Sunday, June 24, 2018

Travelling Hopefully - In Which Defeat is Acknowledged and a Retreat is Sounded

My head reeling from the sheer number of cows I had acknowledged (and the occasional smack around the head my mother had given me in a futile attempt to make me stop) we arrived in Berrima which is as pretty and unspoilt as you would expect a rural village whose local economy depends utterly on a combination of the tourist trade and a nearby gaol to be.  Quaint cafes lurked on the main street and by lurked I mean they hurled themselves in front of you screaming "Look how goddamn quaint we are!!" and artisan style shops selling locally produced (well it was produced, I assume it was local) jams and sauces and all of the other things that make us suspect that our nineteenth century forebears lived on a diet of condiments and wore hand made leather everywhere.

I'm a little suspicious about the leather.  The shop was there smelling amazing as leather shops do.  To drive home the point about this being rural and artisan there was a cowhide hanging on a fence as we walked in.  I do rather suspect, however, if a nineteenth century shopkeeper had attempted to charge the prices the current sellers were getting away with they would probably have been ridden out of town on a rail.  And I make no apology for that piece of cultural appropriation from the United States, if someone has a good idea emulation is the sincerest form of flattery.

No photography was allowed outside the gaol, which is a pity since it was rather a handsome facility.  For those of us who completely forgot to bring our cameras this wasn't a hardship but my mother stared forlornly at the front gate not taking pictures.  The gaol announced itself as a "training centre" a euphemism which made my father snort with contempt but which I, given the average recidivism level, found to be a reasonably fair claim.

The above few paragraphs make it look as though we were strolling casually through the streets of Berrima, popping in from time to time to not make a purchase of locally produced, artisan almond and kumquat jam while waxing lyrical on the quaintness of the cafes and the outrageous price of fetishwear nowadays.  In actual fact we staggered frost bitten and desperate from one patch of warmth to the next weeping when irate shopkeepers hurled us into the howling wilderness.  The tears froze on our cheeks and the various colds that each of us had managed to acquire held their own vigorous conversation between themselves while we considered self immolation as a way of keeping warm.

When we could decently claim we had "done" Berrima (about twenty eight seconds after our arrival) we fled back to the car and headed for the book barn.  Actually we just fled back to the car, we remembered the book barn later after the heater had thawed us out a bit.  There were cows on the way there but one look at my mother's face was sufficient to make me decide on discretion (cowcowcowcowcowcowcowcow).

The book barn was at a winery because, of course it was.  At a farm I guess you would have a book cellar.  There was a restaurant and a fire and surrounding this on three sides were books, which you could buy.  So I did.  Not all of them but a select one or two.  It seemed to be popular, or at least the restaurant part seemed to be popular, there weren't too many people looking at the books.  With books purchased and our blood defrosted we made a mad dash across the carpark for the shelter of the car and headed back to Berrima for lunch. 

There was a museum in Berrima that my mother had been quite keen to visit but by this stage we acknowledged that the cold had beaten us.  We fled back to our accommodation in Bundanoon and spent most of the rest of the day huddling around the fire wrapped in all the clothing we had brought with us.  The next morning I noticed to my surprise that both my parents had survived the night and we all decided to get the hell out of Dodge (more cultural appropriation, I am shameless).  I parted company with my progenitors at Moss Vale and hacked, wheezed, snivelled and dribbled my way home by train.

So that was the Southern Highlands, the scenery was beautiful, the food was good, the company was excellent but the next time my parents suggest that we go away together I'm going to suggest Bali or possibly the inside of a live volcano.  Which I suspect my parents might prefer to Bali.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Travelling Hopefully - We're Almost at Husky Eating Stage

The next day the sun shone bright and hot.  I know this because the sun always does.  Unfortunately in Bundanoon evidence of this fact was obscured by the 100% cloud cover and the bitter, unrelenting cold.  Dribbling and wheezing we dragged ourselves from our respective beds, smeared ourselves with goose fat, donned about thirty layers of clothing each and headed out to find breakfast.

