Sunday, January 02, 2011

THE STEPHENING STANDARD : Taking a ‘Captain Cook’ at 2010

(For the non-Aussie speakers, 'Captain Cook' means 'look' in rhyming slang)

New Year With the Rugrats

To see in 2010, Zach and I found ourselves on the island of Rottnest in Western Australia. Rottnest is from the Dutch for 'rat's nest' so named for the little animals found then and now all over the island. The little animals are in fact quokkas, a type of marsupial. The other little animals that populate this island (aside from tourists) are flies – as can be seen on my forehead in the following photo!

On Rottnest island, Zach and I joined my first cousin, David (from London), his wife Marian (from Perth), and my first cousins once removed (ie, their children). Zach spent most of his time with his second cousins (David's children).

I take a detour here to describe labelling of cousins which may be something you have always wanted to know about but never quite understood.

Degree of cousinship (first, second, third, etc.) is defined by the most recent common ancestor beginning with grandparent (first), great-grandparent (second), great-great-grandparent (third), etc.

Removal describes the number of generations separating any cousins. David's kids and I are related through grandparents to me (making them 'first cousins'), but they are one generation further away (my grandparents are their great-grandparents), so they are my first cousins once removed.

A Grand Tour

Zach joined me on my annual trip to Europe in June/July. One of the big highlights of this trip for Zach was a day spent exploring a forest with two of his French friends, Jean and Thomas (who are I believe second cousins to one another)

In the forest, we followed various trails, picked blackberries (not very ripe), hunted slugs (various colours and sizes - feel free to ask for photos), listened for bears, forded streams, squelched through water, swatted mosquitoes and stopped to eat packets of crisps.

Another memorable moment for Zach was spending some time with my father and his wife (Pauleen) in the tiny village of Montcuq in the Lot region of France. I'm not sure if I will be able to do this again as I discovered that Zach was not only out roaming the streets but ripping them up (see picture below):

Other highlights were a v-e-r-y l-o-n-g train trip from France to Italy, a visit to Monte Carlo (Zach as a car-enthusiast was enchanted by this stop), and a stay in Varenna on Lago di Como to celebrate the 50th birthday of a primary school friend, Kim Cramer.

Yes, we went past George Clooney's house. He happened to be there and hollered out to me 'Hi Stephen', but I told him I was busy and we kept on moving. I note in passing that George will be celebrating his 50th this year (2011). I consider this another of his sad attempts to emulate me.

Semi-Centennial Celebration

I celebrated my 50th birthday in August 2010 with a Hawaiian theme boat trip on the Tweed River. If you think you were there, but you don't remember it – you're in good company!

My father having donated funds for the libations for this party was of course put on drinks duty. I bought various drinks, ice, loaded them into ice-chests and sent my Dad off to the wharf where the boat trip was to start. He was instructed to offer a welcome drink to those arriving early for the boat trip. I wondered how Dad would identify those going on the boattrip to offer them a drink. Dad's response was straightforward : "If they're wearing anything that looks vaguely Hawaiian, I will offer them a drink."

It is reported that street people in the Tweed region have taken up wearing Hawaiian shirts since that day.

Meanwhile, here are two 50-year old reprobates (Stephen and Kim) talking about the problem of the youth today.  They're not only old, but they clearly have poor long-term memory as well.


Zach and I travelled to Vanuatu in September to join my brother (Timothy), his wife Louise and their son Mitchell (a first cousin to Zach of course). We also had the good fortune to be shown around the island by a first cousin to Louise called Brian who lives on Vanuatu with his wife and kids. Brian introduced us to the joys of hydroponic kava – or at least, I reckon it must have been hydroponic!

I loved Vanuatu for its unpretentiousness and the fact that many of the people there speak English and French and Bislama and one of the many native languages. Vanuatu used to be known as the New Hebrides and has the rather unusual claim to fame as being one of the only joint British / French colonies in the world from 1906 until it gained its independence in 1980.

Brian and his family showed us many wonderful things on the island, but one of the highlights for me was the trip to a coral beach on the other side of the island. The photo shows (from the left) Jessie & Chloe (second cousins to Mitchell), Zach (first cousin to Mitchell) and Mitchell on his way out.

The Big Issues in Life

Zach finished Year 2 in 2010 and starts Year 3 in 2011. In the picture below, Captain Kidd, The Great White Hunter (Zach) and Hiawatha are in a serious discussion about the world's problems (how to lift the ban on fighting Kung Zhu pets in the playground) at Cudgen Primary School.

More seriously, Zach is probably telling them about how I announced to him that in ten years from now, we (yes, he and I) will be moving out of home. I figured it is good to get in early. I have told him that I plan to buy a yacht and sail around the South Pacific for a couple of years.

He was concerned about where he might go and asked if he could come with me. I said he was welcome to join me for some of the time. He then asked me how he might see his mother every other week. I guess we're going to have to do some more talking on this one!

Even more seriously, I have launched a website with my colleague Charles : Visit to see what I have been working on for the last year or so.

Here's looking forward to 2011. I hope that you and yours have a wonderful year.


Anonymous said...

Hi Steve,
good to see that you are going well and still eager to "really" live in line with your philosophy. We expect to have regular information about this exciting sailing trip !
Best regards / Pierre D.

Anonymous said...

Pirates, Red Indians and Big Game Killers make Vanuato too dangerous for my idea of a holiday....

Rock on..