Sunday, January 15, 2012

Kindy Come And Try Cricket at Adelaide Oval

Today was a first... L-kun's first visit to the Adelaide Oval. No... it wasn't a strange mix-up with the Test Match schedule... we were here for the SACAs (South Australian Cricket Association) Kindy Come and Try Day. This was the first one ever, and a pretty good success at that... not least as it was completely free, and well organised (other than a few teething problems that were quickly overcome). Actually, we only found out a few days ago, as one of L-kuns best friends was going with his father, so we thought, why not. It was going to be a fun day, and his friend slept over as well. Despite some bad weather in Adelaide of late, today was perfect. 28 degrees C, sunny skies... and no wind. There would have been about 100-150 children, plus that and more in terms of parents there. A pretty impressive turn out.

Now I have to admit one thing. I'm no longer a super Cricket fan. I don't mind, but I no longer go out of my way to watch cricket. Too many other things to do, and cricket just isn't the same these days from when I was younger. And part of that ambivalence I'm sure comes from my transition to a non-traditional Aussie family, as T-chan would rather drown her head in the toilet bowl than watch cricket (should write this, this close to Australia Day?). Well, that has perhaps worn off on L-kun to some extent. For him, cricket is something you do in the backyard with Daddy... often after some coercion. But today he'd have to get his A game on... he's playing Adelaide Oval. Quite a step up. 
L-kun practices his psyching-out-stare. Thatta boy!

The first thing I realised once we got there (start time of 10:30am... for 2 hours)... was that this wasn't quite the fun "cricket" experience. They were trying to get some serious technique going. First lesson ... throwing. But oddly, they were teaching grip (as if you were bowling, fingers down the seam) as part of the throwing lessons. When I learnt cricket, we were never taught to throw like you bowled... am I out of touch that much? Still, the  first lesson was throwing the ball. Listen carefully guys... this is going to be important. And us too parents, as we'd be doing the real coaching here. 

Stand side on, point with your left hand, throw arm bent with your right (assuming right-handed of course) and then knock the you-know-what out of that cone. L-kun started off slow... trying to work out why he had to throw a particular way. After all, he'd just thrown the ball before hand, which seemed to have got him far enough previously. 

Next step - bowling. Actually this was somewhat of a revelation for me. I knew L-kun was pretty good at throwing, but hadn't tried teaching him "bowling", i.e. throwing with a straight arm which is rolled in a circular fashion (for those non-Cricket people out there... yes... I hear your pain). For a 4.5 yo that hasn't done it before he got into it very quickly. Ok... he had some funky style issues (like wind-milling his bowling arm initially in the opposite direction), and I'm not entire sure how much straight-arm there really was... but he actually was consistently knocking middle stump over.  No joke. I was impressed. Then again, it was a long way from bowling... and believe me, there are some 4 yo that can bowl quite well already!

I think if Cricket largely involved bowling, L-kun would be all over it. 

Alas, it doesn't... and Cricket involves also learning how to belt the red off a small inoffensive leather ball... generally to avoid said ball from hitting middle stump. And this is, I have to admit it, one  of L-kuns Achilles Heels... and the thing he actually tries to avoid in backyard cricket. I suspect that baseball might be his calling (and that works well with the whole baseball league in Japan as a fall-back career option)....

 Despite him being bat-challenged, he persevered... and I was actually pretty impressed with him. Pssst, don't tell anyone, but I was wondering how L-kun would go. Especially when it's for quite a long time (2 hours can be a VERY long time), and it's doing something he's not that familiar with. He performed admirably... and it was only in the last section that dealt with ball control and catching (did Achilles have dodgy wrists as well as heels?). By this stage, he was starting to lose energy and enthusiasm. I don't blame him... there's only so many times you can pass the ball around your stomach...

So after the last session, it was BBQ time. Well, a sausage sizzle to be precise. And L-kun discovered... oh no... green cordial. For the first time. And he loved it. But what he really liked was spending time with his friend. Perhaps recounting their memorable moments out on the field. "Did you see my 10 wicket haul for the innings?"

And one of the favourite places in Adelaide Oval is "the Hill"... the place you'd go in years gone past to get drunk and have fun (and occasionally watch cricket). Of course, it's much more civilised these days. But still, L-kun and his friend were getting into the spirit... they may not have been rolling drunk, but they were definitely rolling... 