One of the problems eating out in cold weather is that the warmth inside the venue makes you forget how cold it is outside so that when you leave you practically die of the shock.  The café where we had breakfast had thoughtfully solved this problem by keeping the inside of the café the same temperature as the air outside.  I wasn't worried about my coffee going cold, I was worried that I might break my teeth on it.  In defence of the café I do have to note that it acted as a very efficient wind break which meant that when we left despite the cold of the interior we were still shocked to the point of death by the temperature outside.

After breakfast it was time for a stroll down the main street of Bundanoon while simultaneously hunching against the cold and trying not to trip over other people unaccountably engaged in the same activity.  My father was terribly excited at Bundanoon Railway Station, apparently it was going to be renovated to maintain the historic structure in its traditional state.  I pointed out that the railway station was essentially a slab of concrete with a wooden box on it but he stared at me with such honest non comprehension that finally I nodded and agreed it was a wonderful idea.

My mother in the meantime had found a makers market.  This had the advantage of being indoors so we leapt desperately for the entrance kicking children and small dogs out of our path as we did so.  A makers market is where there are a bunch of tables each of which is occupied by a small bunch of overpriced handicrafts and foodstuffs made (presumably) by the person selling them.  It's the sort of thing you imagine special needs children are given to do to introduce them to adult life.  There was also a fish stall the contents of which rather proudly stated their non home made origins.  Indeed there were "fresh Queensland prawns" for sale.  Since this was the Southern Highlands of NSW and the closest bit of Queensland was several hundred kilometres away I couldn't help thinking this might be a gentle exaggeration.  Presumably what they meant was "more or less fit to eat" or "not yet rotted" but I do agree that neither of those would look enticing on a sign.  To maintain their putative freshness the prawns were displayed on ice although its always possible that they were just placed on a slab and the air froze around them.

Once the opportunities of the makers market were exhausted we started off on our adventure for the day.  We were going to Berrima, a village not too far away which was quaint and rural and possessed of a historic courthouse, museum and gaol.  There was also a Berkelouw's Book Barn in the vicinity which seemed to be worth investigating.  All of these things had the advantage of being indoors so we piled into the car with a will and pointed the nose of our metal steed towards Berrima.

Driving down country roads through picturesque rural locales gave me the opportunity to introduce my parents to a habit that so far they had only read about.
"Cow!" I announced everytime we passed anything remotely bovine.  My parents took this in good spirit and on mature reflection decided not to hurl me bodily from the car.  Indeed my mother attempted to be helpful by pointing out a sheep apparently in the expectation that I would announce its presence in similar fashion.  I treated this with withering scorn, as if one would go about the countryside shouting "Sheep!" at every opportunity.  My mother attempted to review the non hurling me from the car decision but by the time it came to a vote we were in Berrima.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Travelling Hopefully - Southern Highlands Edition Part 1

I made a chance comment to one of my parents and before I knew it I was committed to accompanying them on a weekend away to the Southern Highlands.  Pausing only to briefly admire the modern urban magnificence that is Wolli Creek I caught a selection of trains which would, collectively deliver me to Moss Vale in the heart of what, for some reason, is one of Sydney's favourite holiday destinations.

At Moss Vale I met up with my parents.  Or at least I met up with my mother.  She was the rather forlorn figure huddling against the ferocious wind and looking as though she might be warmer if the earth swallowed her up.  I met her with the traditional greeting of Son to Mother.

"Christ it's cold," I said.

"Isn't it dreadful, I'm coming down with something," she responded as ritual demanded.

"I've got a cold coming on myself," I told her because I just can't resist showing off in front of my mother.  It was true though.  What had been a bit of a tickle in my throat when I left home had, by the time I arrived in Moss Vale, developed into a full scale attempt by my body to expel my lungs through my nose.  My mother pretended sympathy as is the custom in such situations.

Eventually I realised someone was missing.  My father had wandered off, supposedly to find me but in actual fact to look at the railway station.  He enjoys railway stations, he's rather like an unambitious train spotter.  At least trains move.  Eventually a kindly local returned him to us and we chatted about the cold for fifteen minutes or so.  After which I pointed out we were standing next to their car and perhaps we could continue the discussion out of the wind.

