Thursday, December 16, 2010

U2 360° Tour

In the scheme of things I haven’t been a U2 fan for that long, maybe 8 years or so, but in that time I’ve grown to love their music and have managed to see this great Irish band twice now.

In Nov 2006 I saw them as they toured the world as part of their Vertigo Tour. I took the extraordinary lengths of camping outside the ticketek office in Wollongong to ensure I got a ticket after their first show sold out in minutes. Back then, the concert was my first at the ANZ stadium and I along with 80000 other’s weren’t disappointed with their performance.

This year U2 announced they were returning Australia as part of their 3600 Tour. Once again I took the extraordinary lengths of camping out to ensure my seat. I was the first in line as tickets went on sale and was very pleased to secure 2 A-reserved seats.

On the 13th Dec, Leonie and I headed up to the ANZ stadium to see U2 once again. We were blown away by the amazing stage, which is where the tour obviously gets its name, nicknamed the “Claw” this 4-legged amphitheatre towers high above the band. It has revolving screens and walkways linking a 360° platform.

As with the previous concert, the boys didn’t disappoint. They played plenty of their renowned famous old songs along with a mix of new stuff. Fortunately my favourite song “Beautiful Day” was amongst them. For 2.5 hours the band rocked out song after song, they dazzled the crowd with an amazing lighting and sound spectacular and only after 3 encores did they finally close the curtain on a great night.

Thank you U2, for an awesome concert.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

V8 Supercars – Sydney 2010

This year’s Telstra 500 had a little more hype associated with it than last year, because this round would decide the championship. James Courtney had a slim lead of defending champion Jamie Whincup and nether team could sit back and watch what the other would do.

As with last year I headed up on the Saturday to par-take in the days’ activities. Cloudy skies with the forecast of rain were expected, this coupled with rain over the past few days had kept teams guessing on race setup. As we arrived on track the heavens had opened making the Fujitsu V8 cars very unstable as they tried to qualify for their race.

We watched a few laps before heading through some of the pavilions and onto the pits where we were amazed to see the biggest indoor pit garage I’ve ever seen. The pit pavilion housed 8+ B-double racecar transporters plus a double pit bay for each team, all this in air-conditioned comfort. It was great to get up close to the teams as they worked on their cars. Over the day we saw an engine change, some panel repairs and various other minor improvements.

As the race drew close we made our way around to “turn 11” which is at the back of the train station and is at the end of a 600m straight. We had a position right on the fence, which proved to be very entertaining.

The race started as per the script and from our position we got to witness numerous cars clip the concrete barriers, various overtaking manoeuvrers and a good 180deg spin. The race was marred with a number of pace car incidents that kept the racing exciting. Late in the race the weather played a big part in the outcome of the race and the championship with a downpour of rain catching most of the field on slick tyres, as the track became a skating rink. The resulting accidents and carnage saw over half the field retire from the race. Those that had played Russian roulette with the weather and gambled on wet tyres came to the front, giving rookie driver Jonathon Webb his first race win.

As always the V8’s proved to be very entertaining with the Sydney venue being a great spectacle.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Emergency Services Expo

This was the first year I’d attended the Emergency Service’s Expo held at Kiama and I must say, it was a very well orchestrated day.

The Kiama foreshore at the Boat Harbour makes a very picturesque backdrop for this event and while other parts of the Illawarra were experiencing squally weather, Kiama was bathed in mostly sunshine.

Every Emergency Service from Surf Life Saving, Police, Ambulance, Fire Brigade, RFS and SES all provided a static display along with some form of practical demonstration. The NSWAS helicopter and NSWFB Bronto stole the show with their big exciting toys.

The SES proudly displayed their Vertical Rescue, Road Crash Rescue and Flood Rescue capabilities in a number of demonstrations.

Families were able to wander freely amongst the various vehicles, boats and equipment while the kids took great joy in climbing behind the steering wheel of their favourite truck.

What a great day.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

September @ the Bere’s

What a month! it was filled with non-stop activities. Both at home and afar.
It all started with us undertaking a small project in our backyard. Our first vegie garden had the kids so excited, yet so frustrated. We cleared out the side passage of overgrown weeds and shrubs before sowing the soil in preparation. We then took the kids shopping where they bought some small seedlings, a tomato plant, zucchini, spinach and carrots for a start. The kids excitement turned to disappointment when the following day the vegies weren’t ready for picking….. How funny are kids.

The final round of the footy season saw us go and see the Parramatta Eels take on Auckland Warriors. It was our first game for the year and while the Eels couldn’t make the playoffs it was great to take the family. It was part of my fathers day gift and one I thoroughly enjoyed. The result didn’t go our way but to see my little man o enthusiast in his sport and to sit on my lap for the whole game was very special.

