Monthly Archives: December 2014

Keep dogs on a leash

WARRANDYTE horse riders are urging dog owners to abide by on leash areas along the Warrandyte River Trail following aggressive attacks on horses.

Those who ride their horses and ponies along the scenic trail believe most dog owners are cautious and friendly, but say a small percentage of dog owners are putting riders and horses at risk of injury by not doing the right thing.

“Most dogs are fine but usually the most aggressive dogs have never seen a horse before,” Warrandyte rider Jane Sutherland said.

“Then there are owners who don’t abide by the on leash area signs.

“A couple of weeks ago my horse was chased by two dogs off lead. They tried to bite my horse’s leg and my friend, who was riding my horse at the time, asked the owner of the dogs to put them on lead because it wasn’t an off lead area.

“So off the lady went but then she came back the other way with the dogs off lead again and they attacked my horse again.”

In another recent incident along the trail a dog tried to bite a pony’s throat and another horse’s back legs, landing the owner a $2500 vet bill.

Jane says most dogs using the trail are friendly with horses.

Jane says most dogs using the trail are friendly with horses.

Jane estimates 50 riders use the trail each week.

However, horses won’t be able to use the trail for much longer.

Manningham council chief executive Joe Carbone says the Warrandyte River Trail is expected to be closed to horses in a year when another horse trail is complete.

“Council is working on an alternate horse trail along Gold Memorial Rd through Warrandyte State Park and ending at Ringwood-Warrandyte Rd,” Mr Carbone said.

“This route will be along quiet local roads and horse trails through the state park with horse and rider safety a priority.”

Removing horses from the Warrandyte River Trail was a recommendation of Council’s Warrandyte River Reserve Management Plan, following two dog attacks on horses in 2012.

However, Lauren, 19, and Eliza, 16, have been riding their horses along the trail since they were eight years old and say it would be upsetting if they could no longer bring their horses along the trail to exercise and swim in the river.

“It would be a major loss for the whole community, not just us,” Lauren said.

“Most people like seeing horses down here, kids especially. Horses

have been a part of this town for so long so it would be really, really sad if that gets taken away from us.”

Jane says many trails around Warrandyte Park have already been closed to horses, mostly due to environmental reasons.

She says the closure of a small trail near Tindals Rd, which many riders rode along to get to pony club, is just one example of how riders are being forced onto roads with potentially life threatening consequences for horses, riders and motorists.

“A couple of months ago a group of kids were riding back from pony club along the side of Tindals Rd and there was a guy on a motorbike flying up Tindals Rd,” Jane said.

“A girl, who was 12 years old, put her hand up to ask him to slow down but instead he deliberately sped up, went as close to her as he could and the horse freaked. She fell off and the horse was running up Tindals Rd without a rider.

“Thankfully there were no injuries but those sort of idiotic things happen often unfortunately. Surely these people wouldn’t put their own animals or their children in that sort of danger, so why would they do it to somebody else?”

Basketball in full swing

WARRANDYTE Basketball has been busy with all competitions and levels of basketball in full swing as we move through another season and another year of rep ball.

The Redbacks have been hotly contesting matches every Saturday, while the Venom sides are participating in VJBL grading and some additional tournaments, the Sunday night comp is operating full tilt, Wednesday night Greyburn Cup competition is in the finals process, the Venom USA trip has departed, and all four Big V sides are in the middle of an intense pre-season.

A welcome addition has been the offering of skills sessions for Under 12 and 14 Venom players for a four-week period heading into the Christmas break.

These sessions run by director of coaching, Nicole Howard, have been well received and are facilitating young and aspiring Warrandyte basketball players in extending their knowledge and ability.

These four week block sessions will be again offered in the New Year and will include some Redbacks specific sessions.

SOUTHERN PENINSULA

The 28th Southern Peninsula Junior Basketball Tournament was held on the weekend of November 22 and 23 and Warrandyte was well represented.

Among the many teams competing were Warrandyte Venom’s newly formed 18.1 Girls. It was an extremely productive weekend under the guidance of coach David Blyth, according to club officials, with the girls finishing third in Division 1.

BIG V EXCITEMENT

Big V Season 2015 can’t come soon enough for the Venom young guns who have been selected to represent Warrandyte as members of the Youth League 1 Women (YL1W) and Youth League 2 Men (YL2M).

