Sunday, June 30, 2019

Travelling Hopefully

Having decided that the threat of dengue fever and/or malaria is preferable to putting up with the cold weather for a moment longer I have decided to flee to the tropics.  To that end I have scraped together such of my possessions as are appropriate for a trip to climates tropical and purchased a 44 gallon drum of insect repellent which I have to find some way of smuggling through customs.

The Malaya Madmen ASL tournament will be held in Singapore at the end of the month.  With this as an incentive I have decided to travel to Singapore via Thailand and Malaysia.  Along the way I will apparently indulge in sea-kayaking.  I'm not entirely sure what that is and the only picture my mind can create involves Eskimos hunting whales which doesn't seem entirely correct.  After careful consideration I've decided to leave my sealskin overcoat and harpoons at home.

More positively I get to ride on a train as I and a bunch of like minded foreigners are trundled from Bangkok to the more Malaysia adjacent parts of Thailand.  After which a combination of transport modes which hopefully don't include much walking will carry us down the west coast of Malaysia stopping in at Penang and Kuala Lumpur along the way.

Eventually our journey will spit us, panting and dishevelled, onto Singapore a nation which, like Hong Kong, proves that the best people to run British colonies are the Chinese.  Once there I will do my best to avoid amusement parks and steep myself in the local culture.  No I won't, I will wander around in the sweltering heat, reeking of now rancid insect repellent taking random photos of random buildings which I will later try to construct a coherent blog entry around.  This should go as well as all my other attempts to construct coherent blog entries.

I visited Singapore briefly some thirty odd years ago.  The one enduring memory I have is of the heat which almost beat me to death the moment I left the airport.  Perhaps for that reason Singapore airport itself is now a tourist destination.  I also hope for great things from the Singapore public transport system which is apparently both cheap and ubiquitous.  It's also air conditioned which could be the difference between life and death.

I shall of course be writing blog entries about my travels whenever I get the opportunity.  If they seem a little more disjointed and nonsensical than usual you will know that a mosquito managed to slip through the repellent and I'm now raving with fever.  Or possibly not.

Saturday, June 29, 2019

Leichhardt North

Leaving behind the verdant glories of Hawthorn dog park the light rail curves to the right for the very good reason that if it kept going it would do what the Hawthorn Canal does and run into the Parramatta River.  Instead the light rail parallels the river and manages to insinuate itself into a only slightly wider than light rail sized gap between a suburban street and the city west link motorway.  To be fair the rail track was there first.

Leichhardt North appears to be one of those "we have a little money left over in the budget" stations.  Unless your destination happens to be a multilane motorway (in which case why were you catching a train) there doesn't seem to be a lot of point in getting off there.  The onboard announcements informed me that the station was convenient to bus stops that would take you somewhere else.  There was no attempt to persuade you to get off at Leichhardt North on its own merits.

The station is on the border between the suburbs of Leichhardt and Lilyfield.  The actual border is pretty much that motorway which makes dropping in on your neighbours to borrow a cup of sugar more or less impossible.  In its own small way the light rail station attempts to redress this issue by providing a bridge over the motorway.  If you cross this bridge you find yourselves surrounded by houses whose property values were probably somewhat higher before six lanes of traffic became their closest neighbour.  There's also an early learning centre for the kiddies.  An early learning centre is essentially a supervised pit you can drop your too young for school kids in while you go to work.  It backs right onto the motorway (a significant wall prevents any messy consequences for kids who wander off), presumably one of the things the kids are learning early is how to deal with persistent traffic noise.

Having exhausted everything the north side of the station had to offer (time elapsed, three minutes) I retraced my step and crossed to the other side.  This is the Leichhardt side where (as the announcement promised) you could catch a bus to the actual shopping part of Leichhardt.  In case you hadn't already had a bus induced excitement overload the station is only a few blocks from the Sydney Bus Museum.  For those who are interested in such things it must be terribly exciting.  I am not among their number so I didn't go.

