Saturday, March 18, 2023

Taking a Clutchy Stick for a Walk

 I received a clutchy stick for Christmas.  For your information a clutchy stick is one of those unfoldable sticks with the claw on the end that are used to pick up rubbish.  Later, on my birthday, I received a pair of work gloves.  Lest you think this is the beginning of a confession for some bizarre fetish permit me to reassure you I had completely non-sexual reasons for requesting these gifts.

A block or so behind my home is a golf course and through that golf course flows the Cooks River.  It is fair to say that the Cooks River has had its ups and downs since the coming of the white man (and by extension white women and children).  First it was a fishing resource, then a sewer, then an industrial run off zone (and sewer) and finally (somewhat improbably) a place to put expensive "riverside" housing.  We really have buggered the Cooks River about quite a bit culminating in completely changing the mouth.  The mouth of the river used to enter Botany Bay where the airport currently sits so engineers sat down and had a brief chat with the river about the benefits of cosmetic surgery and moved the mouth several kilometres away from its original location.

Despite all of the messing about and a spectacular level of pollution bits of the Cooks River are beginning to be remediated as humanity does its usual trick of annihilating 98% of something and then becoming insanely protective of the remainder.  Bits (rather small bits) of the concrete river banks have been broken down and improved by being returned to something approximating their natural state.  Back in the 1930s of course they thought they were improving the river by lining it with concrete in the first place.  While the river still isn't anything you'd want to expose your naked flesh to the fact that fish have returned is considered a positive sign.  I don't actually know if fish have returned but the presence of numerous signs warning you to under no circumstances eat any fish you catch can be considered indicative.

Marrickville Golf Course hugs the riverbank for part of its journey and a narrow strip near the water's edge can be walked along (any golf ball induced concussion is your own problem).  I walk along there quite often as there are trees, birds and a river.  I listen to the rustle of lizards in the grass, birds in the trees and the hysterical cursing of golfers as their balls refuse to go where they want.  As I do so I gaze at the mangroves that line the river.  The thing that mainly meets my gaze is rubbish.  Any river that flows through an urban area is naturally going to pick up a fair bit of junk and that junk gets deposited wherever the land is flat enough to do so.  I got so irritated by this that I decided I wanted a clutchy stick and now when the mood takes me I wander down to the river with my clutchy stick and pick up rubbish.  I have no illusions that I am making any sort of dent in the river's overall pollution issues.  I'm only one person and a lazy, easily distracted one into the bargain.  Nevertheless I find it somewhat therapeutic and its pleasant to get out into nature albeit a rather messy part.

Today the sun was hot so hanging out at a river bank was a marginal improvement on hanging out at my flat.  I squelched through the mangroves picking up bits and pieces while birds hurled themselves into the river (more proof that there were fish unless the birds had just decided on a disgusting form of suicide) while from the golfcourse just above me came the sharp crack of club on ball followed by the traditional four letter cry of the golfer.  "Fuck!"  Followed by, "did anybody see where that went?"

With my bag full I left them to it and wandered home.  On a completely unrelated note if anybody needs any secondhand golf balls I am totally your man.

Silly After Action Report - Gladium Pro Patria e Rege

 Two troopers of the Lucca cavalry regiment stared in awe as the heavily bemedalled officer went by.  The colonnello's chest bore so many decorations that he clattered as he walked.  One of the troopers turned wide eyed to the other,

"Was that...?"

"Yep," nodded his comrade, "Colonnello Castanetti himself.  The hero of El Sod.  They say he smuggled himself out of East Africa on a submarine.  Then wound up in North Africa fighting with Rommel.  Although some vicious tongues say he passed out on a submarine during a party, fell overboard and was washed up in North Africa.  Everywhere our army has met defeat he has managed to survive.  He was at Alamein, he was one of the few Italians to escape.  In fact he managed to escape three weeks before the battle started.  That's how good he is."

"What a man."

"He's just the person to lead us against the Germans.  He knows all about them."


"Yes, he was a waiter in Berlin before the war.  And during the war actually, until they sent him to East Africa for spilling soup on Gauleiter Koch during a function."

The other soldier had stopped talking.  He couldn't help but notice that the colonello had got into a staff car and was now leaving the scene at an extremely high speed.  Almost simultaneously a shout came from a lookout, 

"The Germans are coming!"

"Amazing," muttered the first soldier, "how does he know?"

Dave Wilson very kindly agreed to play this scenario from LFT's Italian issue.  In Scenario FT246 - Gladium Pro Patria e Rege I shall command various elements of the "Ariete II" tank division.  Well you know what they say about sequels, they're never as good as the original.  It is 1943 and the Italians have surrendered but its very difficult to send an entire country to a prisoner of war cage in the rear with the result that the Italian army had to face their erstwhile allies who were somewhat miffed to put it mildly.

Making their stand for king and country are my brave troopers facing down the somewhat irate panzer grenadiers of the 8th motorised regiment.  To win Dave has to exit twelve VP off the north edge of the board between hexes vY1 and vGG5 while simultaneously ensuring that no tracked Italian AFV with a functioning MA has LOS to and is within six hexes of the original German set up area.

Standing firm in their path are my troops.  I have eight squads of elite Italian infantry led by a 9-1 with a pair of 7-0s making up the numbers.  They have a pair of light machine guns, a heavy machine gun, an almost equally heavy antitank rifle and a 75mm artillery piece.  Eight concealment counters help to confuse the Germans about the forces opposing them.  Either setting up or entering on turns 1-3 according to my personal whim are my armoured forces; two M15/42 tanks, four SMV75/18 SP guns and a single AB41 armoured car.  Dave's forces consist of a dozen first line squads led by four officers including his own 9-1.  They have four lmgs, two dismantled medium machine guns and an atr.  Hooked up to an unarmoured halftrack is a 50mm anti tank gun.  Six Opel Blitz trucks contain the troopers at start and adding a little punch is a Grille ie a siG38(t)M the chassis of the old Czech tank groaning under the weight of the 150mm howitzer improbably mounted on it.  Clattering on in support on the first turn are four StuGIIIG self propelled guns whose long barrelled 75mm guns made my Semoventes suffer from barrel inadequacy.

My problem (apart from my standard problems of laziness, stupidity, carelessness and lack of attention to detail) was that there were several ways that the Germans could approach the exit locations and I had to try and cover them all.  This led to a couple of stupid decisions in the set up.  I placed a M15 (with the armour leader no less) up on the hill to the right hidden in a very small orchard patch.  My intention was that the tank could cover the right if Dave tried an end run up the very right of the board.  In actual fact it covered nothing and died without achieving much.  Another problem was that my Semovente had difficulties penetrating the frontal armour of the StuGs while my armour presented no such issues to Dave.

