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A new way to boost books

THESE days it’s not enough to write a book and hope it sells. In the fast-moving world of the internet and instant popularity, you have to push the right buttons to gain attention.
Nanjing Night Net

Just ask Rob Towner, a 30-year-old children’s book writer from Merewether.

Towner, who manages the website of national retailer Inspirations Paint from their Warners Bay head office, has this month launched his sixth children’s book, Animal Friends: Floating Orange Cubes.

He is hoping to generate interest in the book by offering it free in EPUB, PDF and MOBI files this weekend on Amazon’s website. To get the files, interested people need to share the book with friends on Facebook or Twitter.

He’s also chasing positive reviews via Little Book Owl on the YouTube internet channel and entering the book in award competitions.

‘‘This is going to be the big one,’’ he says. ‘‘I’m hoping to push it into the charts for free Amazon downloads. And people look at the charts.’’

The 13,000-word book, aimed at children ages 8 and over, includes illustrations done specifically for the book by students at St Dominic’s Centre for Hearing Impaired Children at Mayfield. The illustrations also come with the electronic versions of the book.

According to Towner’s Facebook page, the story is about a young girl questioning her father’s obsession with stockpiling fly spray, and his reply. The father explains ‘‘the completely true story of Patrick the Cicada, an insect living in 1956 who (with the help of plenty of other animal friends) stands up to the biggest bully in the backyard, a parakeet named Leslie’’.

The students at St Dominic’s were given single-sentence briefs on each illustration that was needed, encouraged to make them as colourful as possible.

He is negotiating distribution of the hard-copy edition of the book.

Despite his persistent effort (he began writing the book in 2009 and has rewritten it several times), the final result is not about the money.

‘‘This is a labour of love,’’ Towner says. ‘‘I’ve poured a lot of money into it already.’’

At full retail price of $16.95, Towner would make $4 per book. But he readily admits he’s looking to the future.

‘‘You can get it free [this weekend] just by tweeting about it. That’s worth $16.95 to me.

‘‘I’ve got a knowledge bank of sequels. The Outer Space Oyster is the next one. I’m building an audience.’’

The Amazon download page of Animal Friends: Floating Orange Cubes ishttp://bit.ly/robtowner


Playground stories

WHEN Islington Public School students were preparing for a recent four-day excursion to Canberra, Abdelelah Abaker’s excitement was tempered by anxiety. The 12-year-old had never spent a night away from his parents, Higazya and Mohamed, and they were just as anxious about the trip.
Nanjing Night Net

Having arrived in Newcastle in January as part of Australia’s refugee resettlement program, after fleeing conflict-riven Sudan, separation had long been a fear for the family of five. Trapped in limbo in Egypt for 12 years – Abdelelah and his younger brother, Abdelazim, were born there – it had been unthinkable to spend time apart.

School principal Matthew Bradley had tried without success to persuade Abdelelah to attend an overnight camping trip with classmates earlier this year. ‘‘He didn’t know us well enough in term one,’’ Bradley says.

But, when I meet Abdelelah after his return from Canberra, he cannot suppress a wide grin. ‘‘I saw snow,’’ he says, shaping an imaginary snowball is his large hands. ‘‘So freezing!’’

When he arrived for the start of the school year in February, he could not speak or read English and cried when told he would not be joining his older brother, Alaadin, at high school. Bradley recommended he enrol at Islington for one year to learn English and adjust to his new life in Newcastle. ‘‘He wasn’t very happy with me,’’ offers the dynamic, Doc Martens-clad principal in his tidy office.

Mohamed Abaker, whose own studies were cut short by the political unrest in his homeland, nods agreement. ‘‘He cried and cried,’’ the Arabic-speaking father-of-three says through a translator. ‘‘We trusted Mr Bradley. Now, Abdelelah and Abdelazim read for us and say, ‘That’s not right. This is the correct way’,’’ he laughs. Higazya, who sits quietly beside her husband, smiles.

The boys haven’t looked back.

THERE was a time when the reputation of Islington Public School was tainted by its location in a suburb known more for its discarded syringes and sex workers than innovative education. ‘‘I’ve actually been asked if I pick up syringes in the playground,’’ Bradley says, with a hint of exasperation.

In the past five years, Islington has changed. It has the best children’s playground in the city and has become a creative hub. You can browse through antique stores, a textile gallery, have an organic facial, or buy bespoke camping gear – and the coffee’s good, too.

Lisa Ogle, whose two daughters, Edie and Nico, attend the school, describes her evolving suburb as ‘‘bohemian Islington’’, with her tongue firmly planted in her cheek. ‘‘Seriously, though, it has changed,’’ says the long-time resident. ‘‘It wasn’t that long ago that if couples bought a house, they’d sell up and move out of the area before the baby arrived. Now, there are prams everywhere. People used to send their kids to school elsewhere, but that’s changing.’’

She says when nine-year-old Edie, who is severely disabled, was ready for kindergarten, Islington Public School wasn’t on her and partner David’s radar.

‘‘We were planning to send her to the Hunter Orthopedic School in Waratah, but [education] department changes meant it became a senior school and she had to go to Glendon at Hillsborough. It just wasn’t convenient for us, so we met with the local school counsellor, who happened to be based at Islington [Public School], and he explained that Edie could probably go there.

‘‘We didn’t think it was an option.’’

Then principal Andrew Price was all for ‘‘inclusion and integration’’ and modifications were made to accommodate Edie’s wheelchair. She has also been allocated a full-time school learning and support officer.

‘‘We didn’t want her treated like a baby,’’ Ogle says. ‘‘We always wanted her to do age-appropriate, modified activities and it works. She loves school; she gets excited as soon as she sees her uniform and she cries when I pick her up.

