Thursday, January 27, 2011

Tracy’s return foreshadows the Autumn racing season

Typhoon Tracy – photo from The Age by Vince Caliguiri

Tomorrow night’s racing at Moonee Valley witnesses the return of reigning 2010 Horse of the Year, five year old mare Typhoon Tracy. Tracy is one of my favourites and I’ve been following her career for several years now.
She hasn’t won in a while, since last autumn in fact, but in Spring she was being prepared for the Cox Plate which in the end she didn’t contest. Who could blame her connections backing out, when super horse So You Think spent the Spring dashing the hopes of all middle distance runners. Her last run was in the Myer Classic at the end of the Spring carnival, on a bog track, where she was beaten into second place by Sacred Choice.

It’s time for her to win again, and she has her chance in the Group Two Australia Stakes tomorrow night. It’s 1200 metre weight for age open class race. It has attracted an interesting field, that includes dual Group One winner Heart Of Dreams, Vigor who narrowly defeated Tracy some years ago, and in form Sydney runner Whitefriars. Fellow mare, the speedy Ortensia, having her first run at the Valley, may put up a challenge, but I doubt if she’ll beat a fresh Typhoon Tracy.

Go Tracy Go!

I’m very much looking forward to return of Tracy’s stable mate, Black Caviar who will resume on the 19th February in the Group One Lightning Stakes and most likely will face Hay List again. The big question is, can Black Caviar keep her perfect record intact and remain unbeaten (and sound) throughout the Autumn racing season.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

How to amuse oneself on Australia Day

Golden Archer

Now that I’ve retired from work, public holidays don’t mean as much to me as they used to, in fact every day is a holiday now. It’s getting on to a month since I left the workforce, and I’m enjoying my freedom immensely. And no, I haven’t succumbed to boredom.

Today is just another day but being a public holiday I can enjoy the interesting race card at Caulfield, with two Blue Diamond Previews for two year olds - one for fillies and one for colts and geldings - and the Zedative Stakes for three year olds.

*The colts preview looks to have the stronger field. Unbeaten Peter Moody colt Golden Archer is up against the highly regarded Bossdon City. Throw in Sepoy whose silks bear the Australian Flag (omen bet) and Starcraft colt Secret Hills having his first start and you’ve got an interesting race.

Another Peter Moody runner One Last Dance looks the choice pick of the fillies preview and she will start favourite. In with a chance is Motifs who has won her only two starts and Jessica Rose, also a last start winner.

The Zedative Stakes sees the return of Caulfield Guineas winner Anacheeva, another from the Peter Moody stable. The race over 1200 metres may be a bit short for him, but he’s the class runner. Others worth considering are Eclair Mystic and Spirited Eagle and the intriguing Western Australian runner Mr Moneypenny.

*The colts preview has been run whilst I was writing this entry. The omen bet came off, Sepoy won from Grand Britannia and Golden Archer.

So I’d better post this entry now before the fillies preview, otherwise I’ll be accused of cheating on my tips.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Music delights coming up…

The music festival season is looming, well it is a only a few months off. But that means one has to plot which artists one can afford to accommodate in the busy schedule of the Brunswick Music Festival and the side shows issuing from the Port Fairy Festival and the East Coast Blues Festival

Much as I would like to see the bluegrass group Crooked Still, I feel that three nights of concerts in row might be a bit over the top. So I’ve settled for the other bluegrass maestro Tim O’Brien at the East Brunswick Club on March 17th. Besides I promised to shout my young nephew Joe to the show, as Tim O’Brien is his favourite artist. The next night we’re going to see Justin Townes Earle at the Forum Theatre.

The following week, I’ve booked for Joe Pug at the Toff In Town on Monday 20th March and Shane Nicholson at the East Brunswick Club on the 24th March.

And in April I’ve a ticket for Cyndi Lauper at the Palais in St Kilda – girl pop for a change. I had to redeem a Ticketmaster gift voucher by the end of November, and had a choice of Joe Cocker, The Doobie Brothers and Cyndi Lauper, so selected her show as it is very much left field to the artists I usually go and see.