Fathers Day was a very special time for me. I had one of those days that will always be etched in my memory. We shared the day as a family and I received some lovely gifts from the kids and Leonie. After a lovely brekkie, and a bit of shopping, lunch on the road, we topped off the day by a nice dinner at home. While my day was very special the wind was blowing up a storm at home.

The Fathers day windstorm that lashed the Illawarra and South Coast resulted in our Unit having some 700+ request for assistance. By far it was our biggest event for the year, we had SES units, RFS strike-force teams and NSWFB brigades assist us complete the jobs which saw us operational for a week straight. During this time, I did 2-days as the OC-operations controller which was a huge initiation to my new role.

On Monday 6th Sept I was appointed to my new role within the unit. I am now the Deputy Controller – Rescue at Wollongong City. It’s something I never dreamed of when I first joined some 17 years ago. The role sees me as 2nd in-charge and responsible for managing the field response to all operations. It also had me in the hot seat on my first day as I had to do a media interview for WIN TV.

As the windstorm jobs wound down we were presented with a drenching of rain. So much so that we were placed on high alert for flash-flooding and another 60+ jobs were taken. Many jobs came from residents who didn’t realise they’d sustained damage from the windstorm. It would be another 3 days before finally we could close down SES.

The annual Petersborough Golf day was once again a huge day. A round of golf at Shellharbour Links followed by a luncheon at Shelley’s Workers resulted in great day. Considering the frequency of how much I’ve swung a club of late I was very happy with my golfing ability.

The windstorms of 2 weeks earlier had seen our Navrescue event cancelled but that didn’t stop SES, we were at it again. This time we were doing mapping assessments around the streets of Wollongong. It was pleasing to see all members deemed competent.

Not normally written in this blog but in late September I finally got out to a bit of caching. I hide 3 new caches in the Shellharbour area while last Sunday I managed 11 finds around the Campbelltown area.

School holidays started in the last week of September and the kids headed off to Grandma’s, which left Leonie and I to enjoy some quality time together. So much so that we took off to the lovely couples retreat at Bingle Tree for a 2-night stay.

As the month comes to an end, we are picking up the kids and heading off to QLD for a week. The kids are so excited to be going to Movie World, but that’s another month.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Adenoids, Tonsils and dancing

After 5 years of Ethan not sleeping properly and his prolific sweating becoming a concern we’d had enough. Rarely did a night go by where he didn't wake up which in turn had us awake.

Our local GP referred us to a paediatrician who sent us for a sleep study. This involved Ethan having a night in hospital where he was hooked up to a machine which monitored his sleep patterns throughout the night. The results saw the paediatrician refer us to an E.N.T specialist. After consulting with the specialist he advised us that the first and best course of action would be the removal of Ethan’s adenoids and tonsils.

On the 10th Aug 2010 Ethan was admitted to Figtree Private Hospital for his first operation. He went into surgery at 8.00am and by 9.00am he was back on the ward looking and feeling as though nothing had taken place. How surgery practices had changed from when as a 5 year old I went in for the same operation. Today Ethan was eating jelly, ice cream and custard only hours later while I vaguely recall being very sick and bed ridden for days afterwards. Admittedly Ethan did get a little worse as the drugs wore off but he was such a brave little man and the very day after being operated on he was allowed to go home.

While Ethan was under the knife, Sam was on stage being judged for her primary level Ballet assessment. In what could only be described as freakish timing. Both Sam and Ethan had very important commitments at the same time which had Mum and Dad at opposite ends of the Illawarra. Sam, who loves her dancing, performed beyond expectations receiving a credit pass. I think given half a chance she’d love to make a career out of dancing.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Kids are a year older

Watching the kids grow up is something that I never get sick of watching, they are a constant source of fun, heartache and interesting times. The things they say and do is worthy of a book, I love my kids.

This year AJ turned 11, Samantha 7 and Ethan 5.

They are all growing up fast but it is AJ who is getting to that stage of her life where her body starts to change, she’s maturing to a young woman who loves to dress-up in her trendy clothing, she loves listening to the latest music. However she still enjoys playing with her younger brother and sister.

Samantha just turned 7, but she would tell you she’s 17. Sam is the exhibitionist of the 3 kids. She loves her dancing and will dress-up and dance for hours in front of the mirror. In reality she has done very well with her dancing since starting back at it last year. At school, Sam is doing really well with the teacher offering glowing remarks.

Ethan (our little man) is no longer the baby, he’s a boy with the energy level to match. He loves playing with his Lego, his DS and at every chance loves to get his cars out in the dirt. As I write this he’s been such a brave boy as he recovers from having his tonsils removed.

