Saturday, November 19, 2022

Travelling Pathetically - Crows, Snakes and Coastline Edition

 It occurs to me that if you read the title you really don't need to read the remainder of the blog to find out the most interest parts about my latest walk.  For those of you of a masochistic bent however please see below.

My previous two walks around sea adjacent portions of my home city having fired me with a desire to stare at large expanses of water that I can't drink I eagerly sought out another such opportunity for my recent walk.  Eventually I settled on La Perouse a suburb in Sydney's south whose main claim to fame is that it is where the French didn't colonise Australia.  La Perouse is fringed with bush, well to be honest its fringed with golf courses but the golf courses are fringed with bush which collectively make up the northern part of Kamay Botany National Park.  Quite a bit of coastline is included within the park's bounds and this was my destination for the day.

Two trams and a bus having been used to deposit me at the waters edge in La Perouse I wondered briefly if I had time to do the walk and get back before my employers started demanding my attention.  I decided to risk it and set forth.

At start

An expanse of blue water stretched out in front of me.  This wasn't the sea, it was Botany Bay which goes some way to explaining the oil storage facilities across the way in the above photo.  From this position I took a hard left and made my way through some slightly disheveled bush until I arrived at Congwong Beach.  I had no choice but to go to the beach as the walking track I was taking led to it and out the other side.  Having dressed for hiking rather than the beach the soft sand proved to be some of the most tiring and difficult walking terrain I encountered and I was glad when I could bid the sand goodbye and head into the more tree intensive parts of my journey.

Slightly disheveled bush

Taking photos at the beach is a slightly dubious prospect nowadays particularly when you quite obviously have no decent reason for being at the beach so I kept my camera in my pocket until I encountered a small stream set sufficiently away from sunbathers and children to excuse my taking a photo of it.

A small stream with a beach lurking modestly out of shot to the left.

I left the beach with a sense of relief and delight that my feet were back on solid ground and set off around the coast.  The day was glorious; the sky and sea were blue and the sun was bright.  Very bright in fact, very very bright.  I had brought a hat which is the only reason I survived.  I had not brought sunscreen which is the reason why parts of me now resemble a refugee from a leper colony.  Still melanomas and seared flesh were in my future.  For the moment I enjoyed the bushland full of tiny, beautiful birds that absolutely refused to sit still and be photographed.  The sea fortunately was more accommodating.

The sea goes on for quite a bit further past this photo

Having tried the sea's patience by getting it to pose for photos I left it alone for a while to take photos of various plants which also had the advantage of not moving as swiftly as those damned birds.

This plant didn't jump out of the way in time

I also kept an eye out for the Clare McIntyre memorial fungus without which none of my walking blogs would be complete.  Sadly fungi was rather thin on the ground but I managed to take the photo below which I'm about 60% certain is a fungus and not just a tree disease.

The Clare McIntyre memorial fungus (probably)

I was in a good mood, I had got away from the beach and photo opportunities abounded.  A lizard posed for a photograph (ok he didn't know that but I'm pretty sure he won't sue) and the weather continued its self appointed task of burning my shoulders to a crisp.


I had just got used to being some way above the sea when the path forked and plunged back down towards the shoreline again.  With nothing better to do I followed it and wound up at Brown's Rock which must be one of the most unimaginative names for a geographic feature I have ever encountered.  The rock was indeed brown or at least dirty and there were people fishing from it.  We greeted each other politely and then even more politely ignored each other.  If I really wanted to meet people I probably wouldn't wander around uninhabited parts of the bush.  I did take quite a nice photo from the rock or at least a rock.

Quite a nice photo

And then I took a photo of a ship because it intruded itself on the scene and I figured if it was going to spoil the scenery then it should at least have its name taken down.  It's name was (and probably still is) the Golden Chie.  Either that or some exotically named gang has tagged the side of the ship.

The Golden Chie

For the record the Golden Chie is a Panama flagged tanker currently making its way to Cairns.

With the entertainment value of brown rocks and wandering oil tankers exhausted I retraced my steps, uphill this time, and continued my journey.  Well I say I continued my journey, actually I sat down at the fork in the path, gasped for breath, drank some water and tried to remember what the warning signs for a heart attack were.  Then I continued my journey.