But before all the above, I am very much looking forward to Basement Discs first in store for 2011. A local band called Little John will be playing there on Friday, February 4th. I’ve got their debut CD Put Your Hands On Me and love it. It’s passionate, it’s gothic, it’s rock n roll, old time country and gospel. The lead singer John Dickson has an extraordinary voice. Check out the band on My Space.

Monday, January 24, 2011

There’s a mouse (or rat) in there - Cooperating cats

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A rare photo of the cats together, in cahoots, looking for an errant rodent which one or other of them dragged in and allowed to escape.

It’s still there. Willy’s gotten bored with the whole exercise and run off, leaving Lizzie to man the fort.

It’s not in the least unusual for rodents to evade capture and run under the furniture out of reach of tooth and claw. Hopefully, it will get bored and attempt to escape and one of the watchful cats will despatch it. We’ll never know unless a corpse is left as evidence, but quite often the evidence is eaten – a bit of roughage in the diet doesn’t go astray.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Family History

As today is the twentieth anniversary of the death of my mother, I’ve felt inspired to divulge some family history, especially as it relates to my mother’s line.

My mother was one of twins born on 16 July 1917 in Wagga Wagga NSW. Her mother was Barbara Jane nee Lockwood and her father was George Charles Jago. Mother was christened Helena May and her twin brother was named George Richard, known throughout his life as Dick. They had an elder brother, Edgar, born in 1914 who died whilst training as a pilot in Rhodesia during World War II.

I never met my maternal grandmother or grandfather- George Jago died in 1919 and Barbara Jane in 1943. I never heard much about George Jago. I suppose because he died when mother was two she would not have remembered him, just as I do not remember my own father, dying as he did when I was the same tender age.

Barbara Jane was obviously idolised by her children and she does sound from *family records to have been a formidable if rather irresponsible lady.

BJ Lockwood
Barbara Jane Lockwood aged 19

But first some genealogical details.

Barbara Jane was born in 1887, the third youngest of ten children born to Henry Lockwood and wife Fanny (nee Radcliffe) . Fanny’s father was Charles Radcliffe who emigrated to Australia from England in 1852. He was a musician and came from an enlightened family who believed in educating their children, including the girls. Her mother was Jane Grisedale.

On the Lockwood side, Henry Lockwood came to Australia from Yorkshire in 1851 as a baby and was the son of James Lockwood and Barbara (nee Earnshaw).

Barbara Jane Lockwood was obviously named after her grandmothers. The Lockwoods grew up in rural North Victoria at a property called Kiewa, at Harston, near Tatura. The property remains in the family as far a I know. When Henry Lockwood died in 1918, the property was purchased by the husband of the youngest daughter Nellie. In 1972 Nellie’s son hosted a family centenary reunion which I attended. That’s the only time I have visited the old homestead.

When Fanny Radcliffe died in 1896, my grandmother Barbara Jane was nine years old. Initially the youngest children, Barbara Jane, Fanny and Nellie were cared for by their elder sister Lillian until their father, Henry, remarried and brought a stepmother to the property to look after the children.

Barbara Jane couldn’t stand the stepmother and ran away from home at the age of seventeen to Melbourne. She worked as a parlour maid at Government House. There is a story mentioned in *Mallee Memories that she got pregnant and bore an illegitimate child who disappeared in mysterious circumstances. The author of Mallee Memories obviously didn’t approve of Barbara Jane, so who knows if the story is true.

Barbara Jane, after her husband died, undertook a nurses training course. Rather than train and look after three small children she dumped them with her sister Lillian, who by that time was married and living in country Victoria at Birchip, where they stayed for about two years before Barbara Jane was compelled to take them back.

She ran a small maternity hospital in Wagga Wagga whilst she brought up the kids and never remarried. According to the other side of my family (my father’s side) Barbara Jane delivered a few of my father’s brothers in her hospital.

She probably had a pretty hard life, but she was a great reader which no doubt brought her some consolation. If a love of reading is genetic, that’s where I got it from. I have a box of her books, mostly classical literature. Her sisters gave her a complete set of leather bound classics for her 21t Birthday.