‘‘I can’t see it working at a bigger school.’’

Since 2011, enrolments at the 126-year-old primary school have increased by more than a third to 94, although it remains one of Newcastle’s smallest government schools. Forty per cent of the students are from a non-English-speaking background, or a ‘‘culturally and linguistically diverse’’ background, to use current education parlance. It is not uncommon for children to arrive part-way through the year with little understanding of English.

Some have never attended school before and, if they have, their experiences are vastly different to those offered in the lively, art-filled classrooms that greet them at Islington Public School.

Bradley’s focus as a teaching principal centres on the students and their parents.

At the weekly Monday morning ‘‘parent cafe’’, which was introduced last year to provide an informal meeting space for resettled refugees, Bradley listens to concerns. This week, a Hunter representative from the NSW Business Chamber speaks to the group about assisting with work placements. The men are especially desperate.

‘‘I just want to be busy,’’ Alex Mulamba says. ‘‘I have my forklift ticket and I went [to businesses] to get experience. I asked to volunteer, not get money, but everyone said no, it was too risky.’’ He tells Duncan Burck from the chamber that he will happily work as a farm labourer in the Hunter Valley. He has previously been a fruit picker, which is how he saved enough money to buy a small car.

Father-of-eight Clement Saiti previously worked with deaf people and has struggled to find work in this area since arriving in Newcastle. He worries he will have to leave the Hunter and his strong ties with the Congolese community to find a job. ‘‘It is very, very hard,’’ he says.

Talk then turns to the challenges of finding rental homes. Many resettled refugees are rejected by landlords because they do not have a rental history, but there are other reasons including family size and, undoubtedly, ethnicity.

It quickly becomes clear this is no ordinary parent get-together.

As the principal, Bradley is often called on to help. Recently, he dealt with a Glendale business that refused to replace a new appliance bought by a refugee family. It was broken when they switched it on at home. ‘‘The person who served them would not exchange it and comments were made about the family’s race. The family didn’t know what to do.’’

Bradley made a phone call and the business responded more positively.

The parent cafe has become an essential forum for helping to alleviate fear and address issues. ‘‘In some cultures, parents only get involved with the school if their child is in trouble,’’ observes Herbert Gatamah, a community information officer with the Department of Education who helped establish the cafe. ‘‘Here, it is different; parents are encouraged to participate. When Matthew comes into the parent cafe, he is no longer the principal, he is a father, and questions that are asked are often about parenting.

‘‘A few weeks ago, a parent explained their child was demanding an expensive cellphone and they didn’t know what to do. This parent actually had an a-ha moment. It was very visible when Matthew said, ‘I have the same problem, but I do this …’ The parent saw that the issues they were facing were also affecting other parents.’’

Gatamah explains the trauma experienced by some refugee families makes it difficult for them to trust others.

‘‘They can be anxious, hypervigilant,’’ he says.

Bradley later tells me that during a routine safety drill, a Congolese student crawled under her desk when the hooter sounded.

‘‘Her teacher had to scoop her up and hold for about an hour. She went into this other zone.’’

BRADLEY is a blue-eyed, silvery-haired whirlwind. During my three visits to the school, the only time I see the 36-year-old sit down is during the parent cafe. Our rapid-fire conversations are stop-start as he is called away to speak with a parent, a student, or a colleague. He often starts work at 7am so he can keep on top of the administrative load without interruption. The father-of-three is hard-working, compassionate, and an optimist.

‘‘Matt’s going to change the world,’’ quips the school office manager, Rebecca Bailey.

Originally, Bradley wanted to pursue a music career, but instead completed a bachelor of visual arts at the University of Newcastle. As a classically trained pianist, he releases stress on the occasional Friday afternoon – when all but the cleaner have left the grounds – by playing the school piano. Mozart is a favourite and Liszt remains special. ‘‘But my hands can’t cope any more,’’ he laughs.

This is his first appointment as principal. He has previously worked in Nexus, the child and adolescent mental health inpatient unit at John Hunter Hospital while at the Kotara School, which educates students in years three to six with emotional disturbance and behaviour disorders. He has also been an assistant principal (behaviour) in Lake Macquarie.

‘‘I’ve taught students with some of the most horrendous stories in their background – it would make your toes curl – yet the resilience they have is amazing,’’ he says. ‘‘There is hope for every child with the right support.’’

Small schools are more intense, but their size is also one of their greatest assets.

‘‘The school community doesn’t want it to get too big,’’ offers Bradley, who oversees 15 staff, some of whom service other schools across the region. The school also houses the Reading Recovery unit, a research-based early intervention literacy program that includes three tutors who help train teachers from Wyong to Merriwa. Bradley says it takes six years of formal schooling for a child to obtain the level of English skill required to cope in an academic setting.

‘‘We have kids who have never been to school before they arrive, and some do not have a print literacy background and they’re thrust into a classroom. They have to learn to speak and read, as well as dealing with a new country, customs … it’s a lot to take in. But my challenges here aren’t ones to do with the kids or community, my challenges are that if we are going to have an inclusive, supportive society, what can we do to achieve that?’’

Given his background in the arts – his partner is artist Sally Bourke – and commitment to engaging students from all walks of life, there is a distinctly creative focus at the school. Year 1 students – aka the Islington Rock Chickens – are working with David Bean, the heavily tattooed father of their classmate Lola, to record a song they have written called Animals on the Chase. When we pop in the children are having their hair and make-up done for the video Bean is filming for them.

‘‘We only live a couple of streets away,’’ Bean says. ‘‘We love the diversity.’’