This was such a good idea that we didn't take it up.  Instead we decided we wanted lunch and I pointed out there was a café across the road.  Risking traffic and hypothermia we crossed the road to the café.  It was closed.  Eventually we found an open café and lingered over lunch while our extremities thawed out and we decided what to do with the rest of the day.

The only thing I knew about Moss Vale was that it is quite close to Bowral.  The only thing I know about Bowral is that there is a Don Bradman museum there.  It is an indication of the level of preparation they put into this trip that neither of my parents could actually come up with a better idea so we headed to Bowral and all things Bradman.

The Bradman Museum (and Cricket Hall of Fame) was located inside and was heated thus proving an immediate hit with all three of us.  It got even more interesting once we finally managed to wrestle some tickets from the geriatric oxygen sink behind the counter and could get in to see the displays.  We had a not completely unenjoyable time wandering around this shrine to cricket generally and Bradman in particular.  My takeaway from the experience?  Bradman played cricket, rather well.  King George VI made him a Knight Batchelor despite the fact that he was possessed of a wife at the time.

After our cultural experience (it was a museum!  It counts!) my mother noted that there were various lookouts on nearby Mt Gibraltar that would enable us to experience much more wind and cold than we could in the relatively temperate lowlands of Bowral.  Immediately we piled into the car and headed for the mountain.  The first lookout threatened to be a disappointment.  By standing on a fence we had a great view of the trees that were blocking our view.  Then my father discovered the actual lookout (I think he was looking for a train station) and we traipsed down a path getting colder and windier by the moment until we arrived and were rewarded with the magnificent panorama of Bowral spread out beneath us.

But this wasn't enough, oh no.  We headed for the second lookout and the views from that one made the first look like a small and not particularly interesting town.  A vast stretch of valley, hills, bush and totally inappropriate development stretched out before us for our viewing pleasure.  It wasn't really the fault of the view that the wind here had blasted our eyeballs into the back of our skulls so we couldn't see it.  Stumbling blindly away we decided the time had come to head for Bundanoon our place of abode for the next couple of days.

Every year Bundanoon hosts Brigadoon a festival of all things Scottish, fortunately that happens at a different time of year.  It was however the Southern Highlands Pie Festival which sounded far more appealing.  We arrived at our guest house to find the reception deserted apart from some other guests who arrived just before us and were still waiting for service, acknowledgement or a simple sign of human life.  After we'd waited for a while (and my thoroughly sensible suggestion that we start stealing things had been shouted down) we sent the most visibly disabled of our party off to find a staff member.  In fact we would probably have been happy with a casual passerby.

She hobbled back to us in triumph accompanied by someone who turned out to be the owner and who apologised for the lack of service.  His wife was sick and they were short staffed.  We all nodded approvingly.  This is an absolutely essential part of the service industry.  No matter when people turn up you have to inform them that someone is ill and that you're short staffed.  This makes anything you achieve all the more impressive while simultaneously dissuading your customers from complaining when you cock something up.

Dinner, at the guest house, was absolutely delicious and was only mildly spoiled when one of the partners from the firm I work for walked in in the middle of our meal.  I was afraid he had work for me but fortunately he'd just turned up for dinner as well.  After which, thoroughly replete there was nothing left to do but shiver until morning.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

The Currawongs Are Coming

It is that time of year.  A time when the Sun comes late and leaves early.  A time when Winter's chill fingers stroke the flesh in an icy caress.  A time when wolves and bears roam the land and good folk huddle inside their homes and pray for the first sight of Spring.  Or rather, this being Australia, a somewhat more temperate version of the above.  Down in Hobart, capital village of Australia's version of the Outer Hebrides, the whole settlement is riotously en fete.  Mandolin music rings out from the rooftops and wandering Inuit protest bitterly, presumably about how unpleasantly warm and light Hobart is while currawongs circle overhead cawing approvingly.

At least this was the somewhat incoherent message I received from my correspondent the other day.  I read it three times and didn't make any more sense of it the third time than the first.  Sighing heavily I contacted her to see if she could be more clear in person.  It took a little time (I caught her in the middle of shovelling more coal into her computer) but finally her face appeared on my screen.  I decided to be subtle.

"Have you been drinking?" I asked waving her message.