Adeliade Oval remains a glorious venue... though this is about to be converted into a "STADIUM"... coz apparently Adelaide will be a much more attractive and dynamic city then... yet I for one can't really imagine the oval up-sized without losing a lot of it's great charm. Especially when they'll now be playing (Aussie Rules) Football here in the winter months. The end of an era... an era perhaps best symbolised by the fact that they still use the original scoreboard, built in 1911. These sorts of traditions are very "cricket"... and whilst it might be quaint, I guess I like it that way. 
The original 1911 scoreboard

But one of the other traditions of cricket - modern tradition that is - is the sledge. Using put-downs to gain a psychological advantage over your opponent. L-kun was getting into the spirit with some energetic... "You Mr Potato Pants!"... hold on... who's Mr Potato Pants now? Children at some point, very early on, learn the value of name-calling. They quickly learn the consequence of name calling with parents - but then even more quickly learn that the law's on their side anyhow. If not today... then  one day... one day... Mr Potato Pants will triumph. Today however, you win.
Going the "sledge"...

Anyhow... the day, above anything else was about friendship and children learning to try new things. It was also about Daddy learning that his weekends are about to change forever. Weekend sports is only a short stroll to the pavilion away. 

Overall, it was a great experience (for Dad as well as L-kun) to be able to play on the Adelaide Oval. The lessons were good, and definitely not just playing around. I think it would have been better to reduce the emphasis slightly on the skill-based component (especially for just a first trial session). Also they tried a half-hearted attempt at introducing a scoring system that range from 100 pts for this, to a million pts to do that. Not a particularly clever idea... at least not the implementation of it. But L-kun enjoyed it anyhow. Still, this was their first attempt to run such a program, and I'm sure they learnt a lot as well from it. I'd definitely recommend bringing your child down when they run it next... hopefully before another 12 months.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Goodbye 2011 - Welcome Our New Life in 2012

New Years Eve is a big day in our family. Not just because it heralds the end of a very busy (and dramatic) year, and welcomes a new and exciting one... but also because literally it's a busy day for us. A VERY BUSY DAY. Our family - I really mean T-chan - subscribes to the Japanese tradition of oosouji (大掃除), which kinda equates to the big clean. The once a year, everything-must-go kinda clean where you start at the bottom and work your way to the top! The reasons? Well, it's meant to welcome the New Year with a clean environment... I imagine to get rid of the bad spirits from the house. It is a good idea... but believe me, when everyone else is worrying about where they're going to be partying, we're getting sweaty in the cleaning sense. By the time the evening comes, we're just about ready to relax...and sleep. Especially when T-chan is so heavily pregnant... normally she's a super-human-cleaning-machine come New Year... this year was a little more difficult when you're carrying around a bowling ball in your belly! Hubby to the rescue.

Still, we didn't quite get as much done as we would normally do... still, I think we gave it a good crack.

New Years of course means one thing - fireworks. And whilst Adelaide's fireworks would never even begin to rival Sydney (or any other large city I suspect), they are always fun and become very much an experience for the whole family. There are a number of focal points for the evening, and down by the River Torrens in Elder Park is the main one. Around 8:15pm we had finished dinner, and managed somehow to get ready and in the car. About 15 mins later we had found a park (down past St Peter's Cathedral and the Women's and Children's Hospital). Yet what was surprising was that there was still plenty of room to get some great spots... and just a little bit of time to go for a walk too.

There's always a family friendly fireworks at 9pm, followed of course by the main event at midnight. Surrounding the fireworks are a number of shows... centred on the rotunda. This year had a very multicultural feel... including a tribute to Bollywood. Don't ask me... but it was great.

But of course the real show is the fire works... and even though the skies were not yet fully dark, it was still an exciting (early) finale to the evening.... and of course here's the obligatory fireworks photos....

But that wasn't all... we stayed around for the only real touch of Japan from the whole evening... Matsuri Taiko were performing a 20 minute set that was quite fun to watch.... but like most things acoustic, were better to see live.

Actually, like Christmas this was a strange one this year. It's not that we didn't get into the spirit of things, but rather that there were many other things competing in our thoughts. So much will change in the next couple of months. 2012 will almost certainly be a year to remember!

So as they say in Japan, akimashite omedetou gozaimasu, kotoshi mo yoroshiku onegaishimasu! Happy New Year, and it'll be great to work with you all next year (all 0.75 of you)!