Dramatis persona*

helenhead Helen Chick

I've always wanted a bumper sticker that said "I'm a female, LDS/Mormon, Scout leading, geocaching, piano-playing, bicycling, mathematics educator with a PhD in maths ... and I VOTE"!

I think this makes me a minority group of cardinality 1!

* Since there's only one of me and "personae" is plural (I think), I've gone with dramatis persona.
April 2020
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With the wind in our sails

My sister and brother-in-law have a small yacht, and invited Imogen and Josh (and me, possibly as part of a package deal!) to go for a day of sailing together. We set off from Kettering, with my sister—dubbed First Mate Gill—taking the helm for the journey, while Captain Pete took up his post in the Beanbag of Responsibility in front of the mast.

We headed down the west coast of Bruny Island, ending up in a lovely little sheltered bay.

Imogen and Josh took to the dinghy and cast a line or two, with Imogen proving the more successful fisherman, eventually bagging a couple of flathead just big enough to be legal and give us a few mouthfuls for lunch (after we’d scavenged enough margarine to cook them in, since the oil had been forgotten).

It was a glorious day and just warm enough to make swimming an option. Josh’s attempt at standing up in the dinghy nearly ended badly and then he bit the bullet and had a quick more properly planned dip (but not for long—it was just a bit too cold for him).

After lunch we towed Josh astern in the dinghy, and with the wind blowing quite strongly we actually got up to about 8knots, with more than a bit of a lean for those of us on board the yacht, and a definite wake and bumpy ride for Josh.

Just before heading back we moored in another little bay, where I caught my first ever (undersize) fish, and Imogen added seaweed to her fishing haul.

We finished the day by having a nice counter meal at the local pub, which was a very pleasant way to end what had been a wonderful day.


12 of 12, January 2020 (and Moods of the Mountain #116)

So, a new year begins and the 12 of 12 tradition continues. Just as well I didn’t make a new year resolution about upping the quality and interest value of this weird little habit, because today was a very mixed day and most of the time I forgot it was the 12th and so forgot to take photos.

I played the piano on two separate occasions at Church. This is not actually a photo of either of the pianos.

I had a very miscellaneous afternoon, (i) trying to track down an image of a Tasmanian branch Scout badge (I cropped one off a photo containing the obverse side of the Chief Commissioner at Regatta earlier in the year)

(ii) having a game of “7 Little Words” (where 7 words have been broken up into a total of 20 pieces and you have to reassemble the words using the clues (except that I play my own version where I try to ignore the clues entirely and just look at the matrix of word blocks and see if I can identify the words on that basis alone (for example, I could see the word “trench” in the letter blocks … although this turned out not be one of the answers … unlike “quadruplets”));

(iii) admiring Imogen’s six fish (a Christmas present pet compromise, given that a dog—nice though it might be to have one—would also make life rather more complicated);

(iv) uploading 13 for sale ads to Facebook and Gumtree so that we can try to sell a few things that didn’t sell at yesterday’s garage sale *;

(v) giving Imogen and then Joshua their first driving lessons in a manual car (Joshua had the benefit of being taught second while Imogen suffered my not-so-good first-draft explanations; both of them were, unsurprisingly, a bit “skippy” and we didn’t get out of first gear this time … but we’ll get there);

and (v) admiring the last light over the mountain.

My new year resolution to keep my journal up to date has already fallen by the wayside. I had planned to catch up today/tonight but haven’t yet.

I had cooked a batch of stroganoff for dinner, but you know that thing where certain people don’t serve themselves the last little bit but the last little bit that they leave isn’t quite big enough for a full serve? Well, that happened … and so I scooped up the remnants and put them in the freezer with all the other previous remnants. I think it is time for me to stop cooking for a while and live off all the remnants in the freezer.

I need to start this year’s organisation notebook, before all the things that are on the “to do list” in my very absent-minded head fall out entirely.