Lola later tells Bradley of the Animals on the Chase activity: ‘‘It’s just like a normal literacy class only more fun’’.

On Mondays, Senegalese musician Fode Mane teaches each class drumming in the school hall. When I wander in, the kindergarten children are displaying that particular delight that springs from being able to make noise – and lots of it. They are surprisingly precise in following Mane’s energetic lead. ‘‘If they told me to come here and just teach the African kids I’d say ‘no’,’’ he says. ‘‘It’s definitely important to let the refugee children experience some of their culture, but it’s about unifying everyone.’’

There is also a homework club and a dance group. ‘‘My mum always told me,’’ says Bradley, ‘‘that knowledge and skills, while hard to attain, once mastered are easy to carry.’’

WHEN Mohamed Abaker was seated in a plane bound for Sydney and a new life in Newcastle, he was struck by the cultural divide. ‘‘Everyone was Western,’’ he remembers. ‘‘Am I going to feel this way in Australia? I will be different. The children did not worry; they watched movies and played games.’’

The family was met at Sydney Airport by a Navitas caseworker, an Iraqi who spoke Arabic. ‘‘I thought, OK, that’s good. I relaxed,’’ Abaker says.

The biggest challenges since moving to Mayfield in January have been overcoming communication and cultural barriers. His sons, who have quickly attained the ability to read and speak English, are flourishing. This can sometimes create tension.

‘‘Mum and dad are suddenly being dictated to by their kids,’’ observes Bradley. ‘‘The power balance shifts and this creates all sorts of issues. Parents end up relying on their children for help, but, as the saying goes, give an inch and they’ll take a mile.’’

Abaker intends to study law at the University of Newcastle once he completes the Adult Migrant English Program at Hunter TAFE. At 48, he is determined to gain the education he was denied in Sudan.

‘‘You have to settle first, get your house, get an education and look into your future,’’ he says, smiling.

‘‘Maybe there’s a view that we [refugees] don’t know anything, but we have experience and want to contribute. All I want is for my children to finish their education. They won’t have any excuses, because they have opportunity.’’


Ryde councillor tells ICAC of ‘inappropriate’ approach

Councillor Artin Etmekdjian leaves the ICAC hearing into Ryde Council. Photo: Peter RaeA former mayor of Ryde says he was approached about a contentious project by a developer acting as a “messenger” for fellow councillor Ivan Petch.
Nanjing Night Net

He says he told the developer that the matter was inappropriate and he would not get involved.

Artin Etmekdjian, the former mayor who is now a councillor, told an Independent Commission Against Corruption hearing on Friday that the developer and property owner John Goubran had set up a meeting with him.

He says Mr Goubran told him he was acting on behalf of Cr Petch, who wanted to resolve the council deadlock over the civic precinct project.

Cr Etmekdjian said Mr Goubran had suggested at the meeting, held in a Top Ryde shopping centre coffee shop in January last year, that consideration of the project should be deferred until after the council elections later that year – and that a committee should be set up to try and resolve the issues stalling the project.

But Cr Etmekdjian said he told Mr Goubran to relay to Cr Petch the proposal – and the way it had been broached – was “inappropriate”, and the matter should be a matter for discussion among councillors.

The commission is investigating a number of allegations involving former Ryde mayor Cr Petch, and others, about the alleged release of confidential council information, and an attempt to undermine council employees including the former general manager, John Neish.

The commission is also investigating an allegation that Cr Petch played a role in an offer conveyed to Mr Neish that his employment would be secure if he could delay consideration of the proposed redevelopment of the Ryde Civic Precinct.

Cr Etmekdjian told the commission’s last scheduled day of hearings that when he met with Mr Neish in February last year, Mr Neish told him that he had also been approached by another local businessman with the same proposal. Mr Neish said he had been told to make sure it was successful or his job would be at risk.

Mr Neish said, according to Cr Etmekdjian, that he also found the proposal inappropriate and that he would report it to the corruption commission once he had received it in writing from the businessman.

The commission was told that the civic precinct project was a hot topic and had been the subject of some fiery debate in council chambers the previous year, resulting in a 6-6 councillor deadlock.

But counsel for Mr Goubran, Stephen Stanton, put it to Cr Etmekdjian that the meeting he had described in January last year had never taken place. The proposal was rejected by Cr Etmekdjian.

Mr Goubran said the meeting with Cr Etmekdjian did not take place in January. He said it took place later in the year and it was not at the instigation of Cr Petch.

Mr Goubran told the hearing that the idea of setting up a community consultative committee to sort out the objections to the civic precinct redevelopment was his own idea, not Cr Petch’s.

He said it was in response to anger from the community that they felt they had not been consulted about the redevelopment.

The commission was also shown emails that included confidential information about a rezoning affecting land owned by Mr Goubran and others, which had allegedly been forwarded by Cr Petch to Mr Goubran via a mutual friend.

Mr Goubran gave evidence that he had received the email and forwarding it on to his business partners, but denied knowing it was confidential internal council information.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.


What to drink … textural white wines

White wine. Photo: Jessica Shapiro Yalumba’s viognier vineyard.
Nanjing Night Net

Yalumba’s viognier vineyard. The 2010 is the best to date with its delicate bouquet and velvety palate.

UNDER $30

Soumah Savarro Yarra Valley $25Savarro is Soumah’s name for savagnin. While an old variety, it was mistakenly called albarino in Australia for a while before growers had to revert to other monikers. Mostly savagnin sticks. Soumah produces one of the better examples, a fragrant wine smelling of buttery apple tart with florals, white pepper and spice. What sets this apart from other local savagnins is its terrific texture and savouriness. Chill this down and enjoy with a bowl of spaghetti marinara. From Cloud Wine, South Melbourne.

