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Mark Oates and the Daniel Brunner Pretty Big Band


Don’t quite know what happened, but a post I wrote earlier about my brother-in-law’s gig in the Adelaide Fringe Festival seems to have disappeared… This is him – Mark Oates.

The show was fantastic! They performed two sets of swing music including some standards and some lesser known pieces. I know that I’m biased – seeing as I love my brother-in-law very much – but by the way the audience responded, everybody agreed that it was a terrific show. So much talent on one small stage – it was awesome.


So now, very belatedly, I’d like to share some images of the show with you.

The very talented Daniel Brunner is on piano (above). I apologise to the other members of the band for not having their names – will attempt to rectify that shortly.

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*Edit* The lovely Daniel Brunner was kind enough to supply the names of the band members. Apologies for not having posted them sooner.

They are: 

Trumpet: Eric Santucci
Trombone: Nick Pietsch
Alto Sax: Andrew Crago
Tenor Sax: Evan Bassani
Bari Sax: Nat Ahrens
Guitar: Sam Leske
Bass: Anna Butters
Drums: Holly Thomas


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Dog Groomers: my dilemma

What is it about dog groomers, that so few of them seem to like dogs?

I’ve just left my darlings, and my parents’ ones, too – four beautiful black poodles – at the groomer’s salon, and feel like I’ve abandoned them.

Two clipped poodles sitting on a couch

Bo and Cher after a clip

Now I’m not just being melodramatic here… The people doing them today were recommended by the breeder. They’ve clipped them once before and they looked quite nice when we picked them up, but when we were there today, one of my parent’s dogs was nearly hung when she got excited and the table she was on toppled over, leaving her momentarily hanging by the neck from the lead-tether. She was okay, if frightened, so we left them. I can’t believe we did. If it happened to Cher, with her already poor health, it could kill her.

A couple of years ago, after putting up with inferior clips; groomers who don’t seem to have any affinity for dogs at all, and anxious dogs, we had finally found a fantastic – I mean, really FANTASTIC – groomer. She was fast; her pricing was fair; she loved the dogs and they loved her,  and they always came home happy, relaxed and magnificent. Then, towards the end of last year, she left town without a word to her clients, and we’ve been struggling to find a decent groomer to replace her, ever since. I really hope she is okay, but I wish she would come back here and be okay.

Four poodles with bows in their ears, wait for a treat.

The four dogs line up for a treat after being clipped

Dad and I talked about it outside and were really torn. We didn’t want to say too much in case the dogs were mistreated deliberately, instead of just the victims of a stupid accident, but they all desperately needed a haircut and we didn’t have an alternative to go to.  It shouldn’t have swayed us, but it did. I hope we don’t regret it. 

Now I’m sitting here agonising over whether or not they are going to be alright, and feeling like a huge jerk. I’m also looking into groomers to see if I can find another good one that I can afford to go to. Does anyone have any suggestions in the Northcote/Fairfield area?


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A busy weekend

Old railway bridge      Sunday last week was a happily busy one: the Guide Dogs’ (GDV) Open Day in the morning gave us the chance to ‘ooh’ and ‘aah’ over the labrador puppies and show support for a fantastic program; the Darebin kite festival in the afternoon provided some spectacular opportunities for photography (though not, I admit, with my camera phone).

To get to the Guide Dogs’, we parked in a side street north of the Yarra river, then walked across the bridge to cross at the lights just beyond the Yarra Boulevard turnoff. Even walking across the bridge was fun, with the traffic whizzing past but with the robust barrier between pedestrians and traffic still letting you feel secure.

The staff at GDV were hoping for a turnout of around 15,000, and the sunny weather certainly saw lots of people out early. Dr Harry Cooper, of Harry’s Practice fame already had a massive queue by 10.30 in the morning.

9-week-old Labroador pups      The puppies in the puppy playground were only 9 weeks old, and Meg and I had to fight our way through lots of babies, strollers and protective parents to get anywhere near. We didn’t get to pat any, but they were still good to look at.   

  Trainee Guide dog Dogs of various stages were in the kennels – some awaiting assessment, and some ready to go onto their final stage of training before being assigned to their new owners. There was even a cat in the kennels, whose job it is to de-sensitise the dogs from the distractions of cats, and make them better working dogs.