"No!" she replied indignantly.

"Yes," contradicted my tech support.

"Well not much," she muttered. "By Belarusian standards," she added hastily.

"So what's with this report?"

"Dark Mofo," she replied.

"There's no need to bring race into it."

She adopted the air of weary patience one sees on people whose job involves minding special needs children or politicians.

"It's Dark Mofo.  Hobart's Winter Culturalish Thingy."

Suddenly it all made sense.  Well actually no it didn't but the fact that it didn't make sense made sense.  Last year's Dark Mofo involved naked swims and burning half of Hobart (about five buildings) to the ground with flaming gas jets.  Suddenly mandolin playing Inuit protesters with a currawong fetish seemed perfectly believable.  Perhaps foolishly I asked her to expand.

Hobart is currently overrun with performers, artists and protesters (including at least one Inuit) who are doing the sort of things that would probably get you locked up for your own safety if you did it under any other circumstances.  There were interpretive dances that were terribly confusing, and yes an Inuit who was protesting about something or other.  In an effort to evade the madness creeping over Hobart my correspondent fled to the hills, or rather the hill.  Unfortunately said hill was Mount Wellington which is so inconveniently close to Hobart that the hiking trails which she normally has to herself were overrun by hordes of people who had come to Hobart for Dark Mofo and hadn't let the absence of adequate clothes, sensible shoes or any sort of common sense prevent them from wandering up a mountain in their spare time.

Some of this was amusing, my correspondent looked on with delight as one person carefully stepped over the child fence and damn near walked off the side of the mountain.  Apparently it hadn't occurred to him that the fence might have a purpose.  Somebody else produced a mandolin and commenced an impromptu concert.  For those of you who don't know a mandolin is a musical instrument from a long time ago when everything was crap.  What the response of the other passers by was my correspondent was too kind to say but the mandolin did have one surprising effect.

Currawongs suddenly descended en masse apparently drawn by the gentle twanging of the mandolin.  Settling in a nearby tree they apparently enjoyed the entertainment.  At least loud caws of approval were heard whenever the player stopped.  Whether the tree which wound up covered in a six inch layer of currawong crap enjoyed the performance was left unstated.

Beating a hasty retreat from the overcrowded environs of the mountain my correspondent pause to admire the sheer determination of the person struggling up the path in six inch heels but then fled to her home before the currawongs took advantage of their numbers to start harassing passersby.  From the safety of her home she penned the shaky missive which started my query.  I never found out what the Inuit was protesting about.  But on the other hand I don't really care.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Silly After Action Report

Two Dutch army officers stood looking at the recruiting poster that had been specially designed to encourage natives to join the Netherlands East Indies Army.  One of them shook his head.

"I don't see 'Your Oppressor Needs You!' having too much resonance with the local populace.  Besides, you've written it in Dutch which most of them can't read, which is probably just as well."

"Perhaps we could point out all of the social and economic benefits they've received as a result of benevolent Dutch rule."

"A little lengthy for a recruitment poster don't you think?  Besides you might want to wait until the last famine has faded from popular memory before you try that line."

"Was there a famine?" asked the other officer in surprise.

"Not for us."

Two native orderlies stood at a respectful distance waiting for their superiors to finish arguing while simultaneously working out their chances of successfully deserting.

"Surely the Japanese couldn't be worse than this lot could they?," asked one.

"I have a cousin who lived in Korea for a while," replied the other, "strangely the answer is yes."

So this is ASL Scenario J4, Wet Sahwahs which pits a possibly less than fully committed Dutch colonial force against the conquest hungry Japanese as the latter served an eviction notice on the Dutch colonial empire.  It was my turn to pick a scenario and I chose this solely because I had never played anything with rice padis before.  ROAR seemed to indicate it was biased in favour of the Japanese so we gave the Dutch the balance (swapping two green squads for first liners).  Ivan chose to be the Japanese which left me with the Dutch.