We’d stayed overnight at Lisa’s place before the garage sale, and I didn’t put away my sleeping mat and pillow before we left. That job is now done (pity it didn’t make it on to the paper “to do list” so I could have the satisfaction of crossing it off!). I do like how small they pack up.

* Here is today’s maths problem. I had included the dimensions of one of the objects we are selling online. It is 188cm x 60cm x 53cm. Someone enquired about it, and I explained that the object was very large and gave her the dimensions, so she could determine if she would be able to pick it up. Her response: “I have a van. Length is 180 width 130 height is 80 so it will fit.”

Will it?

[This is  “12 of 12” post number 125; I’ve been doing this since 2009. “12 of 12” brings you 12 photos taken on the 12th of each month. Some days this might be interesting or photographically satisfying … and some days it won’t be.]

Crescent Bay

I have been enjoying an extended Christmas/New Year break and on the 2nd, with the weather forecast neither too hot nor too cold, decided to check out the walk to Crescent Bay, south of Port Arthur, with my brother Colin plus Imogen and Josh. The track leaves from the Remarkable Cave car park and follows the coast eastwards past Maingon Bay.

There are lots of sea caves in the area (Remarkable Cave is the most famous of these), and the track passes over the top of Maingon Blowhole allowing a dramatic — but not easily photographable — view of the ocean rumbling in its dark depths (the following photo hints at the hole in the right foreground; the sea cave runs under the land bridge at the centre, and obviously the roof of the original cave has collapsed, leaving a hole some 10-15m deep; you can see the water below but the dark/light contrast made it impossible to get a decent shot).

As we journeyed around we saw a couple of Sydney-Hobart yachts making their way back after the big race.

We decided not to do the Mt Brown detour (it involved an uphill for which none of us were in the mood), and instead started to make our way down to the dramatic Crescent Bay, with its massive sand dunes.

Here there are fantastic views across to Tasman Island and Cape Pillar to its left/north. The lighthouse on Tasman Island is 29m tall, and is situated about 250m above sea level, which makes those cliffs rather tall. The cliffs on Cape Pillar, at 300m in height, are apparently the tallest sea cliffs in the Southern Hemisphere.

Of course, those massive dunes just had to be climbed and slid down by the more youthful members of the party; fortunately I had come prepared with a slippery cardboard box off-cut (the piece of foam was less useful).

It was only pretend sliding in the next shot!

It is a lovely spot, and there were some interesting sand and light effects on the dunes.

And then it was a matter of retracing our steps back to the car … and then going in search of an icecream or four.

This is the shed that Helen (and others) built

It has taken a while. I bought the shed kit back in July, tried get a concrete slab organised a bit later but had trouble connecting with contractors, had the unmade plans interrupted when the neighbour arranged to replace the ageing side fence (and then those contractors were delayed), and then had a bit more trouble connecting with concreting contractors, but finally, at the beginning of December a concrete man turned up and started digging a hole and putting in some formwork, prior to the arrival of a concrete truck which somehow managed to manoeuvre into and out of my long driveway. At the end of the day I had a slab. At the end of the next week I had a slab ready for things to be built on it.

It was then time to rally some assistance (my sister Catherine, who has skills in things construction-y, and my Dad, who has assembled the odd one or two sheds in his time) and to start assembling the shed. There was an online video to show some of the key steps; this made it seem that the whole process should be straightforward and quick. 

But no. There were misaligned holes, missing screws, and things that had to be undone and then redone without clear instructions, places where there should have been holes but weren’t, and various other niggly frustrations along the way.

Eventually all the panels were assembled and we could enlist some extra help (Imogen and Joshua) to start putting the shed structure into place.

The roof proved particularly problematic, but eventually we got it into position … but by this time it was nearly 10pm and my hopes of finishing the job before sunset at worst were well-and-truly dashed (so much for the ten minute video!). We hadn’t even begun to anchor it to the slab, so I had to go to the Scout hall for some big tent pegs and rope to tie it down for a couple of days until Catherine could return with a decent drill and appropriate masonry bit.