To say I had a destination would be to attribute more organisational skill to me than I actually possess but the next point of interest according to the signs I encountered occasionally was Henry Head lighthouse.  I quite like lighthouses so it was with a spring in my step (or at least an enthusiastic shuffle) that I plunged through the bush again.  

The bush came to an abrupt end as we reached Henry Head itself.  Instead was an open, windswept headland with the world's most disappointing lighthouse situated on it.  I, of course, had been thinking about a tall cylindrical building with a flashing light on the top.  What I actually got was this;

A solar panel has been tethered to the lighthouse to stop it running away

In fairness it is cylindrical.  It was at Henry Head that the most interesting part of my walk began.  Which will probably infuriate anyone who has actually bothered reading through the above.  I would now be taking the Cape Banks walk through hanging swamps and heathlands that decorated the cliff line.  I wouldn't be walking right on the cliff edge because signs pointed out that it wasn't stable.  It and me both.

The scenery was an immediate contrast to what I had been walking through so far.  Trees vanished and in their place sturdy bushes and somewhat wind battered grasses prevailed.  As with North Head a walking platform had been created so that we didn't sully the earth with our tread.

Heathland, I presume

I walked on the path through the heathland taking in the sights (heath) and sounds (wind on heath) and politely ignoring the annoyingly large number of people who had chosen this day to do the same thing.  The walking path changed suddenly from wooden boards and occasional metal grates to handsome stone and I thought to myself  "ah ha, the National Park is going up in the world" then I saw a sign that said "Golfers have right of way."  I was walking through a golf course.  Or at least I was now.  Here the golf course had made its way right to the sea but had graciously permitted random strangers (such as myself) to continue their walk as long as they stuck to the path, allowed golfers through and didn't sue if hit on the head by a golf ball.  I obediently stuck to the path and arrived at Cape Banks which was another land extrusion into the sea.

The aforementioned sea


There was scenery at Cape Banks and the sea being as photogenic as ever but what really grabbed my attention were the crows.  I have never seen crows of such magnificence.  Glossy blue black feathers, deep barrel chests and pale blue eyes.  I've never thought of crows as being handsome birds but these were amazing and very happy to be photoed.  I took many many photos of which only a small selection are added below



A different but equally photogenic crow

I may have gone a little nuts over the crows actually.  Certainly I have so many photos that I could be accused of having a fetish.  I stared at them in awe and they stared at me with a combination of disdain and disinterest.

Eventually I tore myself away from the crows and continued my walk.  I didn't realise it yet but my walk was almost over.  The path I was following joined up with a road and gunshots crackled in my ears.  On one side was the golf course and as it turned out on the other was the Sydney Pistol Club.  Psychologically I had finished my walk, now there was just the tedious business of getting myself from where I was to somewhere I might be able to catch a bus.  A hasty checking of google maps informed me that the road I was on would eventually get me there.  This was useful since there wasn't another one.  Further as an added teaser it informed me that a certain way along the road once all of the golf courses and gun clubs were done with the bush started again and I would be able to walk along a boardwark through a small piece of natural bush before emerging onto a suburban street which connected to another suburban street which connected with a multi suburban street (Anzac Parade) which had bus stops on it.

Possessing for the first time an actual plan I headed off walking along a narrow road, leaping to the side when cars passed by and pausing to snicker as a couple of expensively dressed guys in a convertible mercedes drove slowly and with wincing care along a road liberally decorated with potholes and speed humps.  I have never seen anything look so out of place in my life.

Without widening at all the road suddenly became littered with parked cars.  I looked to my right and yes, there was the golfcourse again.  A couple of guys were teeing off; standing directly in front of them was an ibis which paid absolutely no attention as a rain of golf balls flew over its head.  The golfers didn't pay any attention to it either.  I wasn't particularly interested in either golfers or ibis, I had stopped because on my side of the road was the aforementioned bush and a wooden walkway allowing access.