With head coach Beau Bentley at the helm for his second season with the Youth Men’s team, he and his newly appointed coaching staff of Phil Noone and Bill Nicolaidis have put together what they believe will be a squad that can push for a finals birth in 2015.

After a finals finish last season that left the YL1W just short of another shot at the title, Warrandyte Venom has farewelled 2014 coach Damian Clarke. Recently the club welcomed Angela Heigh to the position of head coach and she will be assisted by Kellie Taylor.

Angela, having coached VJBL sides for Warrandyte Venom over the past few years, is very aware of the talent of many of the Venom juniors. She is now witnessing first hand, through tryouts and training, that there is a lot to like about these young developing players.

Although the main goal at Youth League level is to develop our athletes in readiness to move to senior basketball, our coaches will place a big emphasis on developing fundamentals in doing the little things to enable them to adapt to higher levels for the future. These teams will also be hungry to win.

It is an exciting time for the club with so many talented junior players progressing through the ranks and this is backed up by the huge turnout at tryouts, which shows strength within the club and for those not selected this time we have no doubt we will see many faces back pushing for selection in the coming years.

Robin banks on a winner

Our Living TreasureWHEN Robin and Lainey Horkings sat down with a city bank manager to apply for a loan to build their house, the manager asked incredulously,

“Who’d want to live at Warrandyte?”

The young couple weren’t deterred by his cynical remark and replied enthusiastically: “We do, we want to live at Warrandyte.”

They bought their block of land in Webb Street back in the days of pounds, shillings and pence for only £1250. (It seemed like a fortune then.)

Their house was finished just before they were married in 1968 and they have lived there happily for the past 46 years raising a brood of three children along the way, Bruce now 41, Erin 39 and Jeffrey 35.

Robin and Lainey Horkings on their wedding day.

Robin and Lainey Horkings on their wedding day.

“Although the kids live in different parts of Australia, we are still in weekly contact and are very close,” Lainey said proudly.

“And the kids are close with each other as well, our six-year-old granddaughter Myah lives in Queensland but she rings us every week with lots of questions for Grandpa.”

When Robin came to live in Warrandyte in 1953 he was only 12.

“It was rather an eye opener coming from a big city school in Auburn South,” Robin remembers. “We had four grades in one classroom and a playground that stretched from the pine plantation to Fourth Hill Tunnel.

At lunchtime we used to fish for yabbies in the dam next to Lil Whitehead’s house opposite the school.

“My classmates were Bruce McAuley, Barry Able, Darryl Pike, (the policeman’s son) Irene Hendry, Lorraine Norman and Barbara Schneider.

“Things were different back then,” he continues. “To get a milk delivery you’d leave a billycan with your order and some money in it hanging off a tree in Mitchell Ave. Along came the milkman Tiger Flowers with his horse and cart and he’d bail out the milk from a churn into your billycan and take the money.”

Robin says with a smile “the place was dominated by artists and potters in those days”. “They were a bohemian crowd, but you couldn’t hold that against them,” Robin said.

“I worked a couple of seasons at the butchers when I was still at school. My job was to link the sausages but the interesting part was the deliveries. We used to deliver as far as Christmas Hills in the van and I had to run in with the meat and collect the orders. Some of the customers used to invite us in for a cup of tea or something to eat.

“I remember one big bearded fella who wore shearer’s pants and a flannel top. He must have been a trooper back in the day because he told us that he was on duty the day they brought the Kellys in.”

Robin was the first registered scout of the newly formed Warrandyte Scout Troop.

“Our first meetings were held on the riverbank behind Ken Gedge’s chemist shop,” Robin said.

“On dark nights we met under a Tilly lamp fastened to a tree. Eventually we all bucked in and built the scout hall in the early ’50s.”

Later, Robin was able to give something back and worked as a cub leader for 20 years.

On school days Robin had a foolproof way of knowing if he was running late for school or not.

“If I heard Barry Able riding his horse across the old wooden bridge, I’d know it was 8.30am,” Robin said.

“He was as regular as clockwork and the horse’s hooves made such a racket on the wooden roadway.

Warrandyte was so quiet in those days. At night you could hear the old waterwheel on the river squeaking as the wheel turned with the current.”

Unfortunately the picturesque waterwheel that was situated above the swimming hole opposite the pub is long gone now.

Robin smiles as he talks about the old days and tells the Diary a story about Bill McCulloch who was the last mounted postman in Victoria.