I nestled another Semovente and the 75mm gun (by far my best chance at a tank kill) in the woods bordering the exit locations hoping for a side shot.  A couple of squads and an lmg also took up positions in the vicinity as a last forlorn hope.  My main defensive position was in the woods in the centre.  Here I placed my other M15 and another Semovente to cover the approaches with fire supported by ample squads.  The 9-1 with a halfsquad manning the hmg was HIP at the rear of this woods patch.  A couple of squads lurked in the trees on the hill mass to dissuade Dave (unsuccessfully) from clambering up that way.  Further south was a dummy stack and a unit with the atr.  These guys had one job, take out that Grille before it could commit any atrocities on the Italian infantry.  I kept back the armoured car and one Semovente to roll on as reinforcements on turn 3.  The job of these guys was simply to position themselves where they could prevent Dave from fulfilling the victory condition about no Italian AFV having LOS etc to the German set up area.  My final Semovente set up in woods on the right hand hill again guarding an approach it is fair to say Dave never contemplated using.

Set up, by SSR Italian AFV setting up in concealment terrain can set up HIP

Dave started by using his Grille to dump a smoke round (its last) in front of my troops in the south before sending the bulk of his troops north.  Dave hastened slowly through the wheatfield while I proudly held my fire.  There would be plenty of targets for my M15 and SMV to shoot at next turn.  The whole point of my centre position was to slow him down which meant lots of skulking and cringing underneath concealment counters.  There was joy in the South though as smoke notwithstanding my atr crew managed to get into his Grille (a poor joke but I couldn't resist it).   I had thus deprived Dave of his artillery support on turn 1 although its crew survived to my later annoyance.  Keen observers of the picture below will note the remarkable absence of StuGs from the field.  Dave completely forgot to bring his supporting armour on and, to be fair, I forgot to remind him.  At least that's my story and I'm sticking to it.

End German turn 1. Dave's Grille is gone, as for the rest of his armour they must have taken a left turn at Alberquerque

My own turn was modest in its achievements although I did manage to break overambitious squad moving forward.  I revealed my M15 hidden amongst the trees to take advantage of its machine guns given the vast number of Germans parading themselves for my delectation.  I managed to pin one of them.  On the other hand my sniper wounded one of his officers (although not the 9-1 of course).  None of Dave's officers would survive the scenario unscathed although some were more scathed than others.

Turn two saw Dave sort out his late running StuGs.  They swept up on the left and started getting acquisitions on the M15 and the SMV that I had in the trees.  I gave up the M15 as doomed but bought a turn or two of life for the SMV by reversing it into a clearing where the StuGs couldn't shoot at it.  The SMV took a shot at a StuG but had no HEAT without which those stubby 75mm had little chance.  My infantry defenders followed a pattern whereby the most conveniently placed would shoot then retreat while another concealed unit took their place.  Dave's infantry started to suffer casualties and in consequence began edging to the right avoiding the forest of fire in the centre.

My that's a lot of StuGs

Making up for their late appearance Dave's StuGs ruled the battlefield for the next couple of turns taking out the M15 and the SMV that had scurried out of their path although not before it had one brief moment of glory blowing away a stack of German infantry that got a little bold.  It had been my hope that by the time my reinforcements came on the battle (and most particularly the StuGs) would have moved on but Dave's late arrival scotched that idea with the result that the reinforcing SMV wound up nose to much longer nose with a StuG.  My infantry on the hill shamelessly abandoned their hidden comrade to its fate as Germans pushed up the hill and suddenly it looked like my right flank nightmares were coming true.

Dave's patented "drive directly up to the enemy tank and destroy it in the advancing fire phase" tactic is working well.

In the centre Dave slowly ground through my troops defending the woods but the real danger came to the right.  With my tree defenders occupied he filtered troops between the trees and the forest and started threatening to outflank my defenders.  Up on the hill itself a lmg team managed to stun a StuG that had been carelessly advancing CE but I was starting to feel distinctly nervous about the flank.  Then despair and delight occurred almost simultaneously.  Dave had pushed a StuG forward towards the exit directly in the line of sight of my hidden 75mm gun the only weapon I had with a decent chance of taking out the StuGs.  I took a defensive fire shot to gain acquisition for next time whereupon Dave rolled snake eyes in advancing fire and wiped out both gun and crew.  I howled in despair but what the dice gods take they also give.  Down in the south my reinforcing SMV found a HEAT round and nailed his rearmost StuG, I now had a largely unchallenged SMV within reach of Dave's set up area.  I say largely unchallenged, the crew of his destroyed Grille did jump into close combat with them but fortunately I managed to survive.

The agony and the ecstasy.  There is just a hole where my 75mm gun should be but check out the wrecked StuG

My M15 on the hill survived only as long as it took the StuG up there to recover from being stunned but on the other hand the gun killing StuG broke its MA which was a decided relief as there was a SMV sitting there trembling under its concealment counter.  With Dave's infantry filtering by to the east it was time for my 9-1 led hmg to show their worth.  I had kept these guys hidden the entire time while the woods defenders fought to keep the Germans away from their position.  Show their worth they did going on a couple of rate tears that carved up the flanking German infantry.  In fact they fired the barrel so hot that the machine gun broke but by then the damage had been done.  Dave's StuGs were moving with virtual impunity but his infantry had taken heavy casualties and the StuGs couldn't win it alone.

There are lots of trucks in the way but my hmg is starting to wreak havoc.

Dave pressed to the last pushing his StuGs forward to challenge for the exit locations and slowly grinding down the remnants of my woods defenders but he had no answer for the pair of SMVs sitting in the rear with access to his start locations.  Also while my infantry defenders were pretty much done a decent number of German troops were dead or broken a long way from the exit.  Dave gave the concession and I was able to chalk up a win for the Italians.  

One turn to go and Dave accepts the inevitable


I checked ROAR afterwards and there is a definite bias towards the Italians so I may have screwed Dave over in the selection of the scenario but you don't get too many opportunities for a German v Italian armour clash.  Just on a historical note I have read a number of histories of war in the desert that report the Italians being delighted with the arrival of the Semoventes as it finally gave them a chance to take on Allied armour on equal terms, wtf???  That stubby 75 can barely gain the attention of a Grant or Sherman crew.  Only the HEAT round allowed it to face off against the StuGs.