A day or two later and Catherine had got the shed anchored; I managed to finish off all the extra screws (the ones with no pre-drilled holes) and gable ends, and so, at last, we had a shed.

Because the shed is going to be used to store some of Lisa’s memorabilia for the kids, I decided that I should probably line it with some insulation to reduce the range of any temperature fluctuations. This turned into a bit of a saga as well, until I got the hang of the best way of affixing the lining. Once I did, though, it was just a matter of methodically working my way around all the panels, using the foil/foam insulation as efficiently as possible. At the end of a few days of off and on work I had managed to line the whole shed with very little left over of the big roll of insulation.

“All” that remains is to fill it … in some vaguely organised fashion.

Boxing Day gathering

It is a long-standing tradition to go to Snug Beach for a family gathering on Boxing Day. I took the Scout kayak trailer down, and Imogen and Josh and I went for a little paddle up under the bridge. I meant to take a few more photos of all the people gathered (the APs, my two sisters, an aunt, two uncles, and some others) but only managed the following photos.

Rules for Christmas Songs

A couple of weeks before Christmas it occurred to me that there were certain conventions that applied to music at Christmas, with the first item on the list below popping into my head after I’d heard some rendition of “Little Drummer Boy” on the radio. Over the next several days some other “rules” occurred to me as I thought about the festive season repertoire, and, in dribs and drabs, I posted the following to Facebook. Here, now, is the complete collection.


Rules for Christmas songs #1: You can get away with having a lousy singer doing the melody to “The Little Drummer Boy” provided you have some others doing competent harmonies and an awesome drum track.

Rules for Christmas songs #2: If you are going to do “Coventry Carol” make sure you decide, in advance, whether you are going to resolve the final chord as a major or a minor … and tell everyone in the group.

Rules for Christmas songs #3: Nobody sings all 6 (or 7 or maybe 9) verses of “The First Noel” … assuming they can even find a hymnal that has that many. [Ironically, this year my aunt did, at her community carol singing event.]

Rules for Christmas songs #4: The words to “In the Bleak Midwinter” don’t fit. They never have. They never will.

Rules for Christmas songs #5: Boris Ord’s version of “Adam Lay Ybounden” must be sung in an acoustically vibrant stairwell.

Rules for Christmas songs #6: If anyone happens to be in the stairwell when you are singing Boris Ord’s version of “Adam Lay Ybounden” they will fail to show any glimmer of recognition … due to the fact that following Rule #5 means that no one has ever heard it before.

Rules for Christmas songs #7: If you are carolling in Australia you must sing at least one carol by an Australian composer. Good luck with finding one. 

Rules for Christmas songs #8: Once you’ve passed verse 6 you can probably skip alternate verses of “The Twelve Days of Christmas”. (As an aside, did you know that — given that the author of this song receives 12 partridges (one every day), 22 turtle doves (two every day for the last 11 days) and so on — the true love gives 364 gifts, which is one for every day of the year except Christmas Day.)

Rules for Christmas songs #9: The final bracket of songs in a carolling session must end with “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” (despite the fact that it has the most self-centred, greedy, tantrum-threatening verse in the entire Christmas song repertoire).

Rules for Christmas songs #10: You can mess with everyone’s head by programming a whole bunch of familiarly-titled Christmas carols and then singing the most obscure alternative versions that you can possibly find.

Rules for Christmas songs #11: You must not allow a startled look to cross your face when you find that everyone else knows a completely different version of the carol that you have been singing all your life.

Rules for Christmas songs #12: You should not sing “Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire” on a day of Total Fire Ban.

Rules for Christmas songs #13: “Silent Night” shall be accompanied by piano or organ … despite the fact that it was written for guitar accompaniment.

Rules for Christmas songs #14: Another way to mess with everyone’s heads is by playing all the happy, jaunty carols in their corresponding minor keys.