UNDER $40

Kellybrook Estate Gewurztraminer 2012 $38Confession time: when did you last drink that most undervalued, wonderful and spicy white wine, gewurztraminer? It’s time to revisit this variety, especially when it’s made by someone who knows how to handle the fruit respectfully, like Rob Hall from Kellybrook in the Yarra Valley. This has all the allure of the variety with its distinctive aromatics of roses, ginger spice, geranium, musk and pear. It’s perfect with stinky, washed rind cheeses. From kellybrookwinery南京夜网.au

UNDER $50

Yalumba The Virgilius Eden Valley Viognier 2010 $43The Virgilius is Australia’s most sophisticated and finest viognier. Yalumba with chief winemaker Louisa Rose at the helm is at the forefront of the variety, championing its beauty, flavour and gorgeous texture. The 2010 is the best to date with its delicate bouquet, a heady mix of creamed honey, butter biscuits, almonds, apricot kernel and white blossom. It’s super complex, rich and full-bodied with a velvety palate and superbly balanced. Pork rillettes or pad thai are neat combos. From Nick’s Wine Merchant.

SPLURGE

Vigneti Massa Derthona Timorasso 2010 $60Every now and then I taste a wine that stops me in my tracks. Today it’s timorasso, a rare ancient variety from Alessandria in Piedmont, north-west Italy. The wine is glorious. It has a distinctly acacia blossom note with a fragrant burst of dried herbs. It’s fuller bodied with a creamy, leesy richness, plus a silky, moreish palate and its fine acidity and minerally texture lift it to a long, elegant finish. Savour on its own, at first, then think about matching it with pan-fried snapper. From Enoteca Sileno.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.


JOANNE McCARTHY: It’s a woman’s world

THIS is what it feels like…
Nanjing Night Net

The new Prime Minister faced the media, her Cabinet members smiling in rows behind her. Their smart business suits presented a reassuring backdrop. The pearls, the polished heels, the glint of diamonds on earlobes sent a message – we’re women and we’re born to rule.

The PM beamed. After three years of turmoil under a, frankly, disastrous experiment with the country’s first male PM, things were back on track – a woman at the helm, flanked by women.

The PM addressed the media like a headmistress calling her charges into line. Journalists tried to ruffle the calm.

‘‘Prime Minister, how can you say your government speaks for all Australians and you’ve overcome your ‘man problem’, when 18 of your 19 ministers are women?’’ asked a TV journalist whose question was met with a ripple of laughter from the ministers’ ranks.

‘‘Now, now, Jason,’’ said the PM.

‘‘You know I love men. My father is a man. My husband is a man. My sons are stunning examples of manhood, or they will be when they find the right girls, get married, leave home and procreate. So really, Jason, aren’t you being a bit of a hairy-armpitted men’s libber about this?

‘‘It’s not the quantity of men in my Cabinet that matters, but the quality, which is why Cecil Priestley is Minister for Home Affairs. He’s perfectly capable of giving us a man’s point of view, if we ask for it. Plus you’re forgetting that I, personally, am going to be spokeswoman for men.’’

‘‘But you’re a woman,’’ said Jason.

‘‘All the more reason why I should be men’s spokeswoman,’’ said the PM. ‘‘I can be objective about it whereas a spokesman for men would get all emotional.’’

The PM caught a female journalist’s eye, but Jason had another question.

‘‘How did you select your Cabinet?’’

The Cabinet members giggled.

‘‘Nothing like a cranky men’s libber to put some pep in your day,’’ whispered the Attorney-General to the Minister for Ports, Roads and Odds and Sods.

‘‘Well, Jason, if you’re suggesting sex has anything to do with it, you’re wrong. Ministers are selected on merit, so it’s of course a disappointment that the boys just don’t stack up, but they’re close.

‘‘Heavens, a couple of them serve us afternoon tea, so they’re in the Cabinet room, at least until they clear the cups away. And we all say the newly-elected Member for Bulldust, Bob Farmer, will graduate from scones to a junior ministry some day. It’s just that there’s a few gals ahead of him with more experience.’’

The PM turned to the female journalist again, but Jason wasn’t finished.

‘‘I thought you said it was on merit?’’ he yelled.

‘‘Well, yes, merit, but you can’t just walk in as a new member of parliament and take a seat in Cabinet,’’ the PM said.

‘‘What about Beryl Smith-Brown, straight into Finance? Hasn’t she done that?’’ yelled Jason.

The PM’s eyebrows knitted ever so slightly.

‘‘Now, Jason, you seem to have a personal agenda here. Like I said the other day to our candidate in Woop Woop, ‘You’re going places little fella, because you’ve got sex appeal’. He won’t ever make it into Cabinet, of course, but a little eye candy in parliament can’t be all bad.

‘‘So, um, men are wonderful and I’m sure some day they’ll have what it takes to lead, but who wants to get caught up in that hairy old chestnut when it’s such a lovely day?’’

A week later the PM hosted the Australian Religious Leaders Conference. Up for discussion: the thorny issue of allowing men into the priesthood.

At a media briefing, religious leaders explained why, after prayer meetings and brainstorming sessions, theatre sports and earnest debate, the conference concluded that the status quo would remain – only women should head churches.

‘‘Why?’’ asked Brandon the journalist, and a silence fell.

‘‘It says so in the Good Book,’’ said Bishop Janet Straightback.

‘‘The Good Book also says we should stone fortune tellers to death, keep slaves and slaughter sons for their fathers’ guilt,’’ said Brandon.

The church leaders rose and shuffled off the stage, their high heels clacking on the timber floor.