Many thanks to Dave for the game.  I let him choose the next scenario we played and in revenge he placed me opposite the Italians.  Coming soon, The Wolves Last Tooth.

"I got one," shouted the trooper, delirious with joy.  "Shoved a HEAT round right through the front armour."  He did a little dance on top of his Semovente which rocked dangerously.  His comrade, in smoke stained uniform and missing his eyebrows was a little less enthusiastic.  His own Semovente was in danger of starting a forest fire, some nearby Italian soldiers had already cracked out marshmallows.  

"That'll teach the Germans what's what," said the first refusing to be brought down despite the fact that the Semovente's armour was cracking under his boots.  A messenger arrived waving a sheet of paper.

"New orders from Colonnello Castanetti, we are to lay down our arms and surrender to the Germans immediately."

"Oh thank Christ," muttered the first soldier hopping down from the Semovente.

"Where is the Colonnello anyway," asked the second, "he must be back in Rome by now."

"Actually, the order is postmarked Canada," replied the messenger.

"Amazing, how does he do it?"

Friday, March 17, 2023

Travelling Pathetically - Firetrail Edition

 Things have been a little tense with my Blue Mountains correspondent ever since she let slip that she once had a house full of naked belly dancers and didn't invite me around.  Honestly, I expect a little more from a life long friend than that.  Eventually after repeated invitations I decided to visit so that I could express my displeasure to her face to face.

There were other reasons for my visit of course one of them being that her home is marginally more convenient to my parents place than my own which was useful as I was visiting them later the same weekend.  She dangled the carrot of a lift to my parents place once she got tired of my company (expected duration time, thirty eight seconds) and until then we could go to antique bookstores and possibly do a little bushwalking.

"Belly dancers," I suggested hopefully but got a decided negative.  I was starting to think the lack of an invitation might have been deliberate.  Still bushwalking and antique bookstores were a drawcard although the bookstore wasn't really an antique, just rather old.  On arrival I searched every nook and cranny of her house just in case there was a belly dancer lurking somewhere that she might have forgotten about (no I will not let it go) but I eventually had to settle for making conversation with her family.  Her family has recently (about nine months ago) been added to with a grandchild and I spent a certain amount of time being ignored by this young lady while attempting to converse with those who, for want of a better term, I will deem adults.

The next day we set out on an expedition that combined the literary (if sixty year old Biggles books can be considered such) and the natural (if a walk down a firetrail can be considered such).  Having exhausted the opportunities offered by the bookstore and having spent only slightly more money than I could afford I pestered my correspondent to go for a bushwalk.  My correspondent mentioned the tear in her achilles tendon that caused this to be problematic.  I rather snippily asked her if she tore it carrying a belly dancer out of sight before my arrival and she rolled her eyes and agreed to a small bushwalk although on her part it was more of a bush limp.

Given that the bookstore was in Lawson (one of a wide collection of unimaginatively named settlements in the Blue Mountains) we managed to find a bushwalk departing from that very location.   Frederica Falls offered a destination for our stroll and stroll it was as we weren't moving very fast in deference to my correspondent's semi crippled status.  The journey there although it only took about ten minutes was filled with drama as I had to keep getting out of the car and fetching the bits that fell off along the way.  I think more of the car wound up on the back passenger seat than was actually in its designed location by the end.

Nevertheless we came to the end of the street where vehicle access was blocked by an unreasonable number of trees.  Our walk could commence.

The entrance to our walk.  Definitely bush

We set off at a pace that could be described as gentle if you were feeling generous and moved slowly down a reasonably well beaten path.  There had been a map at the entrance and despite my repeated inability to read such things my correspondent seemed quite happy to strike out into the reasonably well known with me as a guide.  I say guide, what I mean was I was walking first except on those occasions when the aging hairdresser with the torn achilles overtook me.  Still the sedentary pace of our movement allowed me to take the occasional photograph like the one below.

A tree that my correspondent seemed inordinately fond of

As we walked my correspondent, who is rightly proud of her garden, pointed out various plants and trees to me, sometimes going so far as to use their scientific names.  I mentally labelled them all as "greenery" and moved on.  If you have ever wondered why generalisation and stereotyping are so popular its because it saves a heck of a lot of time.  Although even I would pause occasionally if nature tried really hard.

Nature trying quite hard

As we left the noise of the highway behind us we were greeted by the noise of the bush instead.  My correspondent drew my attention to one noise which she said was black cockatoos.  Black cockatoos making a noise like that meant that there would be rain she announced sagely.  The sky was a brilliant blue and there wasn't a cloud in the sky.  I smiled and nodded politely and we moved on, slowly.

After making our way through the bush we encountered a firetrail just as the map back at the start said we would.  I chose to see this as a brilliant feat of navigation despite the fact that there was literally no other way we could go.  It was at the firetrail that my correspondent called a halt.  I could see why, the path we had been walking along was relatively level but the firetrail plunged downwards and was replete with loose rocks and scree (to the extent they aren't the same thing).  Nothing less conducive to a dodgy achilles tendon could be imagined.  I stared longingly at the firetrail until my correspondent buckled.

"Oh go on," she muttered.  "I'll wait here," I set off, "but not for long."

With a deadline looming over me made all the more urgent by the fact that I wasn't quite sure what it was I hurried on.  A quick encounter with the scree persuaded me to hasten somewhat more slowly as my correspondent probably couldn't carry my mangled body back to civilisation.

The firetrail although in my experience fire doesn't need trails

With an imaginary clock ticking away the moments until my correspondent abandoned me to my fate I plunged forward giving the surrounding bush only the most cursory of admiring glances.  I wasn't sure if I would actually make it to the falls before I had to turn around but strangely I didn't find the tension dramatic or appealing.  From time to time I would pause and take a photo of the bush.  When that palled I took a photo of a rock.

A rock and, to be fair, some bush


I like taking photos of large vaguely menacing rocks.  Ever since I read The Nargun and the Stars at an impressionable age I have the suspicion that large rocks are just waiting for me to turn my back before they pounce.  I take the photos so that when my mangled body is discovered there will be a record of my killer.  The rock completely failed to pounce on me as I went by but it would get another opportunity on its return trip.

Time was passing as time tends to do when nobody is watching it and I was starting to think I would have to turn back before my correspondent reported me as missing and plundered the possessions I had left at her house.  The firetrail stretched before me and dropped even lower.  I'll just go to the drop I decided because it would be heartbreaking to turn around and later find that that drop was the last step to your destination.  Of course if you go on that drop is never the last step to your destination because when it comes down to it the world was largely created as a rather cruel practical joke.