Instead I wandered the back streets of Leichhardt.  At least they're back streets now that the motorway has blocked off most of the access.  Paradoxically this makes the streets quiet and rather peaceful.  I greatly enjoy wandering around quiet, empty areas.  Specifically I enjoy wandering around quiet, empty areas in the middle of a city.  I'm not crazy about it out in the country where the place is actually quiet and empty.  I don't particularly like it in the outer suburbs either where the quiet emptiness can be explained by the fact that housing was built for several million people without bothering with any infrastructure the result being that the place is empty because everybody who lives there is somewhere more interesting or inside tending to their drug labs.  Quiet emptiness in the inner suburbs of a large city I find peaceful and enjoyable the more so because travelling ten minutes in any direction will take you away from the quiet emptiness.

Still unless I actually wanted to catch a bus into Leichhardt (I didn't) there wasn't a lot more for me to do so I trotted back to the light rail station and caught the next train home.  I still remember the look of surprise on the faces of the passengers when somebody actually got on at Leichhardt North.

Monday, June 24, 2019

Red in Beak and Claw

A few days ago when I stumbled bleary eyed onto my balcony I was a little surprised to find it spattered with blood.  I reacted in the way most people would I think.  First I checked my body for self inflicted wounds and then I trawled through the splintered chaos of my memory to see if there was anything I was doing the previous night which could explain the gore heavy state of my balcony.  Eventually I decided that as far as I could tell the balance of probability was against my having any involvement, maybe.  I did wonder if my tech support had been conducting a wet works operation but they promised to wait until I was on holidays before they did that again.

Which just left the minor question of what the hell had happened.  While "welcome" is not the usual term to describe the discovery of a mutilated corpse on your property it would at least have given me a sense of closure.  I live on the second floor so it was unlikely to be the result of some drunken street brawl unless the participants were very tall.  This left me casting my eyes towards nature for an answer.  There would appear to be two options;

Option one is that some predatory swoopy thing swooped down and predated something a little more victim shaped and spilled some of it over my balcony.  There are apparently Powerful Owls in the Sydney region and Hippogriffs have been sighted in the southern suburbs so this is a possibility.  However my preferred explanation is option two.  This speculates that a pair of pigeons got into a vicious turf battle over the prized shitting rights on my balcony.

It has to be admitted that my relationship with the local pigeons is a somewhat problematic one.  Their numbers (or at least their bowel movements) have been gradually increasing over the years and my balcony seems to be quite a popular spot for them to hang out and relieve themselves.  Things haven't been improved by a recent renovation that has taken place on my balcony.

In a sudden fit of enthusiasm the strata management people (or at least their minions) descended on our collective balconies, checked them for concrete cancer and resurfaced the lot.  The floor of my balcony is now a pleasing shade of honeycomb.  One of the advantages of the new colour scheme is that it throws the pigeon crap into sharp relief whereas with the old grey surface one could convince oneself that the situation wasn't too bad, at least until you sank ankle deep walking out on to the balcony.

The pigeons certainly seem to enjoy it as well.  They used to flutter off with outraged coos when I went out on to the balcony, now they settle for shifting a token couple of inches further away and stare at me with bland indifference.  It would be easier if I had the willingness (or the ability) to get rid of them in a more permanent way but sadly my heart is soft and my muscle tone softer.  I did ask my tech support if they could do anything but they just laughed and told me I was on my own.  Apparently there are some things they aren't prepared to mess with.

Which leaves me with a problem.  What to do with a bunch of increasingly stroppy pigeons that are apparently suffering from severe intestinal disorders.  Fortunately with this latest gruesome scene they've given me an idea.  If the pigeons want to fight it out over my balcony so be it.  I'll rig up a cage and some cameras and broadcast the results to the world.  Pigeon cage fighting, it'll be the next big thing.  Bet 365 are definitely interested.

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Birthday's for the Bald and the Fat

It's generally a bad sign for a dynasty when rulers stop being given monickers like "The Mighty" or "The Conquerer" and instead wind up with things like "The Drunkard" or "The Bewitched".  Once we get down to personal insults then I think we can assume that the writing is on the wall.