The objective for the Dutch was to gain 55 more victory points than the Japanese.  The Dutch gained victory points by killing Japanese (naturally) and also by exiting forces off the board.  In addition they gained a point for each building location they controlled at the end of each game turn.  There were six such locations all originally in Dutch hands so that was six points a turn until the Japanese kicked them out.  The Japanese also gained victory points from casualties inflicted and units exited. So to summarise I had to kill loads of Japanese while avoiding taking too many casualties and exit troops off the board while simultaneously preventing the Japanese from doing the same and it would be really good if I could hang on to the buildings while I was doing this.  Dead easy.

To achieve the near impossible I had six first line squads, two green squads and three first line half squads.  This force was equipped with three light machine guns, a pair of heavy anti tank rifles and an 81mm mortar.  I also had ten concealment counters to spread Ivan's fire out a bit.  To sweep aside the Colonial rabble Ivan had eight first line squads, three second line and crews for a heavy and medium machine gun.  He also had four light machine guns and a pair of 50mm mortars.  Supporting the infantry force were six tanks; two Type 94 tankettes armed with machine guns and four HA GO tanks with a 37mm gun.

For some reason I thought sitting in the middle of irrigated rice padis would be a fine defensive tactic and I committed a few squads to wallowing up to their lower lips in mud.  Somewhat more sensibly I put a halfsquad with an atr (also in the mud) where it could cover the approach road.  In the little patch of jungle in the centre I placed another halfsquad with atr and a squad and lmg team.  A little further south in the next clump of jungle I placed a bunch of dummies (and one real squad) as speed bumps.  The remainder of my force I set up to defend the village while my mortar (81mm of pure gold) nestled behind a wall in the village compound.

My plan was to try and get some early points with a couple of tank takedowns as Ivan approached and then a fighting withdrawal to the village followed by a gradual evacuation.  Why I thought committing my forces to slopping around in the padis would help with that I'm not entirely sure.  Perhaps I had visions of the Japanese charging across the padi fields.  They didn't.

First into the field on the Japanese side were his tanks.  Six of them, hardly impressive versions of the armoured menace but potent enough for an already nervous Dutch colonial force.  Ivan peeled off two to roll south and help his infantry forward while the other four charged blindly for, a spot a dozen hexes away from the defence where they stopped.  I had expected to be fighting hand to hand against the clanking monsters pretty much from the word go so I was a little surprised.

End of Turn 1

It's fair to say the first few turns were not happy ones for Ivan.  One of his cruddy little Type 94s broke its MA on the first shot and a six on the subsequent repair roll would see it waltz off the board while its comrades tried to dodge an increasing amount of mortar and atr fire.  I had a half squad with an atr wallowing in the mud of a padi field who took a shot at one of the other tanks for no result.  In return a 1 flat mg shot broke and ELRed the worthless bastards.  That was it for good news for Ivan for a couple of turns.  My other atr managed to immobilise a tank and the 81mm mortar shocked two others.  These shocks would turn into UKs and then destruction and suddenly the only two working tanks were the ones Ivan had sent around to help his infantry forward.  Meanwhile I accumulated building control VPs and buffed my nails while waiting for Ivan's infantry to get forward.

Nothing daunted Ivan brought on his infantry and married the leading stacks up with his tanks, obviously intending to armoured assault his way to victory.  Unfortunately his leading stack consisting of three squads and a leader married up with a tank in line of sight of my mortar.  When the mortar ran out of rate a squad was dead and the leader wounded but on the other hand another squad had battle hardened and generated a hero so, a little something for everyone.

Mortar starting to work

Ivan then decided to advance what was left of this vanguard into an adjacent hex to get away from the menacing looking acquisition counter.  Unfortunately this was still in line of sight of my mortar and by the time I'd finished with the next fire phase a wounded leader stood alone in the blood slicked jungle.

Although reeling from this brutal pounding Ivan used his tanks to shepherd what was left of his infantry forward, carefully avoiding my mortar's line of sight.  A formidable Japanese force thus bore down on the collection of concealment counters and an expendable green squad that made up my left flank while what was left of his remaining tanks (a single immobilised vehicle) took potshots at my guys in the centre.  Unfortunately Ivan misjudged the line of sight and moved the two crews toting his heavy and medium machine guns into firing view of my mortar.  Another rate tear later and once again the shattered jungle trees were dripping with blood and the machine guns sat alone.  Ivan didn't go back for them.

