that my correspondent would have any news for me.  As it turns out I was wrong.

One of the amusing things about this pandemic has been various sporting bodies making bold announcements about when they would start playing again and where those venues might be.  Pretty much every such announcement has been met by a response from the responsible political authorities pointing out that if they tried everybody would be arrested.  If it were you or me that would persuade us to be a little more circumspect in our announcements and possibly get clearance from the relevant authorities before making plans.  Not our sporting bodies.  They seem utterly determined to broadcast to the public at large exactly how disorganised and idiotic they are. They're doing a good job.

The latest foolishness came from the AFL (that's the Australian Football League for those of you who don't live in Victoria) who announced that given Tasmania's relatively COVID free status they would be transferring some teams and games down there.  The response of the Tasmanian premier was, "the fuck you are!"  The state's happy and hard won COVID free status has been gained by shutting the borders and pretending the rest of Australia doesn't exist.  This strategy seems to have worked and they see no reason to alter it now.

Besides as my correspondent pointed out AFL is a slightly sensitive subject in Tasmania.  The locals are crazy about the game and would dearly like to have a team in the competition.  The AFL governing body has reacted in the usual way people do to a statement of undying devotion. They have treated the Tasmanians with absolute contempt and preferred to spend their money establishing teams in places that have barely heard of AFL and in some cases are barely in Australia.  Since Tasmanians will watch the AFL anyway there is no benefit to the AFL in giving them their own team.

It is rare for Tasmania to have the whip hand over their mainland counterparts but I truly hope that the Tasmanian premier doesn't let the AFL in until Tasmania is guaranteed their own team in the competition.  Since Tasmania has pretty much destroyed its own economy (such as it was) with the lockdown anything that gets a little money changing hands will certainly be welcome.

With the sports update completed I sat down with a needle and thread and attempted to make myself a facemask out of paper towel and some nylon cord that I (ahem) just happened to have lying around.  My puffin was mocking my attempts until I started looking at his plush covering with a speculative eye.  Now he's hiding under the bed until my impromptu arts and crafts evening is complete.

Saturday, July 18, 2020

Capitol Square

Just a few minutes up the line from Paddy's Markets and still (according to wikipedia) in the Haymarket area of Sydney is my next light rail stop, Capitol Square.  I must admit I expected a square (or possibly a capitol) and looked around in some bewilderment at the square bereft collection of buildings that greeted me.

Which just goes to show how first appearances can be deceiving.  A ten second walk from where the light rail had spat me to the pavement is the site of where one of Sydney's first open air markets was established.  This was the Hay Market that gave the area its name.  The reason why I had difficulty finding it is that in the intervening time the place has been roofed over and thus from the outside looks like just another building.  Apparently some years ago the place was seriously run down.  Then some developers came along restored the heritage (ie somewhat older than everything else) buildings surrounding the site, put a glass roof over the top and created what its website claims is "a unique combination of business, retailing, hospitality, restaurant, recreation and special functions facilities" but which we would probably call a shopping mall.

The ground floor has the usual combination of restaurants and other similar things but the first floor proudly (and somewhat grandiloquently) proclaims itself to be Technocity.  Technocity is a collection of computer shops (and a nail salon for reasons which aren't entirely clear to me) plus a recreation area containing a whole bunch of Asian style computer games, booths and an endless array of those coin operated machines that allow you to use a claw in a futile attempt to grab a stuffed toy.  Said stuffed toys also have an Asian theme and hover somewhere on the border between cloyingly cute and deeply psychologically disturbing.

The whole area is lit by competing strips of multicoloured lights and suffused with the sound of dozens of video games all playing slightly different electronic music.  If you are an epileptic I would strongly recommend avoiding the first floor of Capitol Square.  If you do struggle through the square and out the other side you are rewarded (if that's the term to use) with the presence of a Starbucks coffee shop.  On reflection "rewarded" is definitely not the term to use.

Flanking Capitol Square on one side is the historic (ie "slightly older etc etc") Capitol Theatre a grand old building that suffered somewhat when I was there from the fact that it was a) closed and b) had bags of rubbish piled up on the pavement, presumably awaiting collection.  This is one of those heritage buildings that was restored, possibly it looks better inside.  One would hope so anyway.  On the other side is the Palace Hotel which is in an old building that actually looks like it has been restored.  At least it doesn't give the impression that bits are going to fall off it if you lean against the walls.

Handsome, or at least structurally sound, though the Palace Hotel might be I wasn't in the mood for eating, drinking or (in these COVID times) associating with other people any more than I had to so I gave it a miss and wandered up George Street.  This is technically Chinatown but apparently the Chinese are an inclusive bunch and this portion of it was crammed with Thai massage establishments. I might have been tempted but if I'm going to be rubbed down with sanitiser but somebody wearing a mask I already know an establishment that will cater to my needs.  Across the road was a Vietnamese restaurant called Pasteur's.  If I were running a restaurant I probably wouldn't name it after a specialist in bacteria.