Happy birthday then to not one but two Holy Roman Emperors; Charles the Bald and Charles the Fat.  Both of them were Holy Roman Emperor during the ninth century and neither of them seemed to enjoy it very much.  Charles the Bald, the first out of the gate, was a grandson of the far more impressive Charlemagne (Charles the Great thank you very much) and inherited about a third of the empire his illustrious predecessor had built.  Due to the unfortunate Carolingian habit of dividing territory among any sons who hadn't already killed each other Charlemagne's empire didn't last intact for very long.  Charles the Bald inherited (after a tedious period of civil wars) the left hand third of the empire, most of which is now France.  A period of peace between brothers lasted for the unusually long time of five years.  At the end of this time one of his brothers (Louis the German) decided that peace was boring and invaded Charles' kingdom.  Charles had meanwhile made himself so unpopular that virtually no-one raised a sword in his defence.  Despite kicking Charles around France for a while Louis couldn't persuade the local bishops to crown him king and sloped off back to Germany.  This left Charles free to be defeated by rebellious Bretons and then his own nephew.

To make matters worse Vikings were marauding (as Vikings are wont to do) and sacking settlements along the coast.  They had a pretty liberal interpretation of the word "coast" and managed to include Paris in the sackings at least once.  Charles led armies against them without much success and sent them vast sums of money (slightly more successful although it did tend to tempt the Vikings to come back to see if there was any more).

For some reason this litany of failure made the then pope decide he would be perfect as the new Holy Roman Emperor (the previous one having just died) and Charles went to Italy to gather that kingdom into his domains and be crowned by the pope.  While he was away Louis the German who had been an unsuccessful contender for the crown ravaged his lands with fire and sword.  When Louis died Charles tried to seize Germany in response and got beaten up again.  While licking his wounds he got an urgent email from the pope.  The Saracens were attacking and it would be really nice if the Holy Roman Emperor could come and defend Christendom for a while.  Charles marched into Italy and absolutely nobody rallied to his standard.  Depressed and ill he left for home, dying on the way.  The pope who obviously hadn't learnt from experience crowned Charles the Fat as his replacement.

Charles the Fat was a son of Louis the German mentioned above.  By comparison with Charles the Bald he was quite the success but only by comparison.  His life didn't get off to an auspicious start as he was apparently possessed by a demon.  Once that was dealt with (how?  Antibiotics?) and perhaps as a reaction he became incredibly religious.  He was also the last member of the Carolingian dynasty to rule over the united empire built by Charlemagne.  He achieved this by sitting on his backside and waiting for all his other family members to die which they obligingly did.

Meanwhile the pope was having problems.  A guy named Guy was encroaching on his territory and the pope dangled the bait of the imperial crown in return for assistance.  Charles turned up, got crowned and did nothing to help.  The next year he held a conference at which Guy and his father promised to give back the stuff they had pinched from the pope.  They didn't.

Peace in Italy thus restored Charles went back to western Europe which was still having Viking problems. Charles gathered a mighty army, surrounded the Viking host and then cut a deal with them.  Some time later he had the Viking leader quietly murdered.  This solution to the Viking problem proved only temporary and a few years later they were back besieging Paris again.  Again Charles raised an army, marched on the Vikings and this time paid them to beat up his own subjects who were in revolt.  One can't imagine why.

With whatever reputation he had trashed with this deal he settled down to organise the succession.  He had no legitimate heirs so he tried to legitimise his bastard.  Unfortunately the bishops were having none of it and the pope (whom Charles hoped would back him up) died inconveniently.  Tossing the entire plan out the window Charles called a major conference to decide the succession once and for all.  He needn't have bothered, one of his nephews was deciding the succession all by himself.  He marched on Germany with an army and it turned out that no-one was sufficiently invested in Charles' continued reign to oppose him.  Charles was deposed (quite possibly with a sense of relief by this stage) and died in retirement a few years later.  The Carolingian empire fell apart never to be restored although the title of Holy Roman Emperor proved surprisingly durable for an honour that brought nothing but political complications, unsuccessful campaigns in Italy and interaction with a pack of ruthless, grasping political opportunists (I'm talking about the popes).