So I went on and it turned out that that drop was the last step to my destination.  My faith had been rewarded although in the background I could hear the being I had faith in growling menacingly for right now I headed on towards the waterfall.  I couldn't really get close to the waterfall due to the danger of falling into the water myself but I did manage to take a photo of a modest stream of water flowing vertically in the direction of a pool.  This being more or less the dictionary definition of a waterfall I announced mission accomplished and turned around.

Frederica Falls, a modest and unassuming piece of scenery

More alert to time than ever I hurried back up the firetrail, giving the Nargun a wide berth as I panted back to where I left my correspondent.  In my mind I could actually hear the tearful speech she would make to the authorities to justify abandoning me to die in the wild.  Gasping because the day was hot and fitness was a brief concept I flirted with twenty years ago before abandoning it forever I desperately made for the rendezvous before all hope was gone.

Which turned out to be pointless because my correspondent had spent all of the time I'd been away chasing pokemon and seemed vaguely annoyed that I had turned up at all.  To be fair most of the people I know are more than vaguely annoyed when I turn up.  Eventually I managed to persuade her to tear her gaze from the pokemon long enough to start walking back to the car although I did have to go and fetch her occasionally as she wandered off into the bush after this electronic beast or that.

My correspondent emerged briefly from her pokemon induced oblivion to insist that I photograph the below piece of bush.  I believe she found it aesthetically pleasing or possibly there was a pokemon hiding under it.

To be fair it is quite an aesthetically pleasing piece of bush

All of the above only took a couple of hours and we emerged in time for lunch.  On arrival at her home we found that the population had increased as her son's partner was having her birthday and entertaining a group of friends to lunch.  Pleasantries were exchanged all round although I don't think a reason for my presence at her birthday lunch was ever given to the other guests.  One of said guests was a rather cute gamer boy slightly more punk than steam who made me completely forget about belly dancers for all of thirty seconds.

After a fungus free bushwalk I was able to photograph the Clare McIntyre memorial fungus clinging to a stool on my correspondents deck (which is a fancy word for verandah I think).

The surprisingly located Clare McIntyre memorial fungus

After the efforts of the morning there was nothing to do except sit around and wait for somebody else to feed me.  As evening came the heavens opened and rain poured down.

"Cockatoos," said my correspondent knowledgeably.

"Oh shut up," I replied.


Sunday, March 5, 2023

Travelling Pathetically - Manly Dam Edition

 For more than fifty years I have managed to go through life without realising that Manly had a dam.  Well no longer, half a century of ignorance has been redressed in one afternoon.  Manly, a suburb so close to the sea that sometimes it seems that a benevolent god will wash it into the ocean, has a hinterland and lurking in that hinterland is a dam.  Surrounding that dam, at a discreet distant, are a bunch of other suburbs providing an over inhabited shield behind which the dam and its adjacent bushland dwell unseen.  For the uninitiated there is simply a green patch on the map amongst the suburbs which, unaccountably has not been turned into a golf course.

Manly dam followed the usual progress for dams.  Drinking water was required, a dam was built, people poured run off into the dam, the water became undrinkable, a different dam was built elsewhere.  Seriously it would appear that the human race has two basic impulses when it comes to water supply, the first is to drink from it and the second is to crap into it.  At least I hope the impulses came in that order.  In keeping with a third impulse humans have relating to water which is to pollute the water, wait a decent interval and then play in it Manly dam or rather the lake behind it now hosts swimmers, kayakers and all those for whom immersion in a semi noxious soup is the definition of a good time.  Various animals also drink there because let's face it they have very little choice.

A walk around the dam's environs has been teased for more than a year but something keeps getting in the way; bad weather, inconvenient timing, sheer lack of interest.  Now however the walk would occur.  One of the friends I have been walking with before (not the psychopath, the other one) currently has a home which is quite convenient to the dam (and absolutely nothing else).  He invited me to wander around the dam with him and afterwards the bait of dinner at his house was dangled.  To sweeten the pot he waxed lyrical about the wildlife surrounding the dam.  Cockatoos, swamp wallabies, kookaburras and an air breathing fish that climbs up waterfalls would be just some of the animals I wouldn't see on our walk.

My friend, whose name is Jason incidentally, lives in Freshwater.  Freshwater is what Harbord renamed itself when the occupants decided to get a name appropriate to the burgeoning property values.  Nobody's going to buy an expensive house in boring old Harbord but in exciting, sexy Freshwater the sky is the limit.  From my home at the epicentre of the universe travelling to Harb, sorry Freshwater is like journeying to a third world country.  I knew I was getting close when I passed the lice clinic.  Have spent longer in travelling than I did on my last holiday I finally arrived at his door only about ten minutes late which I attributed to having to fight off an attack of native tribesmen along the way.

With tedious preliminaries like greetings and polite chit chat dealt with as swiftly as possible we headed damwards.  The endless vista of houses and golf courses fell away and suddenly we were in a valley full of water, said water being prevented from pouring into nearby dwellings by the somewhat geriatric Manly dam.

As threatened, Manly dam

It was a pleasant day and people were out recreating on the dam as the above photo proves.  Jason and I turned our backs on such irritating signs of human existence and plunged into the bush.  Actually what we plunged into was a series of steps leading upwards through what had been bush before the last hazard reduction got away from them and was now largely stumps and cinders.  The bush was recovering as bush tends to do if you leave it alone for a while and Jason promised that further down the path would be bush that looked more, well, alive.

Somewhat charred but definitely bush

Our journey would be a seven kilometre circumnavigation of the lake but rather than just wander around the water's edge like a pair of losers we would climb above the lake, wander through the bush, descend to the lake, ascend again before finally returning to water level at the end.  Our walk basically described a circular sine wave.

I had warned Jason that I liked to amble and take photos which he indicated that he was fine with.  Both of us are now in our fifties and vigorous exercise has a slightly different definition to that it might have had thirty years ago.  With the warning given and acknowledged I took full advantage to record my journey in pictures.

One of said pictures

A series of creeks feed into the dam (well the lake behind the dam) and we would pass over and by a number of them.  Jason waxed lyrical about the wildlife while simultaneously acknowledging that most of the wildlife tended to keep to those creeks that were rarely visited by humans.  This was wise although I couldn't see how it was possible given that the entire area was surrounded by suburbs but even in its somewhat incinerated state the bush was working its usual magic of making the rest of the world seem distant and almost imaginary.  Looking around you could imagine this going on forever whereas in actual fact in only went on until there was enough flat ground to build a golfcourse, or North Balgowlah.