With bush once again on both sides of me I headed along the walkway aiming for the aforementioned suburban street which was only three hundred metres ahead of me.  Approximately a hundred metres into this little journey I looked at the ground beside the walkway and saw a snake looking up at me.  I literally said, "Holy shit, a snake!"  Then I took photos.  Not great photos because the snake wasn't as inclined to pose for them as the crows had been but I managed to get one decent one before the snake disappeared under the walkway I was currently standing on.  I waited to see if it would emerge on the other side but apparently it had decided to wait until I was gone.  I would have too.

Holy shit, a snake!

After that there was nothing left but to walk the last few hundred metres back to civilisation and a couple of hundred more to a bus stop.  I didn't see any more snakes although a local I met on the walkway assured me they were there.

Friday, November 18, 2022

Hitting Things With Mallets

 I was so desperate for something to write about that I reached out to my Tasmanian correspondent something I've become less inclined to do after the restraining order.  Still she is several hundred kilometres away so I can't really claim she's breaching it.

After the traditional formalities (screams, death threats and hysterical demands to stop pestering her) I got down to the reason for my call.

"I haven't heard from you in months."

"I send you a report every week," she retorted. "Is the institution still stopping your mail?"

"I keep telling you that was a misunderstanding, they released me almost immediately."  Three months counts as almost immediately in my book.  "So what is the news from Tasmania."

She told me her twelve year old daughter had been serenading visiting American sailors with merimba music.  So business as usual then.  There were a lot of questions to ask about this.  I paused to get my thoughts in order and assemble my questions in a logical framework.

"What the fuck?"

It turns out that Hobart has recently had a visit from the US navy.  They sneaked into the harbour in between the cruise ships which have recently been infesting my correspondent's shores.  My correspondent was actually more sanguine about the warships than the cruise liners.  Hardly surprising really, cruise ships are a blight on the horizon at the best of times but at the moment they're little more than self propelled disease cultures.  Apparently the Americans had picked a gap in the schedule of these petri dishes of the sea to drop in on Hobart.

Purely by coincidence, apparently, the school attended by my correspondents children had chosen this moment to herd their charges to the waterfront and drop a bunch of merimba instruments in front of them.  After that nature was permitted to take its course.

For those who don't know a merimba is sort of like a wooden xylophone.  You hit the wooden tubes with mallets thus making music or at least noise.  After a while it isn't only the merimba you want to hit with  mallets.  Lest you think encouraging anti social behaviour in children is restricted to my correspondent's school permit me to assure you that apparently all over the state teachers are handing their students mallets and encouraging them to go nuts.  This has been going on for years.  In 2019 Tasmanian students smashed the previous Guinness record for a bunch of recalcitrant shoolchildren being dumped in front of wooden tubes and equipped with weapons.  It's called Merimba Mania although at a pinch I think "mania" would probably be an equally apposite title.

So what did our American guests think of this welcome to one of our chillier shores?  Their reaction wasn't recorded but there is a persistent rumour that my correspondent's school has been reported to the International Criminal Court in the Hague for war crimes.  Certainly the American warships steamed over the horizon as swiftly as they decently could.  Unconfirmed reports claim to have heard hysterical weeping coming from the living quarters of the vessels concerned.

My correspondent was pleased with the results until I pointed out that the absence of American warships meant that it was more likely that extra cruise liners would fill the gaps.  I believe her children's school is planning another merimba assault when they dock.

Silly After Action Report - Maryuma's Stronghold

 Captain Shinobi Nojutsu tripped over an inconveniently placed bush and collided heavily with a tree.

"By all that's sacred," snarled his colonel, "will you keep the noise down?  That damn question mark won't mean a thing if you're making enough noise for the Chinese to hear in Chungking."

Nojutsu muttered an apology and shuffled back to his spider hole.  It wasn't really his fault that a trailing bootlace defeated his attempts at stealthiness.  The strangled shriek as he plunged head first into the hole drove his colonel over the edge.

"Corporal, go and find the Chinese and ask if they mind waiting for five minutes while I murder one of my junior officers."

"Ask them yourself," replied the corporal pointing to a large group of unusually well equipped Chinese soldiers carrying ear trumpets who were making a beeline for Nojutsu's position.