As far as we can tell Charles the Bald wasn't bald and we have no knowledge of the physical dimensions of Charles the Fat.  It is entirely possible that they got these epithets because Charles the Useless and Charles the Twit were considered just a little too blatantly disrespectful for holders of the imperial dignity.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

And JunoBear Goeth

JunoBear this year consisted of three scenarios provided by tournament organiser Andy Rogers.  I wouldn't say that he agreed to organise the competition so he could get some playtesting done on new scenarios but that's exactly what he did.  The scenarios were new to all of us and involved boards that I didn't possess and in some cases didn't officially exist.  This plus the desire not to let too many cats out of the bag means that the following AARs will likely be a monument to incoherence.  So, basically business as usual.

The first scenario was set on Timor which pitted a force of elite and first line Australian troops against some highly motivated but tactically inept Japanese.  This description of the Japanese seemed a perfect fit for me so I took the Japanese defending a hill and the buildings thereabouts from Jamie Westlake's Australians.  A couple of SSRs wiped out HIP and bore sighting for the Japanese (tactically inept you see) and also allowed the Australians to launch the occasional banzai (to simulate bayonet charges).

A broad swathe of palm trees meant that people on the hill had virtually no chance of seeing the Australian entry area but the Japanese had to set up on the hill or near it (tactically inept etc etc).  The Australians have to capture either two buildings on the hill or a bunch of huts near the hill and one building thereon.  I have ten squads, a pair of officers and a handful of support weapons plus a 70mm gun which by SSR must set up right where it will immediately be overrun by rampaging Australians.  Jamie had fourteen squads, a mix of elite and first line, enough lmgs to open a shop and mortars with enough smoke to give the impression the entire island was on fire.

Jamie hit me from two directions, wreathing the gun in smoke and sending a powerful force to capture the huts while easing forward in the direction of the gun.  My Japanese were supposed to be tactically inept but this apparently extended to not knowing which end of a rifle the bullet came out of.  Completely unharmed by my defensive fire Jamie rolled into my hut defenders while up at the gun he launched a bayonet charge which quite literally swept all before it.  The Japanese are supposed to be good at close combat.  A measure of how good they were in this scenario can be found in the fact that Jamie started with one 8-1 leader and by the third turn he had three courtesy of snake eyes in close combat.  The death of my best leader from a snipers bullet even Jamie had to agree was by this point overkill.

After two turns of unmitigated catastrophe what were left of my troops pulled themselves together somewhat and I even managed to break his 9-2 but it was all too late.  I was back on my absolute last line of resistance and I had four and a half squads left of my original ten.  I conceded and staggered from the table in shock.

The second scenario was set on a chunk of the Hatten in Flames board and involved a group of Americans defending a crossroads from a ravening pack of fallschirmjager backed by a couple of panthers and some assorted halftracks.  They also got a free smoke mission to help them forward.  Since I had defended (to stretch the definition of the term to its limit) in the previous scenario my opponent Simon Spinetti kindly let me take the attacking Germans.  In addition to squads, bazookas and a couple of medium machine guns the Americans also had a pair of M-10 tank destroyers and a couple of 60mm mortars.  In case this wasn't sufficient they received reinforcements in the form of two and a half more squads and another M-10.

To win the Germans had to take a collection of building hexes around the crossroads.  The American set up area wasn't deep but it was broad and as I looked at Simon's set up I spotted what appeared to be an opportunity.  There were defenders clustered around the target buildings of course but apart from that he seemed to have set up heavy on the flanks and light in the centre.  I sent a secondary force against my right flank (which was closer to the victory locations) and set up the bulk of my forces backed by a panther and the halftracks for a full blooded assault on the centre.

It sort of worked, Simon was indeed a little weak in the centre although not as weak as I'd assumed as I discovered when one of his mortars converted a squad equivalent into a single broken half squad.  Despite this and one or two other embarrassing mini disasters I did manage to push into the centre effectively cutting off his right flank and pressing towards his defences guarding the crossroads. One of his M-10s was set back at the crossroads to cover the street the other found itself out of position on his right.  I had a moment of unalloyed joy when I managed to reduce this vehicle to a burning wreck by street fighting as it attempted to reposition to reinforce the centre.