But she bought other books for herself and seems to have always written her name, the year of purchase and occasionally the location in the facing page, a habit I formed quite independently myself, until I realised my precious modern firsts might be devalued by this “defacement”


On to my mother’s story…

She grew up in Wagga Wagga with her two brothers and assisted with the cleaning and cooking in her mother’s hospital. She and my father knew each other socially in the 1930s but they didn’t get married until 1945.

My father (seated) my mother sitting next to the child (1936).

My mother, like her mother before her, trained as a nurse and throughout her life continued to update her skills and competence.

Here is a photo of her and a group of nurses sometime in the 1930s (I assume). She’s in the second standing row third from the left.


Mother was brought up C of E but converted to Catholicism in her late teens, early 20s. She entered a convent and was a nun with the St John of God order for several years, until her health became affected and she was forced to leave.

Then she married my father, who was the eldest of seven brothers and had done well for himself by becoming an accountant. His other brothers were all in trades, and regarded the Jago clan as intellectuals.

My brothers and I were all born in quick succession (1946,1947 & 1949), my younger brother being born in January 1949.

In September 1949 tragedy struck when my father died in a freak accident. He had gone out into the yard to bring in the washing off the line, as it had started to rain. He slipped on the wet concrete path and hit his head in a fatal area, dying instantly. The rest of the family were off at the circus, I was told, so a neighbour found him.

This photo of my parents with my older brother Michael (aged three) must have been taken shortly before my father's death.

My mother, with three small children to care for, was reduced to taking in boarders to make ends meet. I remember one of those boarders teaching me how to snap my fingers.

It must have been in the early 50s that mother resumed her nursing career, becoming matron of a small rural hospital in Bangalow in Northern NSW. We lived at the hospital; one of perks of the job and handy if you were a widow with children.

In 1953 she remarried. The first we knew about it was being told by the nuns with whom we’d been dumped while mother went off on a holiday, that we had a new father. We first met the stepfather in Sydney flying by ourselves from Lisbon, never to return to Bangalow.

We all moved in with the stepfather in Braybrook in the western suburbs of Melbourne. The marriage was not a success, the stepfather proving to be a violent and nasty man. We children hated his guts.

We were rescued by mother’s twin brother Dick, who assisted mother to escape from the stepfather while he was away somewhere. She must have been planning it for a while, for we were transported directly from Braybrook to Woods Point, a remote goldmining town in North Eastern Victoria, where mother took over the hospital. It was as far away as you could get from the city and she didn’t leave a forwarding address. She also reverted to her first married name.

The Woods Point Hospital

The years in Woods Point were happy ones for us kids, running about the bush wild and free. We lived at the hospital of course.

Mother was the sole medico in the town, though the hospital rarely had patients, most cases needing urgent treatment being tended to in Mansfield the nearest large town, where they were transported by ambulance with mother in attendance. On occasions she rescued injured possums from the side of the road and brought them home to care for. We had lots of pets – dogs, cats and rabbits.

It was a rough place I suppose. Mother kept a pistol in her hanky drawer; I was horrified when I found it there. The Morning Star mine was still in operation in those days, so a lot of medical emergencies were related to accidents at the mine and on the roads around the area which were steep and winding with precipitous drops. It snowed there in winter and was bushfire prone in summer.

After a couple of years of attending the Woods Point primary school, my older brother and I were packed off to boarding school, me in Mansfield and Mick in Wangaratta.

In 1960 we left Woods Point and moved to Wangaratta, mother having got a job in the maternity ward at the base hospital there. We spent our high school years there and we lived in a house this time.

When I left home in 1966 to go to university, mother and younger brother continued on in Wangaratta for another year.

In 1967 mother moved from Wangaratta to Melbourne where she had found a job as matron of a day nursery in Northcote then a few years after, obtained a similar position in Preston.

She left the workforce in the late 1970s, her health having forced her retirement. She lived in Fitzroy in a pleasant flat close to the Exhibition gardens.

Like her mother she was a great reader, and also had passion for music, especially classical music and the opera. I used to go to the opera with her over the years and we often ran into my Great Aunts Fanny and Nellie, Barbara Jane’s younger sisters there, until they passed away within a short time of each other.