Rules for Christmas songs #15: Everybody has at least one Christmas song that is just “Noooooooooo! We’re NOT doing THAT one.”

Rules for Christmas songs #16: No one regards the soundtrack to “Die Hard” as a Christmas album. Therefore “Die Hard” is NOT a Christmas movie.

Rules for Christmas songs #17: If singing Christmas songs in Australia, you are allowed to sing “Let it Snow”, “Frosty the Snowman” and other wintry ditties without any sense of irony or bemusement.

Rules for Christmas songs #18: You’re allowed to like one song that everyone else thinks is kitsch/tedious/unpoetic/poorly composed/un-Christmassy. But only one. And not anything off Justin Bieber’s Christmas album.

Rules for Christmas songs #19: Parents are permitted to require the singing of at least one song before gift-unwrapping may commence.

Rules for Christmas songs #20: Children may be able to get away with an early start on Christmas morning by singing a carol in beautiful four part harmony and taking advantage of the “how adorable” factor. This does, however, require the existence of the requisite number of siblings … or a multi-track recording device and some preparation.

Hastings Caves

Imogen, Josh and I have a little list of things we would like to do in the next little while, and visiting Hastings Caves was on the list. I haven’t been there for many years (my last visit was at the end of 2005); and we invited my brother Colin along as well.

In the intervening time (or since my earlier childhood visits) some of the names of the formations appear to have changed and the one coloured light that used to be in the palace cavern (shown below) has been replaced by neutral lighting.

The formations are pretty spectacular, although Imogen’s recollection of our visit to Gunn’s Plains caves caused her to comment that limestone caves are all kind of alike (which is sort of true … but I still like them).

It was a warm enough day to have a swim in the thermal pool, which was quite refreshing and not too crowded.

Happy Christmas 2019

It has been a challenging year, with some significant changes occurring. When it came time to design this year’s Christmas card I realised that one of the feelings that I had been experiencing during the latter half of the year was a curious sense of being startled, of finding myself in very unexpected circumstances, of no longer being sure what “normal” means for myself. I suspect that the shepherds in the Christmas story were rather startled by the heavenly messengers and their news, in an event that must have been perhaps a little scary to begin with but which also suggested a trust in and honour for them. Anyway, I tried to capture that with this year’s card.

To whomever might be reading this, may this Christmas season bring joy and wonderment and peace, and may the new year be filled with good things. I express my thanks to the amazing friends and family who support me and who are such an important part of my life.

This year’s card was digitally drawn (in more ways than one) with my fingertip using Procreate on my old iPad (it’s too old to be able to accommodate a fancy stylus that might make some of my artistic endeavours a bit less clumsy). I used the pastel “pen”, did a lot of blending, and, of course, took advantage of being able to create individual layers. I’m pleased with how the heavens turned out, whereas the sheep and shepherds bear my typical (and unintentional!) naif style.

Moods of the Mountain #115

With summer solstice only two days away, this is about as far to the left-hand end of the mountain as the sun gets come sunset time.

Grade 10 dinner

As is traditional in Tasmania, students have a dinner at the end of Grade 10 since Grades 11 and 12 often take place at secondary colleges that are separate from the high schools. It is customary on such occasions for folk to dress up for the occasion, and so, about a month ago, we went in search for a suitable sartorial statement for Josh. Although he managed to broaden out a little in the intervening weeks (to the point where, unfortunately, this may the only wear he gets out of the jacket), he looked quite the part on the night.

He and Imogen hammed it up for the camera in the front yard

and acknowledged Lisa as well, who would have been so proud of Josh (as she was of Imogen last year).

One of Josh’s friends had kindly organised a noisy muscle car to be Josh’s chariot for the occasion, taking him across to the Botanical Gardens for a pre-event gathering with most of his classmates, and then delivering him to the event venue for what was, by Josh’s account, an enjoyable evening.