One of the afore mentioned creeks.  We looked very hard but saw no signs of air breathing fish

As promised the bush became somewhat more lively and green started to outnumber black and brown as we progressed.  Jason told me when the best times to see bird, wildflowers and swamp wallabies were and it became immediately apparent that I had turned up at the wrong time in the wrong season but we were here now and there was nothing for it but to carry on.  Incidentally if Jason ever wants to give up his current somewhat dubious profession he could get a job as a tour guide.

Signs of life are beginning to emerge

We were now well above (a couple of hundred metres tops) the dam and Jason indicated that the time had come to begin our downward plunge.  This came as great news to those of us who had been smoking for thirty years and had been using the excuse of taking photographs to pause for a moment and make futile attempts to get their breath back.  Down we went into bushland that began to lose the definition seared and appropriate the term lush.

At least semi-lush

There had been recent rain and water was everywhere.  Not in annoying quantities but there were puddles and creeks trickled in a pleasingly stereotypical fashion as opposed to being a depressing collection of stagnant waterholes.  Even the rock outcrops got in on the act sheening with moisture, either that or they were sweating.  It was a rather warm day.

A sheening outcrop

The recent rain had another beneficial effect.  Contestants for the Clare McIntyre memorial fungus were thick on the ground.  Their presence almost made up for the complete absence of the much promised swamp wallabies.  The good thing about fungus and mushrooms is that they don't tend to hop away as you're trying to take a photograph of them.  If they do that's probably because you ate the mushroom first.  If you wish to vote for your favourite fungus/mushroom don't bother, I don't really care.

Contestant #1

Contestant #2

Contestant #3

Giddy at the proliferation of fungi and related products I started taking photos of random plant life that seemed appealing to me.  Actually a glance back at this blog entry seems to imply that that is pretty much all I did.  Still the more photos I insert the fewer words I have to type.  This is why they can sell "picture books" at an exorbitant price when they're really just glorified photo albums.  I stood on tiptoe and used my zoom lens to take a photo of a golden bottle brush then Jason pointed out there was one at eye level about fifteen metres away.  I took a photo of that as well but the magic was gone.  Then I was forced to use that photo when I discovered that I had cut the top off the bottlebrush in the first photo.

This bottlebrush was kind enough to pause for a photo

Suddenly we came to a halt.  Our downward trajectory had proceeded to a point where any continuation would put us in serious danger of drowning.  Before us stretched the waters of Manly dam.  Actually before us stretched an expanse of lilies and reeds but there was definitely water under there somewhere.  I took a photo (of course) angling my camera to make it look like I wasn't trying to photograph the small child in a kayak who was currently splashing amongst the water plants.

Water, apparently

With the water level reached we turned left and continued upstream following Manly Creek which is the main feeder for the dam.  Now we were in proper, unincinerated bush and possibly in deference to that fact we were using walkways that had been laid down so that the precious soil was not soiled with our tread.  A very modest waterfall (more of a water stumble really) presented itself as a harbinger of things to come and I obligingly took a photo of it because it was trying very hard.

A water stumble

Up ahead of us was a far more impressive waterfall (don't get too excited).  According to a waterfall blog I encountered it is one of the most exciting and attractive waterfalls in the Sydney region (again, don't get too excited).  Along the way Jason pointed to a small patch of churned up mud and announced it was a swamp wallaby footprint.  Well it was either that or a dog.  I made "I'm trying to sound impressed" noises and we went on.  Then we came to a rather pleasant pool with a single duck and a small but genuine waterfall as promised just a sentence or two earlier.

A somewhat more impressive waterfall

"There's a lizard," said Jason.

"Where?" I replied.



This went on for a while but eventually I saw the lizard.  Or at least I saw a lizard, it turned out that the local lizard population was single handedly trying to make up for the absence of other animals on our walk.  The lizard preened and posed while I fumbled for my camera and eventually I managed to take a photo.  Shortly afterwards about eighty thousand other lizards also presented themselves for my photographic attention.  They actually got quite aggressive about it and Jason and I had to flee with lizard curses ringing in our ears.  Again I cannot stress enough the importance of not eating the mushrooms.

Lizard photos and definitely not a psilocybin induced hallucination

We had come halfway on our journey now and Jason took me aside.  In polite and gentle terms he pointed out that he wasn't getting any younger and he would like to see his family at some point before he left this world make his peace with his maker.  I took the hint and agreed not to take any more photos.  A promise I only broke once.

With that established we headed away from the creek and began to climb again along what was apparently a mountain bike trail.  Fortunately there were no mountain bikes.  It was here that Jason admitted he had only been along this part of the trail once or twice and he was having difficulty finding the path that would lead us down again towards the actual dam.  With visions of dying of starvation within shouting distance of a golf course I commended myself to god (you don't want to know which god) and quietly promised bloody vengeance upon all that Jason held dear should I have an early meeting with the being I unwisely sold my soul to some years ago.

Fortunately Jason's confusion was more apparent than real and after some uphill panting and reintroduction to the more fried sections of bushland we finally began a descent again until in the fullness of time we again reached the water.  That almost proved embarrassing as there didn't seem to be any further we could go without getting wet but after some casting around Jason found the path and pretended he had known it was there all along.  We finished our journey by walking across the top of the actual dam.  I looked down and saw a crack, there appeared to be water leaking out.  We wondered if we should tell anyone but eventually decided we'd just watch the results on the news.

Many thanks to Jason for his patience and seriously mate, give this tour guide idea a little thought.  It's outdoor work with few actual qualification requirements.

Saturday, February 25, 2023

Silly After Action Report - Acts of Defiance

 There is something delightful about a well crafted plan coming to fruition.  The moment of victory coming as a deserved reward for good tactics, insightful leadership and moral courage at the difficult moments.  In fact I can think of only one thing better; gaining an utterly undeserved victory after making a pigs breakfast of your set up, wandering your best leader out into the street in LOS of a .50cal and making the sort of tactical errors that would make a six year old blush.  With that as both intro and warning welcome to my latest AAR.

Continuing our trawl through ASL Annual 95 (Winter) Dave Wilson and I hit on Scenario A68; Acts of Defiance.  It is February 1945 and the writing is on the wall for Nazi Germany or at least the writing would be on the wall if the wall hadn't been blown to pieces by Allied bombing and Soviet artillery.  Still the writing was definitely on the rubble.  Absolutely refusing to take the hint were the defenders of Breslau who were possibly hoping to hold out until German reunification in 1990.  A Soviet attack having seized a toehold their defences it was up to the Germans (commanded by me) to remove the offending toe.