"Nojutsu, get that lmg into action now" yelled the colonel.

"I'm afraid I dropped the firing pin," responded Nojutsu's voice somewhat muffled from being head down in a hole.  "But don't worry, I think I see where it went."

"No rush Nojutsu," responded the colonel sweetly seeing with sudden delight that the Chinese had almost reached the captain's spider hole.

Richard Weilly suggested playing this one, Scenario AP 126 - Maryuma's Stronghold.  Having performed one of the most low value real estate grabs in history by conquering Burma a couple of years previously the Japanese now find themselves in the position of having to throw good money after bad and defend it from the British, the Americans and the Chinese all of whom unaccountably want to dispossess them of it.

Up in northern Burma it was the Chinese and the Americans who were doing the dispossessing.  Richard would take the attacking Chinese trying to seize Myitkyina from a bunch of stereotypically stubborn Japanese commanded by me.

The Chinese will win at game end by controlling all multihex buildings.  By extension the Japanese will win if they don't.  On paper it is a powerful force that Richard commands.  He has fifteen elite squads led by no fewer than five officers (granted one of them is a 6+1) hauling along a pair of dismantled medium machine guns, a pair of dismantled 60mm mortars and a (thoroughly mantled) bazooka.  A radio connects him a battery of 70mm OBA with HE and WP.

Hunkered down in the soggy undergrowth and slapped together buildings are my defenders.  Eight first line squads with a mere two officers to provide guidance and moral support.  I have a heavy machine gun, two light machine guns and a pair of the ubiquitous 50mm mortars.  A short barrelled 70mm infantry gun provides a little heavy metal and four concealment counters and a pair of trenches aid my defences.

 My set up

Above is my set up.  A railway divides the map into two unequal parts.  On the left side of the railway is a single multihex building.  I decided this would be where I would take my final stand with the railway line as a sort of defence.  I put both of my mortars behind the tracks and a squad/lmg team with one of my mere two leaders in a conveniently placed building (with a trench line leading to the multihex location).  For the remainder I had an outpost line of dummies, the odd halfsquad and a couple of squads in the north to hopefully inflict a few early casualties on the Chinese but more to encourage them to hasten slowly.  These guys would fall back towards the bulk of my defenders in the village.  Hopefully by the time they were overcome the Chinese would be sufficiently battered that taking the building across the tracks would be a bridge too far.  The 70mm gun I set up far to the rear covering an otherwise almost empty right flank.

Richard sent a monstrous horde plunging down the middle of the board and a smaller force on a wide flanking movement to the right.  I had that sinking feeling I usually get when I realise that 90% of my force is hopelessly out of position.  Fortunately I had time to reposition them and reposition I did.  I gave up any thoughts of shooting at the mass of humanity before me and did my best to slink away unseen and tighten up my defences.  I was somewhat successful insofar as Richard didn't wipe out my defenders in the first turn.

End of Japanese turn 1.  My guys have decided running away is the better part of valour

Undaunted by the suspicious lack of opposition Richard pushed on.  His centre force split in two forces one left and one right (whether that was deliberate or not I have no idea).  My forward defenders managed to punish the left hand force but the right shook itself out and started to seriously menace my troops.  Over on the far right his flankers flanked unopposed.  On my left I was still herding stragglers towards the fighting or to be more accurate where I expected the fighting to be in a turn or two.

End of Chinese turn 2.  Richard has taken casualties but he still looks pretty overwhelming

Witth my left apparently holding firm I sent my hmg team (led by my 9-1 leader of course) forward to the buildings on the right to bolster my threatened defences.  Strangely I wasn't too concerned about his flankers.  Japanese troops don't rout much and if he wanted the buildings his troops would eventually have to come somewhere I could shoot at them.

In the centre right Richard was certainly coming where I could shoot him.  Unfortunately he could also shoot me.  Things weren't helped when my hmg fired one shot and then malfunctioned.  Fortunately I managed to repair it the next turn.

End of Chinese turn 3

A struggle ensued for control of the centre right buildings.  Richard and I gained a squad killed apiece thanks to low rolls and well executed close combat.  Over on the right his 6+1 was hustling a radio toting halfsquad to a convenient location.  I took a shot at them with my gun without effect but this would have a significant impact on the game as the remainder of Richard's flankers now realised what their next target should be.