So far so good but things had got delayed on my right.  Here I had three squads, an mmg and a panther and Simon managed to effectively delay them for three turns (out of four and a half) with a group of half squads and dummy stacks.  Suddenly realising I was running out of time and painfully aware that I needed these troops to help capture the buildings I finally pushed through the defenders but time was running out and these guys were too far away to conduct any serious flanking.  In fact they were so out of place that Simon felt comfortable using his reinforcements to strengthen his forward position leaving the rearmost victory location unmanned.

With the final turn upon us I brought my smokescreen down and used it to assault into the forward buildings.  I wound up in CC in two locations both of which I would need to win unless I could capture one of the unoccupied buildings in the rear.  My infantry couldn't do it but my right hand panther covered itself in glory.  Rolling around behind the fighting it charged straight into the building I needed, bogging but fortunately not dropping into the cellar.  There was just one minor problem, one of his M-10s was sitting two hexes away.  To have any chance of killing a panther from the front he needed APCR.  He got APCR.  He also hit the more vulnerable turret.  The modified to kill number was a ten.  He rolled a ten shocking the panther.  There then followed an excruciating search of the rules which finally determined that (absent enemy infantry) to control a building hex a vehicle didn't need to be good order, it only needed to be manned and armed.  Which it was.  Victory in one of the two close combats gave me the bare minimum I needed for a win.  Frankly I think my panther used all of my luck for the tournament in one go.

The final scenario saw me pitted against Zeke Crater who apparently flew all the way from Virginia to break my heart.  An eastern front action set in 1944 it saw a group of high quality Soviet troops backed by SU-76s, T-34/85s and lend lease Shermans trying to push a desperate bunch of Germans off a hill.  The Germans had a Marder (with an apparently limitless supply of 75mm shells) and a 75mm AT gun to help them hold off the Soviet hordes.  In case that wasn't enough they got a pair of PzIVJs on the third turn.  The Soviets had to capture a number of buildings but this would increase if at any point the Soviets had fewer closed top AFVs than the Germans.

The dice gave me the Soviets and I set up my elite force of guardsmen backed by the SU76s to hit the side and centre of the hill.  The T34s and Shermans (two of each) would enter on the first turn ferrying another four squads of infantry to the battlefield.

In the room we were playing in each competitor glanced at the map and the shout rang out "human wave!"  Andy who had designed the scenario pointed out that these were elite '44 guardsmen and surely we didn't need human waves at this stage of the war.  He was roundly ignored.  My own human wave got one of my supposedly elite guard squads broken and another killed but did push the rest of them through outlying buildings and up onto the hill.  One of my SU-76s went with them while the other circled around and climbed the hill behind Zeke's defences in the somewhat optimistic hope that it could menace his troops from the rear.  Actually all it did was persuade Zeke to pull his Marder back to a position where it could take out the SU-76 which it promptly did leaving a nice burning wreck to give me some cover.

Removing the Marder from his front line defences was useful and over the next few turns I ground forward supported (somewhat ineffectually) by my tanks and surviving SU-76.  His tanks came on and Zeke moved them up onto the hill to bolster his now threatened defences.  Nothing loathe I sent a pair of my tanks up to challenge them and promptly got them destroyed.  After that I kept the survivors out of line of sight of his vehicles and used them to beat up convenient infantry.  Despite pushing aggressively forward at the end I came up a couple of buildings short leaving me with a 1-2 record for the weekend.

So with my skills sharpened I'm now ready to head off to Singapore where I expect great things.  Not necessarily for me but hopefully my opponents will be grateful.

Friday, June 7, 2019

JunoBear Cometh

A group of shabby, flabby middle aged men slip furtively into the room.  For a moment there is silence as if we are unable to believe our success.  Then, as relaxation comes so does the boasting.  Tales of family gatherings successfully avoided fill the air.  Sunken chests are thrown out (or at least forward) as the speaker regales a rapt audience with the story of how he skilfully manipulated his wife into agreement with his attendance today.  The scent of masculine pride almost overwhelms the urine tinged stench of relief.  Back at their respective homes their wives swill mimosas and congratulate themselves on finally getting the deadbeats out of the house for the day.