Victory for the Germans is gained if there are no good order Soviet MMC within the intial Soviet set up area.  Dave's Soviets start with ten squads (seven elite of various stripes and three first line 527s) equipped with a trio of lmgs and a radio.  They are led by three officers which is an unusually high leader to squad ratio for the Soviets.  Also present are three T-44 tanks.  On turn one another five elite squads led by an 8-1 arrive dragging a .50cal machine gun and supported by a pair of ISU-122 tank destroyers enter on the south board edge.  Two bridges separate them from their comrades.

To recapture approximately twenty square feet of Nazi Germany from the ravening Soviet hordes I have ten elite squads of paratroopers with six first line squads making up the numbers.  These forces have four light machine guns, a single medium and two panzerschrecks.  They are led by four officers including a doughty 9-2.  In the south lurk two 838 assault engineers and a pair of equally impressive half squads.  The half squads are herders for a pair of Goliath self propelled explosive devices.  The obvious intention is that these should be pointed at the bridges in the hopes of destroying them and preventing Dave's reinforcements getting too involved in the battle.  Armoured support comes on in the form of a JgPzIV tank destroyer and a Brummbar assault gun carrying a 150mm artillery piece on its chassis.  Finally, lurking in the sewers is a half squad of Hitler Youth with another panzerschreck waiting for the opportunity to sneak up to ground level and hopefully blow up a Soviet tank or two (you don't do that in the Boy Scouts).

Prior to the game starting Dave had to make a DR for each stairwell location on board 20.  On a roll of less that 10 that hex would be rubbled and falling rubble would apply.  As it happened Dave rubbled precisely nothing and Breslau presented an uncharacteristically intact appearance to my attacking troops.

Below is our set up.  Dave is ensconced in the stone buildings and challenging me to throw him out.  I have divided my troops into two forces, one to flank from the left and the other to barrel headfirst towards his defenders.  My armour on arrival would support the barrellers.  In the South I skillfully positioned my assault engineer halfsquads so that they were incapable of guiding the Goliaths to the bridges.  This would result in some desperate cursing and first turn readjustments.  Sadly by the time the Goliaths got rolling Dave's armoured support had arrived and he managed to blow up the little bomb trolleys without any sort of result.  The remaining assault engineers were to strike North hoping to get into the rear of his defenders on the right.

At start and I've already messed up

Well despite screwing up the Goliaths the game had to proceed so proceed it did.  While my southern halfsquads scrambled around trying to herd their charges in the direction of the bridges the main attack proceeded apace.  In deference to my screw up with the Goliaths I changed my plan slightly and sent a squad of assault engineers towards the left to cover the more distant bridge which I was pretty certain would not suffer from any Goliath induced demolition.  The other squad plunged north accompanied by an officer with a DC.  I did indeed reach the rear of his defences but all his defensive fire achieved was to create a hero to bolster my forces.  On the left of my main attack there was little fighting and much running as my troops took advantage of the rubble to make a largely painfree journey to snatch the building that would be the base for my attack on his left flank.  In the centre a couple of squads fired away at his defenders without result.  On the right I tried pushing forward with some troops (who promptly got broken) but for the most part lurked under concealment counters preparing for the attack to come.  I completely forgot about my HIP half squad in the sewers but Dave very kindly let me move it on the next turn.  My armour rolled on to support my right flank and the Jagdpanzer promptly broke its MA.  It would repair it next turn and then get destroyed before getting chance to use it.  So much for the Jagdpanzer.

Seeing my 9-2 present amongst the troops on the right excited Dave's radio operator and he dropped a spotting round down where he hoped carnage would ensue.  This would be the beginning of a brutal fight between Dave and his artillery support.  In the ensuing turns he would lose radio contact, break the radio, fail to repair the radio, repair the radio, fail to gain radio contact, break the radio again and then destroy it.  The spotting round would be the only shot fired by the Soviet artillery all day.  God of war my arse.

End of German turn 1

In his own turn, apart from cursing his radio operator, Dave brought on his reinforcements.  The vehicles and some squads made their way towards the annoyingly unblown bridges while others, panting under the weight of the .50cal made their way to a building to set up a fire position.  Incidentally we messed up Dave's reinforcing vehicles initially thinking they were IS-2 tanks.  Fortunately the error was pointed out before it became critical.  Aside from that a conveniently placed T-44 destroyed my Jagdpanzer but the crew survived and provided me with a little more expendable infantry.  Vengeance was swiftly mine as a halfsquad with a panzerschreck managed to burn the offending tank at a three hex range no less.

End of Soviet turn 1.  As you can see one of Dave's reinforcing vehicles is patiently waiting for the Goliaths to present themselves.

Over on the left things seemed to go more or less to plan, something which always makes me nervous.  I started pushing into (and more importantly around) his defences.  On the right advance was more of an incremental thing, nervously assault moving into tiny bits of orchard while his defenders hammered away at me.  In my defence I didn't yet realise his artillery was a damp squib and feared high explosive death with every step. In the South I continued my fine tradition of incompetence by bumbling around with a squad which for some reason I managed to keep away from anywhere he could actually lay fire on the enemy.  On the other hand my Hitler Youth finally found a signpost in the sewer and popped up a convenient distance from another of Dave's tanks.

Mixed results attended the Soviet second turn.  My HJ halfsquad managed to blow up another tank and themselves at the same time (thank you backblast) while on the right each of us managed to inflict casualties on the other.  As the attacker it was appropriate that mine were higher although the death of a panzerschreck HS was a little annoying.  More concerning was the fact that his reinforcing armour was starting to get into place and his .50cal squad had finally dragged their hernia inducing charge to the top of a convenient building.  I would have to be careful about lines of sight from now on (spoiler alert; I was not careful about lines of sight).

Gains and losses on both sides

Turn three was when I made my move.  I was pushing through the rubble and buildings on the left gradually winkling him out of his positions.  On the right I simply pushed forward more targets than his remaining troops could shoot at.  Broken Germans fled in all directions but the survivors made it into the centre building that was his stronghold and started challenging for ownership.  I destroyed his final T-44 in street fighting which forced him to bring forward his tank destroyers to bolster his crumbling infantry.  For my part my Brummbar took its courage in its hands and started looping around to where it was obvious his last stand was going to take place (the rowhouse on the left).  Meanwhile in the south I futzed about some more and achieved very little.  I sent one halfsquad to recover the panzerschreck which had unaccountably survived when the backblast had laminated its previous owners over the walls of the building.  This was necessary with two hulking armoured beasts dominating the street but it did leave the way open for a Soviet squad in the South to charge across the bridge and start heading towards the victory locations.  I hoped that my assault engineer squad which had so far done nothing might be able to stop them.