Mistakes have been made and casualties taken but for now the defences hold

With the main drive of Richard's attack now clear I attempted to revert to my tactic of sneaking the occasional shot when convenient and skulking the rest of the time despite the fact that that didn't really work too well originally.  Seeing the opportunity to bring in his game winner Richard dialled up his artillery and dropped a spotting round near my defences.  Meanwhile more of his troops filtered around the right trying to circumvent my defenders in the north of the village.

The left side of his force which had been incrementing slowly forward and licking its earlier wounds rallied and announced themselves ready to rejoin the fray.  This they did bulling their way through the kunai to where a lone Japanese squad/lmg combo had been holding the line.  His artillery came down soaking the centre in WP without doing much harm to either of us except for the associated eyestrain.  Further south though two of his squads (with mmgs and a 9-1 leader) fell foul of a mere spattering of fire from a halfsquad and yelped out of harms way.  Grimly sticking to their mission his flanking force headed for my gun with murder in their eyes.

End of Chinese turn 4.  Disaster has struck Richard courtesy of a precocious Japanese halfsquad

The end when it came came quickly.  With his centre struggling Richard sent forward his flankers to take out my gun crew.  They managed to sneak up on my gun retaining concealment, for my part I kept my gunners crouched underneath their own concealment counter.  Into close combat Richard plunged with two squads and a leader against my mere crew.  From time to time in an abusive relationship the abuser will do something nice for his victim simply to keep them off balance.  Thus the dicebot tossed me a bone.  I ambushed him and in the subsequent CC I rolled a three killing the lot without a scratch on myself.  That was the end as far as Richard was concerned.  Casualties had been heavy and he had not yet managed to break through my defenders.  He conceded and the game was mine.  Richard later noted that he had assumed Chinese 537 squads would have assault fire and was a little offput when he found out they didn't.  I felt an incredibly smug sense of victory until I checked the ROAR results and realised the scenario is little more than a Chinese graveyard.  Many thanks to Richard for playing it anyway, wins against him are few (even by my standards) and I will take each one I get.

Endgame.  Flankers are gone.  Richard has rallied his centre but they have far to go and not much time

The colonel coughed up a little white phosphorous and attempted to focus his streaming eyes on his after action report.  "The gun crew covered themselves in glory," he wrote, "and Captain Nojutsu must be counted among the fallen."  He couldn't help smiling at those words.  The smile was wiped from his face when Nojutsu tapped on the door and tripped over the step attempting to enter the room.

"Nojutsu, I hoped, I mean I thought you were dead.  We heard nothing from your position."

"I got a little lost and led a bayonet charge in the wrong direction," admitted Nojutsu.

The colonel sighed and shook his head, "Never mind, just rejoin your platoon."

Nojutsu saluted and then hesitated.  The colonel pointed, "It's that way."

Nojutsu hastened off.

In his defence the colonel did say "Look out for the booby traps" on the other hand he did say it very quietly after Nojutsu had left the room.  The anguished scream which split the air was the sweetest sound the colonel had heard all day.

Tuesday, November 1, 2022

Silly After Action Report - Ariete on Totensonntag

 Tenente Luigi di Gustation stopped papering over the cracks in his tanks armour and peered over at the lines of the 15th Panzer division.

"What the hell are they doing over there?  It looks like they're lining up for a military parade."

"Well it is Totensonntag," replied his driver who was busily packing sandbags onto the front of the vehicle.

"Toten what now?"

"Totensonntag, when the Germans commemorate their dead."

"If they attack like that they'll be joining them."  Di Gustation turned to a newly arrived staff officer.

"What are the Germans playing at?"

"Preparing for an attack," replied the staff officer.

"Well sooner them than us," replied di Gustation with some relief.

The staff officer gave an evil smile and produced an order.

"Oh you have got to be kidding me."