“When the new postie took over Bill’s route he asked us if the previous postman was 10 feet tall because local residents had placed their letterboxes in a high position to accommodate Bill who was sitting up on his horse Silver. We replied, ‘No mate, he rode a horse!’

Things changed for Robin in 1959 when he was involved in a serious motor accident.

He was a passenger in a car that hit a tree alongside the Ringwood-Warrandyte Road. The accident affected Robin’s ability to concentrate and he changed his employment as a result of it.

Robin said: “I never really remembered anything about the accident.

No memory of it at all.”

Robin worked for 40 years at the Board of Works and then spent the last 10 years of his working life at Warrandyte Cemetery as a general hand and gravedigger.

Lainey worked as a nurse and also at a Ringwood doctor’s surgery early in the marriage but later worked in childcare.

Rob at 73 and Lainey, 68, are both retired now but keep themselves busy. Rob is still very fit and takes his dog Indie on long walks every morning right up to Eagles Nest at the top of Webb Street.

“And there’s always wood to split and grass to cut,” he says.

Lainey is heavily involved as a volunteer with Mainly Music at St Stephen’s hall and does patchwork on Thursdays.

Robin fondly reflects on his life in Webb Street.

“Everything’s been good here. There’s something about Warrandyte that gets into you and you can’t get it out of your system,” he said.

“Where else can you walk five minutes up the road and see wallabies, kangaroos and echidnas. Also parrots, wrens, kookaburras and currawongs.

“I think that bank manager got it wrong back in 1967. Warrandyte is a great place to live,” said Robin with a triumphant grin.

Falling for an age-old problem

HERSELF and I were on a mission.

We belong to a Probus club and had agreed to organise the monthly outings. Choosing the outing venue is not so difficult but then comes ‘transport’ and ‘the meal’.

A few years ago, neither Herself nor I (not ‘myself’!) could have imagined ourselves sitting in a coach with a lot of other old people, all wearing name tags, going on ‘an outing’.

To be seen going on an ‘outing’, in a bus/coach with a lot of other older people, was code for the horrified thought,

“My God, he’s getting past it! I can never see us doing that!”

It’s a bit like ‘the fall’.

When you are younger and assumed to be in control of your faculties, you just ‘fall over’. You trip because of too much exuberance or because you just make a miscalculation.

When you get older, you ‘have a fall’ and that’s an entirely different thing altogether. As soon as the phrase, “Poor old X has had a fall!” is uttered, it is inevitably followed by raised eyebrows and a knowing, “Oh dear.” Not the casual, “Oh dear, that’s a bummer. I hope s/he gets better soon,” but the more sinister “Oh dear!”

Immediately everyone checks their smart phone diary to check whether X’s obviously imminent funeral might clash with their regular HRT appointment or their base jump booking.

So leaving the shuddering horror of the situation to one side, let me proceed.

Hire transport tends to come in two sizes, the 24-seater,  adequate but a bit like crossing the Himalayas in a billycart, or the 48-seater coach, the more comfortable and more expensive, stretch hearse alternative. Before hiring the 48-seater, for an outing in a month or two’s time, you need to be sure you can get the 48 participants with at least 10 on the waiting list because, as you know, at our ages, we have a lot of ‘falls’.

Then there are the outings we can get to by public transport.

This means we have to ‘do a recce’ beforehand to check the timing, the ease of access and where we might have lunch.

Now you’d think cafes and quasi restaurants would go

out of their way to attract cashed up oldies on an outing.

They have no trouble setting aside seating and tables and in some cases providing a fixed price meal but as soon as you ask, “Can we have separate billing?” so many of them throw up their hands in horror and complain that it’s too difficult. Strange, because our Dine Out and Lunch groups find restaurants that manage quite well and have received return business as a result. So we trudged from one venue to another, desperate to find somewhere that wanted our custom.

We eventually found ourselves in Federation Square and as it was Saturday, the second hand book sellers were set up in the food hall

area. Herself trawled the tables looking for titles we probably threw out when we shifted a few years ago. In the meantime, I was ordering lunch and checking out the cafes as potential lunch sites.

“I’ve found these!” she cried.

I walked over to be somewhat amazed that what she had ‘discovered’ were six titles from Enid Blyton’s Famous Five series. It seems that our Enid has had somewhat of a resurrection. Our grandkids are devouring her books and we were both amazed an delighted to hear from our local bookseller that Arthur Ransome’s Swallows and Amazons series are also constant sellers.

