Canberra at last and the perfect start to the Canberra leg would have to be a cruise on Lake Burley-Griffin, kick back, enjoy a martini or two served alongside luxury canapés, while listening to some laid back music against the magnificent backdrop of sparkling waters and parkland surrounds.

OK one or two exaggerations, boat, water, and an informative commentary by our ship captain Ben and the backdrop was nice. A great way to see most of the sites of Canberra that we will visit over the next few days. End of cruise and my first need to get a bit grumpy with the kids. Told they had 15 minutes before Questacon they could grab a cool drink or ice cream from the nearby kiosk, don’t order anything that takes time. About half order lattes, cappuccinos or food (note, only one guy working the place), even after being warned again to stop ordering things, it continued. Reasoning? “My order only took a couple of minutes!!!” Result, I get grumpy, we arrived 25 minutes late to Questacon  Ah well, teach me to assume that kids would realise that 2 minutes x 50 students does not fit well into 15 minutes – what do we teach kids these days?

Grumpy over,  we enjoyed a great time at Questacon, saw a show all about rockets. 10 rockets in 30 minutes was the boast – who wants to keep count. Claire Lacy gets the gig and actually managed to get to ten at the same time as the rest of us – not entirely convinced about the order of the numbering from 2 to 9 though. Quiet lunch under the provided shade area and off to the National Museum

Here a group of us opted to view the special gallery “History of the World in 100 objects” on loan from the British museum, before delving into Australian History in more depth. Great exhibits in both sections, everything from an Ancient Egyptian sarcophagus to Phar Laps heart – something for everyone and the kids had a great time.

The National Archives, as always, surprised the kids as to just how interesting a bunch of records can be. They got to sit a “White Australia era” dictation test and, as always, all failed (my proud boast has been that I was the only one to actually pass this thing – but I confess never to have been willing to take it again so my record could stay intact) Claire was supposed to join me in the ranks of passes but ‘accidentally’ missed the test section. Sadly this meant that Garrath was in a position to take the test without opposition and of course, he too claims to have passed it – I will of course seek corroboration from at least 3 witnesses before I accept this.

Next visit – Telstra Tower. I always tell the kids that they have a challenging 526 steps to climb here and usually get a few takers before they notice the lifts. This year produced an interesting result. Several kids have seen the tower before and knew better – a significant number not only believed me, but were vocally disappointed to discover that there is no stair option, chief among this group – Stu Kupfer-Hollis who was looking forward to the activity. Sorry guys – boring old lift it is.

‘Home’ and a nice dinner followed by the annual evening quiz, this year created and run by Garrath, and Stu, ably assisted by the ladies Claire and Cristine (it had been suggested that slinky evening gowns and/or tassles could feature as scores  were read out,  but apparently neither of the girls had remembered to pack these so standard dress it was. Sign of the times, all phones had to be confiscated for the evening of course. Otherwise a great time was had by all, the usual attempts to sway the result (who said cheat??), complaints of bias, bribery and corruption featured and many arguments over the accuracy of some of the answers (ps. Garrath did confess that one of his answers probably was wrong – but he only did so the next day and very, very , very quietly – plausible deniability I suspect, so don’t bother trying to get him to repeat said confession.

During this time I headed to Macca’s, not for a feed, dinner was more than enough, to use the internet and send that last report. While there I forgot to actually check their closing time but when the quiz was over the kids asked if they could go and top up dinner, it was 10:05pm so I told them Macca’s closed at 10pm so no point. Hoisted by my own failure to recognise that sign of the times. More than half the kids had already ‘Googled it’ and were more aware than I that Macca’s closes at 11pm. Ah well, it was worth a try.

So ends day one of the Canberra leg. Tomorrow the Portrait Gallery; Parliament House; Old Parliament House; the Reptile Park and of course, my nightmare – ice skating – 50 kids racing around a crowded ice block with razor blades attached to their feet, oh goody.

Catch you after that,

Regards, Martin and the Sydney Canberra crew.


OK, so today is best described as ‘interesting’ and didn’t have the smoothest start.

First stop is the National Portrait Gallery, we are early nice: they didn’t have any record of our booking and couldn’t fit us in – not so nice. Not the best way to begin, the first missed venue in 14 years, had to happen eventually. So we could at least get to Parliament House nice and early – nope. Protesters had taken over the front of the House and the Federal Police had blocked off all entrances. Three circuits of the House and many phone calls from our intrepid driver Barry and we got to drive up the back entrance and into the underground car park. Exciting start. The talks were good, Parliament was sitting so we got to see a division of the Lower House and most students gained an appreciation of their parliament not possible in the classroom. On to the hospitality room and just time to enjoy our juice and fruit strap at government expense when Nola Marino turned up and offered to take the whole group into the bowels of the House and visit her private office. Too good to miss, a great look inside the House (apparently hardly any of the members do this, Nola has done this for our school 3 times now) and an insight into the work rate of politicians especially Nola who just radiates energy, very inspiring no matter who you vote for. In addition as the kids left they were presented with a souvenir badge by her head of staff (who mistook Claire for a student and gave her one as well) teachers, including Claire, were given a commemorative medallion, so wins all round.

Lunch was to follow but by then we were already 5 minutes late for Old Parliament House so instead, a quick snack and onwards. Old Parliament House cut down the session for us so all ended well for PACER stamps. Then lunch – no one at the Aboriginal Embassy this year to talk to us but Stu K-H managed to make friends with a gentleman protesting nearby. This chap was on a crusade for forgiveness for England and apparently undergoing a 21 day fast. Stu thought he must be on day 1 or 2 given his apparent robust health but declined to ask in case he offended.

Next visit was the Reptile Park next to our accommodation. A great time had by all here, some nice pictures to follow, with most students getting up close and personal with a range of reptiles and amphibians – not always clear which was more scared, students or snakes but all survived the experience.

After dinner and the social highlight of the trip, ice skating. 50 students whizzing around an ice block with razor blades on their feet. I’m not nervous.

OK 48 students, 2 had succumbed to flu like issues (possibly backed up by lack of sleep and excessive partaking of chips and other snacks etc) and Garrath also had to stay behind having joined the list of those who have lost items – this time a phone left in a taxi he had needed to catch earlier. The driver had assured him he would drive back to return it so Garrath waited at the roadside. He was still there 3 hours later when we got back – I kid you not. The taxi had not returned, Garrath is not happy, the taxi company was not very helpful, the police will be called. Did I mention that Garrath was/is not happy. Enough said – updates may follow.

But I digress, ice skating went well, virtually everyone showed incredible signs of improvement in skill levels over the 2 hours we had and naturally some were just plain show offs to start with. Mandri, Mykala, and Klaudia showed superb style, grace, skill and beauty from the outset. Stuart K-H


Injuries were relatively few, mainly dented prides etc although Oscar thought he had broken an ankle which Stu strapped (a further hour of skating would suggest no break) and Jykia managed to step on his own fingers and cut two of them, not too bad but painful- none the he soldiered on after treatment.

Overall a great evening and the kids were still buzzing when they got home. A quick trip to Macca’s to refuel and most settled well and enjoyed a good night’s sleep.

Tomorrow our last full day, and very full it is – AIS, War Memorial, High Court of Australia and National Capital Exhibit and of course, late night shopping.

Tell you all about that later.

Martin and Crew in Canberra