The Soviets are starting to get squeezed

Things looked bleak for Dave on the surface but actually he was handling the situation well despite artillery induced disappointment.  The centre building was irretrievably gone but over on the left he was managing to trade not very much space for time and pull back to the rowhouse with a number of concealed squads.  I would have to shoot these out from under their question marks through stone walls to gain the win and I have to admit that I did not think this was likely in the time remaining despite the firepower I had arrayed.  Meanwhile his reinforcement squad on the right held out the threat that he could sneak them in for a win at the last.  I would not be able to focus all my attention on the rowhouse.

End of German turn 5.  Things aren't as bad as they look for Dave, underneath each of the broken units in the rowhouse is a fully intact concealed squad.

I managed to take out one of his ISUs with another schreck and the other retreated to where it could cover the street but then managed to break its MA.  I pushed my troops forward to try my best to take out his remaining forces.  With the absence of any other armour my Brummbar got very brave and rolled up to take a pointblank shot at a melee (I had the troops to spare and he didn't) which evaporated the contents.  It was a good thing I had the troops to spare as I decided to reinforce my troops with my 9-2 led mmg stack completely forgetting about the .50cal Dave had across the canal.  They'll bury those guys in a matchbox.

With the final turn upon me I gazed on concealed units in both the ground and first floor of the rowhouse.  I could only take my shots and pray.  I broke every single unit in the building.  Not with great rolls, just enough to generate normal morale checks which Dave's troops, despite their eight morale proved incapable of passing.  I gave a sigh of relief for just a second before reality intruded, the game wasn't over yet.  

In the Soviet turn six Dave had one hope.  His elite squad on the right had managed to edge up just a few hexes away from the victory locations.  If they could get across the road and advance into pretty much anywhere Dave would have the win. Boldly his squad sallied forth, my hero took a 1 flat shot at him through a hedge and scored a morale check.  Dave rolled snake eyes and his 628 was now fanatic.  Everything now depended on my 838 assault engineer squad who had literally done nothing all game.  I took an 8 down 1 shot and rolled a ten for a pin check.  Dave's morale was nine, he rolled a ten and pinned in the middle of the street one hex away from the promised land.

End of the game.  In deference to Dave's sensibilities I didn't place the pin counter on his 628 but it is pinned nonetheless
If Dave had passed either of his two morale checks on the left or the PTC on the right he would have won the game.  As it was the dice handed me the most undeserved of victories.  I was gracious to Dave but away from my PC I did a little victory dance while giggling hysterically to myself.  If you can't be good, be lucky.  So to recap lucky dice and a total absence of Soviet artillery served up victory on a silver platter.  If it had been anybody else they would probably have had it won on turn four, as it was it went right down to the wire.  Thanks to Dave for the game and his good humour as the dicebot eviscerated his hopes and dreams.


Thursday, February 2, 2023

Birthday Greetings #85

 There haven't been too many of these lately, a fact which was pointed out by a fellow gamer at CanCon this year (which I haven't written about as I weep every time I try).  After I got over the surprise at someone actually reading my blog I decided to rectify this at the first opportunity in a pathetic and transparent attempt to preserve my readership base.

So, happy birthday to Justin I, Byzantine emperor.  Justin followed quite a traditional leadership path in the Byzantine empire, he started off as a pig farming peasant.  As a teenager he fled a barbarian invasion (I'm not sure which but there were plenty going around at the time) and wound up in Constantinople where he decided that a military career was preferable to having anything more to do with pigs.

But what about the giddy ascent that led from muddy sty to the imperial purple?  According to one tale the story went like this.  Justin's predecessor as emperor, one Anastasius by name, now in his ninth decade could feel the bony hand of death on his shoulder and was filled with curiosity as to who would rule the empire after him.  He had no sons but he had three grown nephews so he invited them to a private dinner.  A couch was provided for each of them, on one couch a secret mark was made, whoever sat on that couch would inherit the throne (beats pulling a sword out of a rock doesn't it).  Unfortunately two of the nephews seemed to have an affection slightly at odds with the prevailing social mores and decided to share a couch and the marked couch was left unused.  

Anastasius realised that the throne would not be inherited by a family member but he was still keen to know who the lucky person would be.  He prayed for insight and that night God (who apparently had nothing better to do) dropped in on a dream to inform him that the new emperor would be the first person to enter the imperial bed chamber the next morning.  This made sense to Anastasius, normally the first person in was the Grand Chamberlain with the latest political reports.  High born and a senior member of the hierarchy possibly the only real surprise is that he was waiting until the incumbent died before grabbing the purple.  On this particular day however the first person in was the thuggish, illiterate commander of the Imperial Guard our boy Justin (who was pushing seventy by this time).  Anastasius accepted that the ways God moved in were not just mysterious but downright weird and died at peace.

If you believe the above story I have a bridge I'd like to sell you.  All it really does is serve notice on the quality of investigative journalism in fifth century Byzantium.  As far as we can tell from a distance of some seventeen hundred years what actually happened was that Anastasius' brother made a bid for the throne.  The grand chamberlain had his eye on another candidate and to buy military support gave Justin a large sum of money to bribe the relevant people.  This Justin did, he bribed them so well that they elevated him as emperor instead.  Justin then executed his predecessor's brother and the other candidate for the throne and a few other people who looked like they might look good in purple.  Then he settled down to rule.

So, how did a seventy year old, semi literate pig farmer do as emperor?  Better than you might think.  Justin was smart enough to know what he didn't know and dialled in skilled advisors to assist him in areas where his knowledge was lacking.  Foreign policy consisted of building up Christian buffer states between the empire and its distinctly non-Christian neighbours like the Sassanians (essentially Persia).  This worked for a while although war broke out under Justin's successor.  The main thing Justin concerned himself with was religion.

This might not seem particularly important now but in those days it was everything.  There was a split in the Christian church (because there always is) between those who believed in the dual nature of Christ (Chalcedonians) and those who believed the son of God had a single, divine nature (Miaphysites).  Anastasius had been a Miaphysite which had led to a certain amount of tension (riots, revolts and an attempt to remove him from the throne) by the largely Chalcedonian population of Constantinople.  It had also led to a schism with the Pope in Rome.  Justin an avowed Chalcedonian mended bridges with the Pope and reunited Christianity or rather reunited some bits of Christianity.  The Miaphysites and Monophysites (like Miaphysites only more so) were persecuted which caused some issues as at that time Italy was being ruled by the Goths who were Arians (a type of Monophysite).  The Goths got very annoyed and wound up tossing the Pope in gaol.