Sadly despite this wholesale carnage the remainder of Ivan's force pushed forward.  He rolled his two remaining functional tanks up to my centre position while he detailed troops to work their way through the dummies I was pretending with increasing desperation were real units.  With big metal monsters (ok, HA GOs so not that big) looming over the defenders Ivan pushed infantry units forward to threaten the position.  A morale check sent one of his halfsquads berserk but it died on its mad rush to my defences.  Still he got a half squad into CC with my atr crew and the ensuing close combat killed both units.

At this point Ivan felt that the game was pretty much lost.  I had amassed a staggering number of CVPs and my hold on the village buildings was netting me a solid six points per turn.  Still he soldiered on and in truth the happy times were nearly over for me.  Ivan had run the gauntlet, paid his dues and now the wind was about to change.  I mean that last comment literally by the way.  Ivan rolled a wind change which led to a breeze blowing across the battlefield.  This would prove to be significant in a turn or two.  Ivan swung his last two tanks around to effectively cut off my centre defenders and then swamped them with troops.

I wasn't particularly concerned, I still held the village tightly and Ivan would have to come down the road to get me (we both eschewed slopping around in the padi fields early on in the piece).  Then Ivan used one of his mortars to drop a smoke round on my defenders.  Inconvenient but not tragic except for the fact that with a breeze now blowing the result was to stretch a smokescreen directly across the path he needed to cross to approach the village.

In considerably less time than it takes to write Ivan had pushed his remaining forces up to the wall around the village safely shrouded in smoke.  Suddenly I was in genuine danger which not even the killing of another tank with machine gun fire could completely free me from.  Ivan charged into close combat with my closest defenders.  It's fair to say that I didn't come off best from these contests.  I certainly inflicted casualties, at least another two Japanese squads paid the ultimate price but I lost scarce units too and suddenly the gap between my victory points and Ivan's started to narrow.

The happy times are almost over
The battlefield had been compressed to the village itself and with nowhere to run every failed morale check was a killer and my troops did not stand up to the fire well (although my mortar crew survived an overrun from his remaining tank).  With one half turn remaining and Ivan running rampant over my few remaining units I retreated the survivors (one squad and a miserable 6+1 leader) off the board for some exit points.  This left the field to Ivan who exited a tank and two squads for his own VPs.

With the killing over we added up the points.  I had gained eighty four points in total.  Ivan had scored thirty.  This made me fifty four points ahead, one short of what I needed.  ONE SODDING POINT!!!
The end
This was a brutal game.  At the end Ivan had two squads and a tank left and I had one squad and the 6+1 leader.  Pretty much everyone else on both sides had died.  We approached this scenario with a fair amount of hesitation but it has to be said that we got a lot out of it and both of us had moments when we thought it was in the bag.  Sadly for me Ivan had that impression at the end when it counted.

The two orderlies staggered out of the padi field covered in mud.

"Well," said one, "that could have been worse."

"Worse!" shrieked the other, "everybody's dead."

"We're not," replied his companion.  He pointed to the corpse of a Dutch officer sinking into the mud, "And they are!"

"Good point.  What are you going to do now?"

"Hide out for a few years and then take over the country when the Dutch try and come back."

"Do you need a hand?"

"Sure, I could do with an orderly."

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Fostering Dogs

I stared suspiciously at my Tasmanian correspondent. 

"Would you mind repeating yourself?" I asked in tones of measured politeness.  "Did you say you'd been attacked by a bear?"

"No you idiot," she snarled.  "Take that damn tinfoil from around your head and pay attention.  I said," but whatever she was going to say was drowned in a ghastly inhuman howl that drowned out all attempts at conversation.  I looked around wildly trying to see the pack of mutated wolves that must be threatening the life of my correspondent.  Then, suddenly suspicious, I contacted my tech support.

"Random question guys?"

"Have we by any chance been involved in a black ops genetic engineering project breeding monstrous sized wolves accustomed to feeding on human flesh and then released said wolves onto the streets of Hobart as part of the final testing stage before unleashing our hell hounds onto an unsuspecting world?"