A week later the PM’s six brothers were interviewed at the Australian Business Leaders annual conference, where organisers dealt with the shortage of male business leaders by dispersing them evenly across the room – one male for every nine females at each table.

The PM’s brothers were asked about their childhood and their famous sister.

‘‘She was a great sister, a wonderful role model,’’ said the PM’s brother Frank.

‘‘Mum and Dad always said she was destined to become Pope or Prime Minister. It used to bother me when we were young, why they never said that kind of thing to us boys, only to the girl of the family, but they were right, of course. She was born to lead.’’


Emmys preview: Will it be Breaking Bad or House of Cards?

Kevin Spacey, Breaking BadNext Monday will be the 65th annual prime time Emmy Awards. Catch our live blog from 10am of all the action during American television’s night of nights.
Nanjing Night Net

Comedies, miniseries, reality TV shows. They all come to the Emmy Awards looking for glory, but ultimately there is only one category which matters. One category where the industry’s best compete for top honours on the night: drama.

THE NOMINEES:

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series

Hugh Bonneville, Downton Abbey (PBS)

Bryan Cranston, Breaking Bad (AMC)

Jeff Daniels, The Newsroom (HBO)

Jon Hamm, Mad Men (AMC)

Damian Lewis, Homeland (Showtime)

Kevin Spacey, House of Cards (Netflix)

One of the tightest competitions on Emmy night, this is the award which in recent years has landed mostly in the hands of Damian Lewis from Homeland. And rightly so, Lewis is an outstanding actor and his work has been par excellence.

But this is a game-changing year. It is the final year of Breaking Bad, so naturally, all eyes fall to that show and its star, Bryan Cranston.In a scant few years, Cranston has transformed himself from a TV sitcom dad into Hollywood’s greatest TV actor with a luminous performance.

So just when you think it’s a done and dusted deal for Breaking Bad to take out line honours in the best actor category, along comes Netflix’s House of Cards and a stunning performance from Kevin Spacey.

Ultimately, Bryan Cranston deserves to win this. His performance has been slowly constructed over five years, culminating in one of the most extraordinary performances in television drama. But this looks certain to be the year of the big Netflix upset, so most people in the room will be expecting Spacey to win.

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series

Connie Britton, Nashville (ABC)

Claire Danes, Homeland (Showtime)

Michelle Dockery, Downton Abbey (PBS)

Vera Farmiga, Bates Motel (A&E)

Elisabeth Moss, Mad Men (AMC)

Kerry Washington, Scandal (ABC)

Robin Wright, House of Cards (Netflix)

This is a slightly more open field. There is no doubt Robin Wright’s turn in House of Cards was extraordinary, but House of Cards was ultimately Spacey’s platform and the competition here is much stronger.

Elisabeth Moss in Mad Men, Kerry Washington in Scandal and Claire Danes in Homeland have all delivered towering work. Connie Britton in Nashville could be a contender here too. She’s not long out of the Emmy darling American Horror Story, which adds a little sparkle to her name on the list.

Vera Farmiga is the dark horse. While Bates Motel, a sort of Psycho prequel, has been left sitting on the sidelines to some extent as the US media lavishes its affection on bigger, noisier shows like Breaking Bad and House of Cards, it does deserve some notice. It’s a great show and Farmiga delivers a brilliant performance.

This looks to be a three horse race: Wright, Danes or, possibly, Farmiga.

Outstanding Drama Series

Breaking Bad (AMC)

Downton Abbey (PBS)

Game of Thrones (HBO)

Homeland (Showtime)

House of Cards (Netflix)

Mad Men (AMC)

The big award of the night. The one everyone will be waiting for. And what a terrible dilemma for Emmy voters. Do you reward Breaking Bad, in its final year, for five years of outstanding achievement? Or do you give it to House of Cards, in its first, for re-writing the rulebook on drama commissioning?

This is supposed to be the year of the big Netflix upset and truth be told, if they can’t deliver on this category, then we may have to re-think that. With an outstanding drama statue to its name, Netflix has well and truly changed the game. Without one, it will be left for the pundits to debate for years to come.

If we look for the most deserving, the answer is Breaking Bad. Its final season has been stupendously brilliant, with episode after episode stretching the nervous tension further and further towards the snap we all know is coming in its thrilling conclusion.

If we look for the most likely, we must consider House of Cards, the made-for-Netflix drama which seems to have ruffled feathers at every level of the TV business and has become a favourite topic of discussion for journalists and commentators around the world.

But Netflix’s footprint is, in relative terms, not as big as the noise is makes in media coverage. And the conclusion to Breaking Bad is, in no uncertain terms, the biggest TV event of the year. If you were a betting man you’d probably have a bob each way.

Miniseries and telemovies:

Once the bastard child of the drama category, flush with turgid mini-soaps, these miniseries and telemovie categories have become a new battleground for extraordinary dramatic work. American Horror Story is the clear standout on that front.

They also boast some of the most amazing talent in contention on Emmy night, including Jessica Lange, Helen Mirren, Al Pacina and Michael Douglas.

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or Movie:

Benedict Cumberbatch, Parade’s End (HBO)

Matt Damon, Behind the Candelabra (HBO)

Michael Douglas, Behind the Candelabra (HBO)

Toby Jones, The Girl (HBO)

Al Pacino, Phil Spector (HBO)

At first glance, the nominees for outstanding lead actor could read like it’s Oscar night: Matt Damon, Michael Douglas and Al Pacino chief among them.

No disrespect to television, or indeed to Benedict Cumberbatch and Toby Jones, who both did extraordinary work, but the winner is going to be one of those first three.

Most likely? Michael Douglas.