Richard Weilly kindly pandered to my predilection for the Italians and agreed to play MM33 - Ariete on Totensonntag.  The scene is the western desert (although technically all desert is west of somewhere) and we're neck deep in Operation Crusader.  Here the Germans decided to forgo all of that tedious tactical stuff and simply charge flat out at the South Africans holding positions to the south of Sidi Rezegh.  Because misery loves company they managed to "persuade" a decent amount of the Italian Ariete tank division to go with them.

The objective of the scenario from the Italian perspective is to capture or destroy three South African 25 pounder guns.  Of course to do that it is necessary to get past the rest of the defenders as well.  The Italians have a combined arms force made up of tanks, infantry and some almost self propelled guns.  My forces are as follows; three M13-40 tanks and three lorries carrying four squads of bersaglieri, two officers and a single light machine gun enter on the south and or west of board thirty.  On turn three (of five) four 65mm guns mounted on the back of captured Morris trucks.

To protect his precious 25 pounders Richard has three first line squads led by a single 8-0 leader and equipped with an lmg and an antitank rifle.  For some reason these three squads only get two sangars to shelter in.  In addition are the three 25 pounders themselves (again with only two sangars).  The 25s can only fire HE but even so have a decent chance of taking out the M13s.  Also on turn 3 a pair of Crusader I tanks roll on from the northwest to bolster the defence no doubt crumbling under the Italian hammer blows.  Light dust is in effect and wrecks (some of them burning) from previous attempts to do what I'm currently trying to do litter the battlefield.  In retrospect that should have been a warning.

End of Italian turn 1

Above is the situation at the end of Italian turn 1.  I brought my guys in from the west using the dust to hopefully screen the large and completely unprotected trucks.  Nevertheless my bersaglieri leapt from their vehicles with distinct sighs of relief and started inching their way towards the sangars that barred their way to the guns.  Richard took some shots with two of his guns but for the moment movement, dust and distance kept me protected.  His third gun remained invisible pretending that it wasn't in the only piece of scrub within his set up area.

My plan in case you're interested and as if it mattered was to take out his infantry and shift my tanks to the hillock in the northwest behind which they would hopefully hold off the reinforcing Crusaders.  With his infantry cleared away and my freshly arrived gun trucks providing support I hoped to be able to take out the guns.  

Anyway enough of such nonsense.  My troops crept forward towards the sangars while the tanks and trucks trailed their coats in front of his 25 pounders.  Devoid of their infantry my trucks were now dust generators until, inevitably, they got shot to pieces.

End of Italian turn 2

So far casualties had been light, a couple of trucks put out of action, but it has to be admitted that little had been achieved as well.  Richard's infantry still barred the way to my bersaglieri and my tanks had contributed little although they had amassed quite a collection of acquisition counters on themselves.  

In the British turn two things kicked off when I managed to break the MA of one of my M13s, that was a good start and I consoled myself with the thought that it wasn't much of a loss when Richard destroyed the thing with a 25 pounder shot a little later.  Richard also immobilised a second M13 and the crew declined to stay in their stationary metal box so I was suddenly reduced to one tank.  In the next turn that would break its MA too.  Despite the evaporation of their armoured support my infantry would leap into close combat with the most convenient South Africans and would actually succeed in killing them.  My gun trucks arrived just in time for Richard to run out of other things to shoot at.

Things have turned decidedly worse

Somehow the game stumbled on to the final turn (five).  Richard managed to destroy three of four gun trucks and his Crusaders turned up in time to kill my remaining largely impotent M13.  A parthian shot from my surviving gun truck did indeed break one of his gun crews but I had no way of getting to the others although my infantry (and a truck) did try.  Eventually I had to accept that the other two guns were beyond my reach.  According to the scenario card the Ariete were actually successful in this engagement, I'm not entirely sure how.  If I had my time again I might just try and charge directly for the guns and pray that he misses.


Some people win their games.  Those people are called "my opponents"

Tenente di Gustation looked around the battlefield for signs of his division.  Finding none he looked around for someone to surrender to.  Being equally unsuccessful in this endeavour he returned to his crew who were sheltering behind the wreck of their tank.

"Did we win?" asked his driver.

"I'm not sure anybody did," replied di Gustation.  "If anyone has reception can you call us an uber?