“The kids can borrow these or we can read them to them,” I was informed. “And at $50 for the six, they’re a bargain!”

I suggested we check out Young and Jackson’s as a possible lunch venue before we took the train home. It was as inflexible as the rest.

We could pay $32 a head for the “express lunch’ in the upstairs posher section, but again, we would need to collect the money “to make it easier for us”.

As we walked to the train station we felt a little subdued.

Public transport to the venue was a doddle but lunch! It seems we were going to have to either collect money before the outing or go through the nightmare, on the day, of collecting money, people not having the correct money, not having change to give people who didn’t have the right money or people making addition and subtraction errors leaving us with the shortfall to cover.

On the train we decided to pre-collect the lunch money.

Then Herself rummaged in her bag and then started reading, Five Go To Smuggler’s Top. She offered me one to read but the thought of a man of my years being seen reading Enid Blyton on a train was almost worse than being seen on a

coach, wearing a badge, going on ‘an outing’.

Christmas on the edge

Village Green

OUR first proper home after we married was a tiny, pock-marked, white ant-riddled cottage, perched on an impenetrable limestone ridge on the edge of the Mallee, known officially as the Head Teacher’s Residence.

Attached to this shaky old structure was the single schoolroom. It was here we enjoyed our first years of teaching, at State School No. 4041 Wheatlands.

As the end of that first year approached, we were reminded, on a fairly regular basis:

“We’d better start practicin’ for our school concert.” We were told the concert consisted mainly of carols and “some other stuff”.

A local young pianist of some talent provided the music. She had taken it upon herself to teach the children some beautiful Australian Christmas carols. We followed this up with some bush ballads.

We decided to extend the Australian content.

We had toyed with the idea of performing a little play.

We searched the shelves of the educational bookseller in Bendigo but found nothing suitable: all too ‘English’ or too ‘soppy’ for these down-to-earth Mallee kids.

I had been reading The Magic Pudding to the whole school – all eight of them. (You try holding the interest of kids from Prep to Grade 6 with the one book.) The book was highly successful – perhaps we could do a dramatisation of The Pudding?

Being a published author by this time and recognising my moral responsibility, I wrote to Norman Lindsay seeking his permission. I included a number of children’s drawings of his characters with the letter and received a charming response, granting permission.

We built the script on the blackboard with the kids all collaborating, cast the play from the steps and stairs that was the total enrolment of the school – Bunyip Bluegum, Sid Sawnoff and the rest of them – and began rehearsals.

All seemed to be going well, but by the time we were approaching performance I realised the Grade 5 girl cast as Bunyip Bluegum was not coping with Bunyip’s convoluted dialogue. At the last minute I made a drastic decision. I would have to play Bunyip Bluegum! So I donned the magical koala ears – crafted by a skilled parent from rabbit fur and wire – and gave it a run.

Problem: I didn’t know the lines! So we built a cardboard gum tree and hid the original Grade 5 girl inside as ‘prompt’.

The performance was a wild success. The combination of me with rabbit skin ears and the Grade 5 girl bellowing the lines ahead of me from inside the tree, with me following limply behind, brought the house (or rather the corrugated iron hall) down.

The following year we had to eclipse our previous effort. So we decided to write our own play – and we’d make it a musical!

Once again we constructed the story and dialogue on the blackboard, titling it Christmas at Boggy Creek.

This time we could craft the characters to the children who would be playing them.

(The Grade 4 girl who was the village postmistress who opened everyone’s mail, actually became a real postal clerk and remained so through her working life.)

We incorporated several bush ballads with lyrics tweaked to fit our story. The plot explained how it was discovered that Santa Claus was not visiting Boggy Creek that year – so something must be done. Skulduggery was discovered, but justice prevailed, the local bushranger turned from villain into hero and the ‘real’ Santa Claus appeared on stage with his bulging bag and proceeded to hand out presents – purchased by the Mothers’ Club – to every school child and preschooler in the hall.

We knew it would be a hard act to follow; but by the following February the teacher had moved on and the school had been closed due to diminishing enrolment. A neighbouring farmer bought the limestone ridge, and demolished school and residence. The site has long since reverted to wheat crops.

Footnote: A writer friend, who viewed the performance, suggested I send the script to the ABC. So I did what I thought was a creditable radio version and posted it off. It came back in due course, suggesting the work was mainly visual. Could I rewrite it for TV? This 40-minute version went to air the following Christmas with a fine professional cast, marking the beginning of my future new career.