Mother and her twin brother Dick remained close despite the fact they criticised each other behind the other’s backs. Dick died in 1987 just before their 70th birthday. He died intestate and well off, but mother received very little from the settlement. She was too proud to ask for anything much and settled for the box of her mother’s books and her portrait (see above). All uncle’s wealth went to his estranged wife.

In 1990 my older brother Mick died of a stroke. This was a real blow to mother and the rest of us. Her health declined rapidly after that and she died on 23rd January 1991 at the age of 73.

I still remember vividly the day she died. It was an extremely hot and sticky day. I was at work and received a call from the hospice where she was residing at the time, to say she had taken a turn for the worst. By the time I had got to the hospice she was gone.

As much as it was sad, it was also a relief, for her options at that time were very limited. She was beyond caring for herself and being a very independent lady, she had a horror of nursing homes and I was reluctant to force her into one.

People said about her that she had had a hard life, implying that she had fortitude and courage. This is certainly true. She was a kind person and never bitter about her life. She found consolation in religion but never boasted of it. She accepted that her children ended up agnostic, and never tried to reconvert us. She dedicated her life to nursing and helping others.

Her funeral was conducted at All Saints church in Fitzroy by no less than two priests. There were nuns galore at the ceremony, which even caused the funeral director to raise his eyebrows. The funeral cortege wound its way through the back streets of Fitzroy then headed for Fawkner Cemetery. It was another hot day, with a strong northerly wind and at the stark grave site, with the priest reading the graveside prayer with the eponymous dust swirling around, I found it a moving and profound experience.

My mother and I were good friends. We understood each other and I used to visit her regularly at her flat, where she always had a cold can of VB waiting for me. She had encouraged me from an early age to be independent. She once apologised to me for this, but I assured her it was a valuable attribute she had forced me to accept and I certainly didn’t bear her any grudge.

*A document called ”Mallee Memories” written by one of my mother’s cousins who was the daughter of Lillian Murray (nee Lockwood)

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

More Cat Pics

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Above is a recent portrait shot of Willy looking stubborn and wilful. He celebrates his 7th Birthday today, and we can only marvel, considering his wild and wayward habits, that he has lasted this long. Of course we hope that he continues to survive for many years to come.

Now that I have retired from work, he has sussed that my lap will be free most mornings for lounging on. I tend to read in the mornings in bed, and a cat generally commands the prized lap position. Lizzie has lost out as Willy, being the bright boy he is, sits on the bed waiting for me to grab a coffee and return to my book. In no time at all he flops on my lap and will stay there for as long as I remain prone.

In the afternoons, he is often found a few houses up occupying the donut cat bed on the veranda of the neighbour who owns the delightful Pickle, Willy’s kitten hood friend. The neighbour bought the cat bed for Pickle, but she says Pickle has not taken to it, so she’s pleased that Willy makes use of it and is happy to leave the bed on the veranda for his convenience.


As you can see we have nice cat loving neighbours.

Whilst I was up the road taking the photo of Willy in the donut, Ms Lizzie, busybody that she is, sat on the letter box near the gate, watching and waiting for me to come back, caged by pickets and surrounded by the lilac bush.

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If you follow Astrology, you will know that both cats were born in the sign of Capricorn. What that means in terms of cat personality and destiny I have no idea.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Not long to the Autumn Racing Season

Graceful Anna

It has been quiet on the racing front since the thrills of the Spring Racing season, so it is gratifying to see several interesting racing competitions on the cards for this coming weekend. That is, if the devastating floods in Queensland,which have now begun to affect NSW as well, don’t cancel the running of the Magic Millions meeting on the Gold Coast. It’s also raining in Victoria and flooding in various rural centres. So heavy tracks are everywhere except Western Australia, where bush fires are raging.

Graceful Anna pictured above, won the three year old Magic Millions Guineas this time last year, beating a very good field of youngsters that included Shoot Out. After being off the scene since her poor run in the Stradbroke Handicap in June last year, she will be resuming for the autumn in the Canterbury BMW Classic in Sydney tonight. It won’t be easy for her as it has attracted a quality field that includes Border Rebel, Winter King, Keen Commander, Pinwheel and Whitefriars to name a few of the classy sprinters involved. I will be keen to see how she runs. Apparently she looked good in a recent trial so there is a possibility with her weight advantage that she could run away with the prize .