Mum and Dad love you all

Friday, May 28, 2010

State of Origin in 3D

The first State of Origin against NSW and QLD this year was also the launch of 3D television. Me and 4 mates were fortunate enough to win tickets to see the game at an in-store promotion held at Joyce-Mayne Warrawong. The big lounges and in-store footy food certainly made you feel as those you were part of the crowd.

The concept of 3D TV sounds exciting but the reality is I don’t see the concept taking off. There are limited TV cameras at the sporting event so the viewers view of the game is different to those who watch the normal game, there were no replays and you have to watch the whole game with the special $100 glass’s on. Don’t get me wrong, it was a great experience to be a part of and the “depth of field” that 3D TV gives is unbelievable. The players had body and shape, while the crowd shots were incredible.

As for the game, well it wasn’t the result any NSW fan wanted to see. We were totally outplayed and the players must take the loss as a wake-up call. We as fans, deserve better.

Come on NSW.

Friday, April 30, 2010

21 again

Its become a bit of a tradition that each Anzac day (my birthday) that we go 4x4ing for the day. I couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate my birthday that with family, friends, in the bush, 4x4ing.

This year we headed down towards Yalwal with the plan to camp overnight and make a 2-day trip of it. A good number of cars all from SES had gathered. A long weekend ensured there were plenty of other people with the same idea.

As the day unfolded we found plenty of fun tracks to play on, along with a bit of mud to play in. Our day was occasionally interrupted by the odd shower of rain but that just added to the fun on the tracks. Most of the afternoon was spent playing on the steps at Wombat Flat.

Late in the afternoon we pushed deeper into the bush where we found a great, surprisingly empty camping spot. Tents were soon set-up and a fire was lit. As darkness fell everyone cooked up their twist on a camping dinner. As the fire roared, the camp chairs gathered around, the stories started and the port flowed, then to my surprise a yummy birthday cake was shared by all, “what a great way to spend an evening”.

Sunday started out crisp and cool, a heavy fog filled the valley, but as the sun gathered warmth a beautiful day unfolded. We were soon off exploring more tracks, our mission today was the renowned 6th Stage hill climb and it wasn’t long before we were at the bottom of this gnarly climb. Recent rains had the top surface still very slippery and beyond our level of expertise. However that didn’t stop us walking most of the track to check out huge rock steps.

Eventually it was time to head for home. Another great 4x4ing trip had come to an end. Thanks to those who shared the weekend with me.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Easter Holidays

As part of the Easter school holidays we headed off on a 10-day trip around southern NSW. With the van in tow we made our way to Wagga Wagga for 4-day caching event. (see Oz mega Event)

After leaving Wagga we headed north up the Olympic Hwy through the towns of Junee and Cootamundra, all the time being blasted with a locust plague that was buffeting the area. We moved onto Young where we spent a night.

The next day we headed further inland to Grenfell, where took time out to have a quick look around the historic town. We arrived in Forbes where we had lunch while the kids burnt off some energy in a nearby park. Just as we were leaving town we spotted the sale yards were operating. Wanting to educate the kids we stopped and had a look around the various pens. We saw the dogs mustering the sheep around the small pens and the loading of the sheep onto the large transporters. The kids were fascinated and enthralled by the whole experience.

By late afternoon we’d arrived in Parkes and after setting up camp we headed out to “The Dish” which provided another source of information for the kids.

On the road again the following morning and we were heading to Dubbo, but not before a visit to the Peak Hill Gold mine. This open cut mine was amazing and while the kids thought it was just a hole in the ground, Leonie and I were very interested in the associated history. Moving on and we were soon in Dubbo where we met up with AJ. We’d opted for 2 nights here and on our second day we took in the sights of Dubbo Zoo, all by bike. We all thoroughly enjoyed the fun of pedalling around to see the various animals.

the next day and we were once again on the road and were now heading towards home. A short detour and we were at the Borenore Karst, which is a small underground cave. Here we explored the cave and took in the local Earthcache. The kids absolutely loved the underground experience.

After lunch we moved on, we were soon in Orange where we checked out Leonie’s childhood home. Pressing on, we passed through Bathurst and onto Sunny Corner where we’d decided to spend out last night camped out in the bush. Once again the kids loved the fun of being outdoors and in nature. That night we had a campfire and toasted marshmallows.

As with everything, our holiday had come to end. 10 days of touring central NSW was a lot of fun.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Swiftwater Technicians Course

Having completed the Swiftwater awareness course I was keen to purse my interest in this area. Flood Rescue within the SES has certainly taken off in the past 12 months.