While there’s a lot of true-life work in the category – Pacino played Phil Spector, Jones played Alfred Hitchcock – the real jewel here is Douglas’s turn as Liberace in the HBO telemovie Behind The Candelabra. No question that’s going to make a clean sweep of the Emmys.

Damon could be a surprise here. Like Douglas, he brought great humanity and dignity to Behind The Candelabra. Prior to its broadcast there was some uncertainty about its tone. Afterwards, there was no doubt it was genuinely brilliant.

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or Movie

Jessica Lange, American Horror Story: Asylum (FX)

Laura Linney, The Big C: Hereafter (Showtime)

Helen Mirren, Phil Spector (HBO)

Elisabeth Moss, Top of the Lake (Sundance Channel)

Sigourney Weaver, Political Animals (USA Network)

This is Jessica Lange’s category. Her work on American Horror Story is luminous. Alchemy of that kind is difficult to create, particularly with the production pace and budgetary pressures of television.

But Ryan Murphy is somehow greater when he’s writing for Lange, and Lange is somehow more brilliant when she’s speaking Murphy’s words. Individually each is excellent. Together they are breathtaking.

Helen Mirren is an outside chance here, as an old favourite of the miniseries and telemovie category. And Sigourney Weaver, whose work in Political Animals is excellent. The problem here is a lack of oxygen during the critical voting window for Emmy voters.

And like the actor category, the actress category is loaded with prime film talent: Lange, Mirren, Weaver. Add Meryl Streep and you’d have four women all worthy of an Oscar.

Outstanding Miniseries or Movie

American Horror Story: Asylum (FX)

Behind the Candelabra (HBO)

The Bible (History)

Phil Spector (HBO)

Political Animals (USA Network)

Top of the Lake (Sundance Channel)

For obvious reason, Australia will be backing Top of the Lake. It screened in the US on Sundance, but its genesis is very much Australian, and no doubt its commissioning executives at UKTV will be cheering from the sidelines.

In the end, of course, it’s down to American Horror Story or Behind The Candelabra. American Horror Story comes into the fight as the incumbent, and perhaps as the most genuinely startling of all of the projects.

But Behind The Candelabra is a safe bet for a clean sweep of the awards. It was screened smack bang in the middle of the Emmy voting window and there is still enormous affection for it in the media.

* The 65th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards will be broadcast on Monday, September 23, on FOX8 from 9am.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.


Trunk calls

Treasure hunt: face-to-face with an elephant near Sigiriya. Photo: Veronique MandrayJane Reddy and family return to Sri Lanka in search of elephants and adventure.
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It’s a cool jungle dawn, silent save for the old girl next to me, 5000-odd kilograms and a heavy breather. Wrinkled, grey and one of an estimated 600 elephants counted in the recent census in Sri Lanka’s Ude Walawe National Park and soaked from an overnight dumping of rain, her sound, like air passing through a hose, is noisy and rhythmic.

It’s in time with the thwacking of her leathery ears flapping back and forth, so close I could reach over and touch one from our open jeep, wheels jacked high.

For the first time in an age our two offspring, seven and four, are speechless, goggle-eyed behind their binoculars staring at the pachyderm.

It’s a long way to travel – about 8000 kilometres – to see children more au fait with Disney’s Dumbo enthralled by nature. Theme parks are yet to make the “I want” list, while poolside cabanas and kids’ clubs have a certain appeal but we’re keen for more than glimpses of local life through a bus window from airport to resort.

It’s also a long-awaited return to the tear-drop island. Our visit with World Expeditions in 2005 with a 15-month-old was a blissful introduction to the country Lonely Planet nominated as the No. 1 destination for 2013.

With the toddler in a backpack, we climbed the 200-metre rock fortress of Sigiriya, with its ancient frescoes of bare-breasted damsels, and on bumpy roads as we drove from coconut palm-fringed beaches to the tea plantations he was lulled easily.

But it was a country in recovery, hit by the Boxing Day tsunami the previous year that killed about 35,000 people damaging more than three-quarters of the island’s coastline in the east and extreme south-west, on top of an ongoing civil war with sporadic ceasefire.

An official end to the war in 2009 and we are back, two parents and now two children, with air-conditioned van and a kind and slow driver.

We’re searching for elephants and pint-sized discovery on a holiday in a country the size of Tasmania with manageable driving distances and adventure aplenty for our young charges.

We set the pace with impromptu pit-stops at turtle sanctuaries, beaches to watch fishermen in lungis pull their catch from the sea and to talk to kids in smart white school uniforms (“Mama, they have to go to school six days a week!”). One big day of fire-breathing cultural dancers in Kandy and a chance to chew local gum is clocked as the best day ever.

Back in the jungle the quiet does not last, of course, as our male guide with talons to envy taps the metal safety bar surrounding the cruiser in a signal to the driver.

A shrill “ting ting” of a nail and we are off, bouncing in our seats through the park flanked by craggy mountains, passing water buffalo submerged in shallow lakes. We brake for an elephant calf crossing the track, pause for a riotous peacock courtship dance designed for another and stop, bogged in a creek and sinking fast.

Minutes later our rescuers – cheery Irishmen with a jeep and a frayed rope – arrive. Wheels squeal, mud splatters and we are back on track spotting painted stork, mongoose, a green bee-eater and the changeable hawk-eagle in prime twitcher territory.

As we roar up the dirt driveway to Kalu’s Hideaway my boy declares the morning an adventure that’s been “true life”. There’s no sign of the cricketer turned hotelier Romesh Kaluwitharana, aka Little Kalu, but his 1996 Player of the Match award for the Australia versus Sri Lanka Benson and Hedges World Series shines in the glass cabinet alongside other cricketing memorabilia in the modern and rustic hotel.