There can be no doubt!  This is JunoBear 2019, where a group of aging physical inadequates sublimate their increasingly pathetic war hero fantasies through the medium of cardboard counters.  Here in this ill lit auditorium of doom battles will be fought, victories won and crushing defeats endured, with a break for lunch at about 1pm.  Andy Rogers having decided that CanCon just didn't inject enough grief into his life has agreed to run the tournament this year.  To suggest that he may have an ulterior motive would be rank ingratitude indeed.

This will be the second of three tournaments I'll be competing in within the course of a few months.  In April Joe Moro and Jamie Westlake dragged the corpse of ANZACon from its unmarked grave and unleashed it on the streets to terrify the villagers.  I popped down to Melbourne to suffer humiliation in that competition.  With JunoBear in Sydney I'm looking forward to some rather more geographically convenient humiliation.  Once I have uncurled myself from my foetal position and convinced the doctors that I'm not a suicide risk I'll be trotting off to South-East Asia for the Malaya Madmen tournament in Singapore for humiliation with a tropical flavour. 

But first; JunoBear, a grim tussle of three scenarios from which only one person can emerge triumphant.  The rattle of dice and the shrieks of the defeated (let’s face it, probably me) will echo through the halls of our venue scaring the hell out of the team of archaeologists currently examining the place to see how earlier generations entertained themselves.  Eventually a victor will emerge crowned in glory and spattered with the metaphorical blood of his victims.  If I manage to walk into another door some of that blood might not be metaphorical.

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

I'll Have to do Without a New Zealand Correspondent for a While

I stared at my New Zealand correspondent in astonishment. 

"You want a week off?" I asked.  He squirmed under my steely gaze and toyed nervously with a nearby sheep.

"I know its a lot to ask," he said, well, sheepishly.

"Oh it isn't that," I responded.  "I just didn't know you still worked for me."

It has to be said that news from the Land of the Long White Fleece has been thin on the ground of late.  A certain amount of that can be put down to the fact that, well, its New Zealand but there also seemed to be certain lack of dedication on the part of my correspondent.  I had pretty much given up on the possibility of ever hearing from him again. 

However where there's a sheep there's a way or so my tech support assured me.  I'm not exactly certain what they did or how sheep were involved but I now have access to pretty much every message and phone call made in New Zealand.  I was a little concerned at the security breach of what was after all a friendly nation's top secret communications until my tech support invited me to read some of them.  There really isn't very much going on over there.

Suffice it to say that wherever there is a sheep in New Zealand my tech support are staring out of its eyes.  And the fleecy jackets and lamb dinners go down a treat in Minsk when served with potatoes and diesel laced vodka.  But back to my correspondent.

"Why," I enquired in tones of sweet reason, "do you require a week off?"

The stumbling, tear laced response was a little incoherent but I got the impression that he had been touched with a burning ambition and that this might be the last chance for him to follow his dream.  Suitably impressed I asked for details.  He told me he was running a merchandise stall at a country show.  This is apparently what ambition looks like in New Zealand.  I shushed my tech support who were giggling uncontrollably (the diesel laced vodka may have had something to do with that) and asked for more details.  The whole sorry story soon came tumbling out.

My correspondent has a father in law; there's nothing unusual in that, I used to have one myself (Hi Herry).  This particular father in law, however, makes a living by sticking things on to the end of cows to enable calves to suckle more effectively.  To be more accurate he makes the things that others stick on to the ends of cows to enable calves to suckle more effectively.  I can't help wondering how cows actually managed to survive before we domesticated them and stuck things onto them so that their children wouldn't starve to death.