The Magic Millions 2yo Classic has prize money of two million dollars, with the winner taking home over a million of it. If the race goes ahead, current favourite Karuta Queen, who recently won a trial by 21 lengths, looks the one to beat. It has a big field of 16 with 5 emergencies. Of the colts Pepper Jet has the best claims, with Wonderful You and Snippets of Glory in with a chance. However, fillies like Military Grace (half sister to last year’s winner, Military Rose) and Sydney trained Fast and Sexy and Combat Kitty could mount a challenge to Karuta Queen and the fancied colts. It being a race for two year olds, anything could happen and probably will, since it’s quite likely that the Sydney contingent may not even be able to make it to the Gold Coast.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

The Weather

Photo of Queensland flood by Salvation Army

The entire world must know by now about the devastating floods which have inundated a large portion of the State of Queensland. It is unimaginable to us sitting at home cosy in Melbourne, to think of how the citizens of the northern State are coping with such a disaster.

I have had no direct experience of a flood other than one of my earliest childhood memories, where I remember being carried out to an army duck by a soldier during a flood in Wagga Wagga back in the late 1940s. I can’t recall being scared, but more excited by the unusual turn of circumstances.

Melbourne however has not been spared the wet. It has rained solidly all day, and I thanked my lucky stars that I didn’t have to drag myself to work in it and sit there all day with damp feet. As well as being wet it is also hot and humid and uncharacteristically tropical. The low pressure system that caused the Queensland flood is now passing through the southern States and has already caused flooding in a few rural Victorian towns.

Instead of sitting it out in the workplace, when the rain eased off for a while, I ventured down to the bridge over the Merri Creek to take a picture. Although the Merri Creek is basically only a block from where I live, there is no danger of it ever threatening our dwelling. It has steep sides and runs through a gorge at that point, so it would have to rise a considerable amount to cover the bridge.

As you can see the Merri in flood is pretty pissy compared to the Queensland version.

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No doubt the Queensland flood, like the Black Saturday Bushfires of 2009, will dominate the news for weeks to come. In the meantime, more information can be found on the ABC online website.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

The Contrariness of Cats


Today is Ms Lizzie’s 15th Birthday so I took a photo of her to mark the occasion. She doesn’t look decrepit does she, and neither is she in the flesh. In fact, despite some concern we had about her last week, she is very well, though not as fast and fit as she was in her younger days. This was the opinion of the vet to whom she was taken after she’d been off her food for several days and behaving quite unlike her usual self.

Normally she loves food, and is always there to remind you when it is dinner time as opposed to Willy, who is lackadaisical about eating, sometimes eating breakfast mid afternoon and dinner in the early hours of the morning. But Lizzie is what one would regard a normal cat, so for her to be off her food was worrying, considering her age.

However, as a demonstration of the contrariness of cats, Lizzie now appears to dislike seafood, where formerly it was her favourite type of food. Willy has never been over the moon on seafood, preferring meat type dishes. Yesterday I fed them each a half serve of a tuna/prawn mix out of a can of cat food, with a half serve each of beef flavoured cat food.

Lizzie would normally gobble down the tuna and pick at the beef, and Willy would eat the beef and nibble at the tuna, but yesterday it was the reverse, Lizzie leaving the tuna intact and eating the beef, and Willy eating the tuna and leaving the beef. Weird and contrary indeed!

Another rather good cat story came via some friends who live in the country. A cat turned up on their doorstep a month or so ago, and moved in with them. They did not particularly want a cat, even though the cat was super friendly and had adopted them. They found a home for him at another property, the woman who lived there having recently lost a cat.

They drove the cat over there, but as soon as they pulled up and removed the cat from the car he freaked out, ran back to the car, and hid under the back seat.

It turned out his new home was his old home that he’d run away from, where he’d been locked in a shed for some time. Our friends had no other option but to take him home, and there he remains, happy as Larry.