Elephants have long been venerated in the country, with an estimated 6000 in the wild as well as those used for ceremonies at Buddhist temples, according to veterinarian and wildlife conservationist Dr Deepani Jayantha. While the most recognisable, the elephant-headed Hindu god Ganesha, is ancient, the pachyderm today still represents strength, pride and prosperity.

But reverence and fear keep uneasy company with banana and coconut plantations, an attraction for the species whose habitat is threatened as pressure on developing land increases. While an official census has not been conducted Jayantha estimates there are a further 500 in the north where the civil conflict has been.

At the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage where the siren has rung, the elephant crossing lights are flashing and 47 are lumbering to the river, their mahouts whistling and clicking their tongues. One trainer cups water over his charge, then scrubs her hard with steel wool. She responds with a trumpet of satisfaction and our girl squeezes her arms tight around my leg.

How toilet paper can be made from elephant dung dominates conversation on the drive to Kandy and the Temple of the Tooth. Any excuse to say “poo”.

Here at the temple where a sacred fang of the Buddha is said to be housed, we sidestep devotees presenting pujas or offerings and the truth behind confected Western stories that we’ve filled our offsprings’ heads with.

Under golden plaster elephant heads, trunks bending upwards as if to support the roof, tusks smooth and sharp, the girl eyes me suspiciously.

“Mama, why didn’t the tooth fairy take the special tooth? Have you been tricking me?”

Untethered from the usual Western routines, we drive in the mornings to escape the heat of the day and stop roadside for coconut juice and bananas, sometimes passing soldiers officiously waving us along.

“The war is over, they need something to do,” says our driver.

It’s about 80 kilometres from Kandy into misty tea hill country and Nuwara Eliya but an ascent of nearly 1400 metres with endless switchbacks towards the end.

On the descent a few days later we swap wheels for rails, jumping into a wooden carriage for a scream-worthy ride through pitch-black tunnels to the town of Ella.

Here, our waiting driver lifts the little ones from the carriage and we continue on to the plains, passing rubber plantations and jungle.

Our third pachyderm sighting is from behind a high fence at the Elephant Transit Home, where elephants are rehabilitated before being released back into the wild. Under a stern sign that declares “the jungle is silent, you be silent too”, a chaotic baby elephant walk plays out as the group comes on cue at midday from the outlying fields for lunch.

As keepers pour jugs of milk into funnels attached to tubes, calves butt heads and grunt in their quest to be first in line.

Garishly painted wooden elephants are the closest we get to the pachyderm in the coastal town Galle where, post-tsunami, streets in the fortified town were subdued and the bus station near the cricket ground a picture of decimation. Now the streets on the UNESCO world heritage site are paved, hotels have opened and once-musty antique stores now sell lattes and lemon tart.

Unchanged are the hawkers. This time, a pretty lace dress is pushed through a restaurant’s shutters for the girl. “A matching one for mummy perhaps?”

Like last time, I call at Safa Ibrahima’s tiny jewellery store on Church Street to admire his works of silver and gold inlaid with citrine, amethyst and other semi-precious stones. He is upbeat about the end of the war and the return of the tourist.

But as trays of jewellery are pulled from the display cabinet it’s down to matters more pressing: the price of the Ceylon sapphire ring on my finger and Australia’s performance in the cricket last night.

The writer stayed with the assistance of Mr and Mrs Smith.

ADVENTURE ISLAND: FAMILY FRIENDLY STAYS

WALLAWWA, COLOMBO

About 15 minutes from the international airport, this restored colonial manor, flanked by manicured gardens laced with pink cannon-ball flowers and frangipani, is the place to recover from a long flight. We watch lightning from the sprawling verandah restaurant and the young ones declare the spaghetti bolognese the best they’ve tasted. The Mountbatten suite has a private plunge pool. Double rooms cost from $US234 ($251) a night and include breakfast. Family suites have two interconnecting rooms (a king and twin). Window seats in the garden suites can sleep children up to 12 for $US30 a night.

PARADISE ROAD TINTAGEL, COLOMBO

Designer Shanth Fernando’s chic hotel of 10 suites, a library of 500 leather-bound books and a lap pool within an internal courtyard has political pedigree. It was once home to Prime Minister W. R. D. Bandaranaike, who was assassinated on the verandah in 1959. His widow, Sirimavo Bandaranaike, became the world’s first female prime minister. The hotel is in the smart embassy district and five minutes from Fernando’s store, Paradise Road Boutique, which stocks fine cotton, leather and silverware. Staff will happily take you there in a tuk-tuk. Double rooms cost from $US218 a night, including breakfast. No charge for cots; over fives stay for $US31 a child a night.

THE LAST HOUSE, TANGALLE

On the south coast’s Seenimodera beach, foreign weddings have been held here, with Ananda Ranasinghe overseeing a relaxed efficiency at the final private residence designed by Geoffrey Bawa before his death in 2003. We have the run of the Cinnamon Hill suite on the first floor with an antique jackwood bed, claw-foot bath, wraparound balcony and brass-bolt concertina doors. Walk with staff to choose dinner straight from fishermen’s nets and watch the same boats, masts illuminated, out at sea in the inky night. While fresh lobster and prawns are always on the menu, the kitchen also caters to younger tastes, perfect fries included. Double rooms cost from $US175 a night and include full English or Sri Lankan breakfast. Full board costs $US45 a person a day; half board $US30. Baby cots are free and extra beds for older children cost $US65 a child, including breakfast.