"Ah, yeah.  Something like that."

"Of course not.  We wouldn't do something like that, again."

"It isn't wolves," interrupted my correspondent.  "It's the neighbour's foster dog."

It turns out that my correspondent's neighbours are currently fostering a dog called Bear.  From her description it seems to be a cross between a labrador and a hippopotamus.  My correspondent's involvement with "Bear" seems to involve picking him up when he escapes from his apparently not particularly attentive carers.  It would appear that it isn't only humans who slip between the cracks of our foster system.  Despite Bear's rather impressive bulk he apparently has no problem tiptoeing out while the neighbour's attention is elsewhere.

I wondered aloud if my correspondent's neighbours were the best people to look after a troubled dog.  She pointed out that they were raising four boys and a large dog of their own so they should be experienced with unmanageable animals.  They were also once responsible for a stealth wombat.  I cast a suspicious glance at my tech support but for once they appeared as bewildered as I.

Apparently at an earlier stage in their journey as not particularly effective animal fosterers these neighbours took charge of a wombat.  For those who don't know, a wombat is a sort of small, furry tank.  Their natural habitat is stretched out dead by the side of the road but occasionally one encounters a live one, normally with one's car.  This particular wombat made a habit of lurking in the shadows and then charging out when least expected and slamming into the legs of passing human beings.  This was probably a sort of race memory revenge for all of its kindred that have been hit by cars.  Still it didn't seem to indicate any sort of high quality fostering skills.

Despite this when a bloated, independent minded labrapotamus needed housing these people put their hands up and it currently resides next door to my correspondent.  She says this is only temporary.  In her opinion the thing is likely to die of a heart attack trying to get up the drive.

Sunday, June 3, 2018

My Council In Action

If, seized by some ill advised spirit of discovery, you wander down to the rear of my block and peer over the fence your attention may be drawn to what appears to be a poisonous green stretch of open land.  Considering the development all around you may idly wonder why nobody has yet built a block of flats on it.  The reason is that this isn't land at all, it is a scum and weed covered patch of what, for want of a better term and for the purposes of this blog only, we shall call water.

I recently received a letter from my local council concerning this festering disease sump although I believe they described it as "a priority biodiversity site for the Inner West".  Well I guess mosquitoes do have to breed somewhere.  Apparently it provides a refuge for aquatic plants and animals.  There's an entire rivers worth of polluted filth oozing its way to the sea a couple of hundred metres away but I guess that's too far for the aquatic plants and animals to walk.

The reason for the council's missive was a semi disaster that happened some months ago.  Heavy rains undermined the banks of this noisome plague pit and for a while there it looked like some of my neighbours might have the interesting experience of watching their homes slide beneath the murky filth.  That happened in February last year and now, a mere sixteen months later, council is preparing to spring into action, in a year or so, to prevent such an undesirable state of affairs.  Council being council they couldn't leave it at that.  No, invitations will be solicited from the surrounding community on the future management of Dibble Street Water Hole, a name which I can only assume is used because "Slimy, disease infested cesspit" doesn't look good on google maps.  And not only the water hole!  Taking the bit between its teeth the council has decided to invite comment on the future management of the nearby Marrickville Golf Course.

I wasn't aware of this but apparently the golf course is irrigated with "water" from the water hole.  This does however explain why the principal hazard isn't the bunker at the seventeenth but rather mutated, tentacled horrors lurching across the greens in search of flesh.  I could point out that the golf course is even closer to the previously mentioned river than the water hole but in fairness you could probably bottle and sell the contents of the water hole with less damage to the local health than using the Cooks River to irrigate anything.  Probably the only thing you could use the Cooks River for is cleaning out your drains.

So it would appear that, starting sometime in 2019 hordes of council hired workers will descend on the water hole to shore up its crumbling banks with plaster of paris or some such.  The council warns that there will be no access to the water hole while said remediation works are in progress.  No explanation is given as to why the hell anyone might desire such access.  The only use I can think of for the water hole is if I wanted to dispose of a dead body.  That probably wouldn't be a problem, it would provide much needed sustenance for the aquatic plants and animals which I am assured are currently unfortunate enough to make the water hole their home.