On the 6-7-8th March I got the opportunity to develop my Flood Rescue capability by undertaking the Technicians course. Once again, the course was held at Penrith White-water facility. 12 SES members from across the state had gathered for what turned out to be a very demanding and intensive 3-day course.
Early on Saturday we did a quick refresher on what we should’ve remembered. The “strainer” once again brought people unstuck, from there we moved onto some new and exciting procedures such as rescuing floaters, live bait retrievals and much more. No sooner had started than the day was drawing to an end and by the looks on peoples faces everyone was feeling the pinch of a long and exhaustive day.

Our accommodation for the weekend was Penrith Leagues Club, which over the years has been an old stomping ground off mine. Over the next 3 days we enjoyed some great food and beverage as a guest of the club.

Sunday started with some rope techniques across flowing water, these were not too dissimilar to our VR stuff but just in a different application. Tensioned diagonals certainly proved a great technique for quickly traversing a swollen river, with or without a casualty. Throughout the day we were constantly reminded to keep an eye on the water as various floaters (unconscious casualties), would often be seen in the water and it was our role to rescue/recover these people.

The day culminated with us using the inflatable boats out on the course without the aid of a guide. This proved to be great fun as my group were as mad as a hat full of ……. We went backwards, we went without oars, we went upside down, we were crazy idiots but it was great medicine as the course had become very intensive.
The evening was spent comparing war stories and licking our wounds over a few quite ales.

Monday and there was no let-up in the course intensity. The day was once again involved plenty of ropework and boat movements. Floaters, again kept us busy all day. The major activity for the day involved us constructing a high-line and traversing the flowing water.

The course concluded with a short theory test, which I must say we all completed successfully.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Ethan starts School

Its another day in the life of watching your kids grow up, but such a big day in the lives of our kids. Our little man (Ethan) started school on the 1st Feb. Decked out in his new uniform and armed with his school bag he toddled off with not a care in the world.

With Mum and Dad by his side he walked into class, met the teacher and immediately took to playing with all the new toys. I think this was helped by the fact that over the past few years he's watched his sister do the same routine with minimal fuss.

While Ethan was excited to start, Sam was equally excited. All she talked about was being able to buy her little brother things from the canteen. However on the other hand, Mum was in despair. All her children are growing up way too fast.

Its now 2 weeks since Ethan started school and his enthusiasm hasn't waned. He's made lots of new friends and loves the outdoor activities. His teacher says "he's progressing well". Thats my little man.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Bendeela – Kangaroo Valley

It’d been a little while since we’d been to Bendeela, so it was only natural that we were all excited with the prospect of a few days camping.

For those that don’t know Bendeela is a free campground situated in Kangaroo Valley. It’s managed by the Sydney Catchment Authority and sits on the banks of the Kangaroo River. The area has plenty of open grassed paddocks to setup camp.

We arrived late Wednesday afternoon under cloudy skies. No sooner did we get out of the car and the heavens opened up, not just a sprinkling of rain but a huge thunderstorm dumped on us. We quickly retreated to the car and waited out the downpour. Take 2 and with more success we were soon set up and tucking into our first drink.

As always when we’re away the kids were full of beans and excited about camping. They easily found things to occupy themselves with. As night fell the local wombats came out and the kids took much delight in seeing how many wombats they could see.

The next day offered the same gloomy skies but we were unperturbed. The kids once again amused themselves while Leonie and I enjoyed a good book each. In the afternoon we headed into Nowra where we took time out to drool over the new caravans at Jayco. Upon our return we were pleasantly surprised to see some close friends had joined us for the weekend.

The kids, which now numbered 5 all played well together. Ethan had his first ride without training wheels while the others played on the makeshift swing or tennis. The evening was spent sharing stories and friends company.

Our third day and while the skies were slightly improved there was still a hint of rain. Chris and I headed off to do a bit of caching while the girls took the kids for a swim. I managed 4 caches while all the kids were glad to finally be in the water. As it was Friday afternoon the campground quickly swelled with weekend campers all keen to have a night under the stars.

Saturday dawned to clear skies and the promise of hot weather. As the temp’s rose it wasn’t long before we headed to the water. A refreshing swim soon cooled things down; the kids loved the water and were reluctant to return to camp. Back at caravan there was no getting changed as a slip ‘n’ slide we’d been watching all week beckoned our attention. After lathering the kids in soap they shyly took to the slide. Their conservative approach was soon replaced with huge smiles. It was harder to tear them off the slide than away from the river.

Saturday night and once again the weather turned bad. This time the resulting storm had us scurrying to batten down the hatches and as such put an end to our night’s festivities.

As with most things, the holiday had to come to an end. So Sunday morning it was time to pack up and head for home. Holidays are always fun, especially when you see the kids having so much fun.