The displeasure of the Goths was significant because technically they ruled Italy in the emperor's name.  They had defeated the last emperor of the West some years previously and had taken over.  Claiming that they did so at the behest of the emperor in the East saved that emperor some face and gave a little respectability to a Gothic invasion force.  Now however relations between the two were on a downward slide.  Justin's nephew was to blame for a good deal of this and would ultimately wind up having the Gothic kingdom destroyed.

So, Justin's nephew; one of the talented advisors Justin called on was his own nephew of equally low origins but considerably more talent.  His name was Justinian (not originally of course but after Justin adopted him it was).  Cold, intelligent and utterly ruthless he was Justin's right hand man (a lot of the success of Justin's coup can be traced back to his activities) and as the emperor slid into senility he took on more and more of the imperial duties.  He was crowned co-emperor and when Justin finally died took the throne as sole emperor.  One of the top items on his to do list was destroying the Gothic kingdom of Italy.

Saturday, January 28, 2023

Travelling Pathetically - Metro Edition

 There has been a new train line running in Sydney for the past few years.  The much vaunted Northwest Metro.  Given my mania for trains/trams/light rail etc it may surprise you that as yet I have not availed myself of its services.  Part of the reason for that is the damned thing stops at Chatswood which means I have to travel quite a distance to somewhere I have very little interest in simply to catch a Metro to somewhere else I have very little interest in.  Besides the state government is currently busy extending said network and replacing my current train line with it so I figured I'd wait until the Metro came to my door or I died, whichever came first.

Now all that has changed.  Some friends of mine live quite close to the Metro line (and therefore nowhere near me.  Actually its amazing how many of my friends contrive to live quite a distance away from me, I'm not reading anything into that no matter how much they want me to).  One Saturday being utterly bereft of something to do I contacted them and suggested we have lunch at Rouse Hill which is one stop from being the last on the Metro.  I thought I would take the Metro to Tallawong the very last Metro stop and walk back to Rouse Hill through some bush that had apparently not been completely demolished.  A combination of weather and some health issues put paid to the bushwalking section and I was left with catching a Metro to Rouse Hill for lunch.  Out of sheer perversity I went to Tallawong anyway and caught another Metro back.

Weekends are when the government does work on its various railway lines which might upset the commuters if it happened during the week.  For this reason by the time I arrived at Epping's combined train/metro station I had already taken three trains and more time than anyone would consider acceptable simply to reconnect with some friends.  Still being physically present I figured I might as well go all the way and hopped on the next available Metro.

Metro trains are essentially designed on the principle that traveling by train is morally wrong and those who do it deserve to be punished.  The seats are few and not particularly comfortable.  They also face into the carriage because Metro travelers don't deserve to look out windows.  Windows are nevertheless unaccountably provided.  Everything is shiny and new including the spectacularly patronising voice over that announces the stops.  At each stop the voice over would announce which side of the train the doors would open on, no doubt to the great relief of the people hurling themselves against the doors on the other side of the carriage weeping with frustration.  Actually the inward facing seats weren't too much of a problem as much of the journey is underground.  Although when it did become above ground it became well above ground.  Risking spinal injury I twisted myself around until I could look out the window.

The Northwest Metro travels through an area that can best be described as "suburbia in progress".  There are still large open patches of ground and occasional patches of trees and everywhere there are developers pouring concrete over the lot.  According to Dan (one of my lunch dates) who remembers when all this was green fields it used to be a farming area.  There are still some farmers who haven't got the message.  What this means is that such suburbs as have been built tend to come to an abrupt end as if development had been cut off with a knife and collections of apartment blocks peer incongruously over fields that still have the occasional animal in them.

I must confess that the Metro deposited me with smooth efficiency at Tallawong which was the end of the line.  The Tallawong metro station was actually originally located within the boundaries of Rouse Hill but it was decided that one metro station was more than the suburb deserved and it certainly wasn't getting two so they separated the station out and then ripped some chunks off the neighbouring suburb of Schofields, stapled it to the metro station.  The resulting frankensuburb was called Tallawong which is an Indigenous word meaning "metro station".

I got off the train at Tallawong and took a brief look around.  Believe me no more than a brief look is required.  Apart from the station itself there's not a lot there.  There will be; development is following the Metro and a good chunk of Tallawong is behind fencing being constructed.  In the meantime there is the occasional completed block of flats sticking out of the ground apparently at random and a lot of construction sites.  I live in a long established suburb in the inner city.  As such what little vegetation remains generally follows creek beds and is prized as somewhere to walk and litter while people tend to be a bit annoyed if you do that in their backyards.  Out here the residences appeared to be completely accessible while it was the bush that was fenced off so no-one could get into it.  The reason of course is that this isn't going to be bush for very much longer.

Tallawong - before

Tallawong - after

The above two photos are taken on opposite sides of the road.

Having exhausted all the interest that Tallawong could provide I hopped back on the Metro for the very brief journey to Rouse Hill.  It has to be said that Rouse Hill is going to have to develop into a heaven on earth if it wants to live up to its metro station.  It is a magnificent structure looming over the main shopping area of Rouse Hill like the modern day equivalent of a crusader castle.  Not that there's much to loom over.  There's a shopping/restaurant mall, a park and then nothing although in deference to the developers intentions I should rather say, "nothing yet".  On the opposite side of the tracks from the shops is a very large cemetery with very few gravestones.  They appear to be preparing for the apocalypse although Dan, who knows about these things, pointed out to me that a cemetery counts as part of the "green space" the developers are obliged to include in their plans for the suburb.  Frankly I'm surprised the place doesn't have a necropolis.

Lunch was had, conversation took place and while it did a cross section of the inhabitants Rouse Hill and surrounding areas paraded themselves for our amusement.  As did a cross section of the cars they drove.  Favoured among cars in this region is those that make deep, guttural rumblings that make conversation impossible.  Once electric cars become common the owners are going to have to put big signs on the roof saying "please look at my car" to have the same effect.

Once lunch was over we wandered down to the park where there was a lake, water birds and rubbish in more or less equal quantities.  There were also people emerging from a path which I had been intending to take when I planned my walk and which I had been assured was closed due to the recent rain.  I tried to be upset about that but my health issues started reminding me they had been in abeyance rather than gone so I bade farewell to my friends (we must do this again next year) and took four separate trains home.