The kite festival – photos to be uploaded on Tuesday – was full of colour and music. It was lovely to see the little children, faces turned up towards the sky, looking in awe at the kites flying overhead. It was hot and the wind was erratic, but overall it was a fantastic day for it.

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What I did on my Summer holidays.

I feel like I am a little kid, back at Primary school, writing an essay about what I did over the Christmas break, hence the title.  It was interesting, and more than a bit bizarre, so I thought it might be of interest. Anyway, it provides background for the photos, which is what this is all about, after all.

In early January, on the way back from visiting our family in Adelaide, we stopped for four nights at a caravan park in Portland, Victoria.

One of the historic buildings in Portland

Portland itself is an interesting town. The local tourist office has mapped out a two-hour walking tour of the historic buildings in the city centre, and the port that gives the town its name is big and bustling. We were lucky enough to see an oil rig being towed into port for repairs while we were there – something that most people would never see. It was an amazing sight, particularly at night after the lights all came on.

The aluminium smelter is a pretty dominant feature of the town, and Alcoa has done a lot of work in developing parks and walking tracks, as far as I could tell, though I don’t know what it would be like to live near it.

Glorious beaches and views out to the Southern Ocean made for spectacular walks, though the flies were present in unbelievable numbers. Forgetting the insect repellant on our first day there made for a few unpleasant hours, I can tell you!

Cliff-top walk from the Blowholes carpark to the seal colony off Cape Bridgewater

The bizarre part of the trip was the accommodation.  Booked online, as it was, I was at the mercy of their website for information, and I think someone had been putting a little ‘spin’ on it, making it seem better than it actually was. Though I wasn’t lied to by the person who confirmed my booking, I think they were a bit literal in their interpretation of our needs.

When told that the cabin I was booking wasn’t one of their newest, I had said that as long as we had somewhere to cook; somewhere to sleep and a bathroom, we would be fine. And that is what we got – except that the bathroom was IN the main bedroom, with the toilet about two feet from my head at night.

Our bizarre accommodation…

This; the fact that we were told it was very clean and wasn’t, and the fact that the Caravan park in question was one of those with lots of long-term residents (where there always seems to be a lady who goes to the toilet block at around five in the evening in a purple brunch-coat to get ready for bed), mean that this is one place we won’t be revisiting! A nice motel next time, perhaps? And bucket-loads of Aerogard!

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Summer evening

Meg on Frankston beach

A few days after Christmas, we spent a couple of very pleasant hours at Frankston beach. It was a quiet part of the beach, accessed from a gate in Michael’s aunty’s back fence, and the evening was still and calm after another 40deg day.

Meg had a lovely time wading in and out of the water and the sunset was pretty spectacular, as it often is over water.

As usual, I was fiddling with my phone trying to see if I could get reasonable shots in the fading light. As you will see, some of them were a little noisy, but the overall result was not too bad for a camera with very few variables!

sunset at Frankston

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The annual migration

The Giant Koala

Family interstate means that at least once each year we migrate west from Melbourne to Adelaide.

Can’t tell you how many times we’ve done this drive over the years – I did try to work it out, and think it is in the order of 60, but who knows for sure…

The Giant Koala at Dadswell’s Bridge is so lame it never gets tired. We always look out for it as an indicator of how long we have to go until breakfast, which is usually in Horsham at a prominent fast food place located conveniently next to the park.

These trips have made us creatures of habit, but recognisable landmarks and  scheduled stops break them into manageable chunks and seem to help them pass more quickly.

On that front, iPods are invaluable. Carrying your entire music collection, plus a few videos in  a package about the size of a deck of cards still amazes me, and having two means that one can be playing music for Michael and I, while Meg watches Black Books and cacks herself stupid in the back seat!

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Maybe it is the fact that I trained as a botanist, but I can’t pass by masses of flowers without taking photographs…

At the local fruit shop, there is a florist whose wares form the centre of the store, and these proteas (king proteas?) caught my eye. I think the people in the shop thought I was a bit nuts taking photos of them, but no one asked any questions, so I didn’t offer any explanations. I just thought they were so amazing that I would share them with you.

Have a lovely day, and Happy December!

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