This product is called Peach Teats and it is apparently a significant player in the helping baby cows to suckle more effectively industry.  Next week New Zealand is holding a gathering of all things rural (pretty much the entire country) where farmers and those who service them come together to impress each other with such things as how efficiently their baby calves are suckling.  My correspondent's father in law has a stall (or possibly a pavilion) there and my correspondent has been roped in to helping out.  My correspondent trained as a lawyer and currently engages in risk analysis as a hobby.  Possibly for this reason he isn't actually expected to attach teats to cows or anything technical like that.  Rather he is selling promotional t-shirts and handing out appropriately themed sweets (that sound you hear is my mind boggling).  It's rather like the merchandise stalls outside a rock concert, except for the rock concert part.

So for the next week my correspondent is going to be hawking t-shirts with the words "Peach Teats" emblazoned on them.  At this point words failed me and my tech support collapsed in hysterics.  There was little I could do except wish him luck and ask if he could send me a peach flavoured sweet.  Unfortunately the last time he tried to send them to Australia they were destroyed in a controlled demolition by the Australian Federal Police at the airport.

Sunday, June 2, 2019


Yes, its finally done it.  After what seems like an eternity of teasing the Hawthorn Canal has finally achieved the ultimate mark of success; a light rail station named after it.  The light rail has dogged the canal's footsteps so faithfully that it appeared a restraining order might be required.  Now the two prepare to part ways as the canal oozes into the Parramatta River and the light rail, disinclined to get its feet wet, takes a sharp right turn and heads towards the city.  Before the, no doubt, tearful farewell the light rail deposited me at Hawthorn station so that I could say my own goodbyes to this stormwater drain cum open sewer that has found a place in my heart (although not my stomache because nothing could persuade me to drink the water).

The greenway which has provided a ribbon of trees to either shade or conceal the canal (depending on your viewpoint) has now broadened out into a genuine open area.  This is a mixed blessing as having been provided with an open area the local humans couldn't resist doing something with it.  As a result the light rail station has deposited me at Hawthorn dog park.  Here scruffy, long haired animals run about panting in excitement while their dogs watch them with a combination of surprise and embarrassment.

This is a leash free park where our canine companions can stretch their legs and (from the look of the ground) their bowels without hindrance.  The canal running through it has now reached a sufficient depth that it can be used for the traditional purpose of canals, tossing rubbish into them.  Gates, chunks of pipe and the occasional ride share bike provide impromptu homes for the scrubby, mud coloured fish which swim through the scrubby mud, coloured water. 

Still if you don't look too closely (and if you're wise most of your attention will be on where you're putting your feet) it's an open, almost rural setting.  Trees and the occasional strategically placed bench complete the scene as a place of recreation and relaxation although if I were designing it I would probably have tossed in a few more garbage bins.  I was slobbered on by more than one indiscriminately friendly canine and despite not being an instinctive dog lover I was rather pleased by the attention. 

In fact I was so pleased by the scene that I took a number of photos of it which on closer examination all turned out to look roughly the same (grass plus a canal).  I've attached one at random below.

I acknowledge the lack of dogs in this photo but I assure you they're lurking just out of camera shot covering their face with their paws and muttering about the paparazzi (they're actually on the other side of the trees to the right).

Yes, charming indeed but to appeal to me a setting must have something more.  Specifically it must have coffee.  Enter Cafe Bones, a cafe in a dog park which gives you an indication about the bulk of its clientele.  It serves doggy treats, puppacinos and, in deference to the fact that dogs don't usually carry cash, also somewhat reluctantly provides sustenance for the human owners as well.  At the time I was there it appeared that there were about three dogs for every human and nobody seemed to know quite who owned which but they were all friendly, if a little ball obssessed, and the humans weren't too irritating either.  The dog theme even extended outside the park.  As I was strolling down a nearby street I noticed a van plastered with the logo of Woofies, who provide dog services.  So presumably if you need your dog serviced they're the people to call.

We're actually in the middle of a reasonably large city with major roads (and at least one light rail line) nearby but if your house fronted onto one of the narrow streets near the dog park it might be easy to think you lived in a country village.  Quiet streets, leafy surrounds, loads of dogs it even has a canal.  All of this without the major inconvenience of living in the country which is living in the country.  It might be a nice place to retire to.  It would certainly beat moving to the country.