AMANWELLA, TANGALLE

The stunning Aman property of 30 suites on a 15-hectare coconut grove, each with plunge pool, king bed and terrace with double sun lounger, overlooks a crescent-shaped beach. Wide terrazzo paths lead to a substantial reference library, sunken bar and restaurant and infinity pool. At the secluded beach club, lifeguards shadow guests in the dumpers, while others will happily join in a game of beach cricket. Double rooms cost from $US575 a night; extra beds no charge for children under 12. Complimentary babysitting.

See mrandmrssmith南京夜网.au.

FIVE OTHER FAMILY ADVENTURES

LAOS

With light traffic and a slow pace, the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Luang Prabang is an ideal base for families. Children can roam free on the lawns at the front of the palace museum, see tigers and black bears at the open-air zoo near the Kuang Xi waterfalls, or take a ride in a longboat along the Mekong to Pak Ou Caves.

ANNAPURNA, NEPAL

A low-altitude trek in the Annapurna foothills especially for families includes time in the traditional Hindu villages where children travellers can visit local schools and markets. It’s followed by a trip to Chitwan National Park to ride atop elephants. See worldexpeditions南京夜网.au

VIETNAM

See water puppets and ride a cyclo through Hanoi and sail Halong Bay. For the adults there’s a chance to get something tailor-made in Hoi An. See intrepidtravel南京夜网.

BORNEO

Young wildlife lovers can spot proboscis monkeys, macaques and the orangutan in Sarawak and Sabah. Includes a night in an indigenous Iban longhouse and a trip to the Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre. See worldexpeditions南京夜网.au.

ULURU

For a cultural experience, no passports required, head to Ayers Rock Resort. Family activities include a sunrise camel ride, 9.4 kilometre trek around Uluru, and spear throwing lessons. See ayersrockresort南京夜网.au.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.


Everyone asks: Why is Changi the world’s best?

The latest Skytrax poll, sourced from more than 12 million travellers, restores Changi to the number one position, a spot it last occupied in 2010. In 2012, for the 16th year, Changi won the Golden Pillow award for top airport from the Sleeping in Airports website.
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No other airport has been named world’s best airport so consistently and by so many different sources, and it’s worth considering the reasons.

Changi handled more than 51 million air travellers in 2012 yet it feels spacious, unhurried and calm.

Its green spaces include an outside cactus garden with seating, a sunflower garden and an enclosed butterfly garden. All the terminals offer free wifi and computers with internet access. Charging stations, also free, allow you to lock up your phone while it charges.

There’s also a free movie theatre and a huge indoor slide where restless kids can burn some energy. Each of its three terminals has free rest areas, with leather chairs with head and leg rests that allow you to stretch out full length.

Each terminal also has its own transit hotel, with low-cost rooms available in six-hour blocks. Cleanliness is top notch. Travellers are asked to rank the toilets on an electronic scoreboard as they exit.

If a particular facility drops below par, a flying cleaner team is dispatched. Terminal 1 also has a rooftop pool with a Jacuzzi and bar. Although Changi is a big airport, the speedy Skytrain offers quick transfers.

The factors that put Changi on top stem from a recognition that passengers deserve to be treated like human beings, not an infernal nuisance to be fed and bled of cash as quickly as possible. When airport preference becomes a factor that influences passengers’ choice of airlines, the airlines as well as airports need to take notice.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.


Still time to take stocks

South Island snowfields are a winter wonderland. Photo: Bronwen GoraNew Zealand’s ski season winds up as late as mid-October, so a last-minute trip for some mountain magic is definitely not out of the question, writes Bronwen Gora in this special guide.
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To squeeze the best out of a week in this winter wonderland where you get to ski and see as much of the South Island snowfields as possible, a guided tour is a sensible, time-efficient way to go. The Whiteroom Tours’ week-long ski odyssey covers all four major ski resorts around Queenstown and Wanaka by four-wheel-drive and even a helicopter ride or two.

DAY 1: THE REMARKABLES

The day: Our introduction to New Zealand’s infamous ski resort access roads is the 40-minute journey on the gravel path leading to The Remarkables. But we only have to concentrate on the beautiful valley views. Our ski guides, Adam Streete and Stevie Bickerstaff, expertly pilot our group of 10 up the road in two hired four-wheel-drives before guiding us to the resort’s best runs as the snow buckets down. A blizzard has hit just in time to top up the slopes for our week-long trip. Hurrah!

Skiing The Burton Stash terrain park plus two other terrain parks are the big drawcards. World-famous snowboard company Burton built the specialised Stash park complete with man-made cliff drops, a stone hut to jump over, rockwall rides, and log “jibs” (jumps).

Food Simple but satisfying. Two hot meal choices – hefty serves of either Madras chicken curry or chickpea vege curry with rice – plus delicious spiced carrot soup, sandwiches, burgers and sushi.

Best for Families after gentle terrain in a spectacular setting as well as terrain park lovers.

Overnight We stay at the friendly Hotel Novotel Queenstown Lakeside on the shores of the glorious Lake Wakatipu and within walking distance of every distraction this holiday mecca offers.

More informationnzski南京夜网

DAY 2: HARRIS MOUNTAINS HELI-SKI

The day: We have officially struck The Best Day of the Season: sunny blue skies and fresh powder everywhere, thanks to a storm. At 8am we leave for the one-hour drive from Queenstown over the snow-kissed Crown Range to Wanaka where Harris Mountains Heli-Ski – New Zealand’s largest heli-skiing operator – has a fleet of helicopters and mountain guides waiting to fly us into the mountains. It’s a dream come true.

Skiing We lay down fresh tracks all day – and not everyone in our group is a strong skier or boarder. The biggest misconception about heli-skiing is that it’s only for experts. Many clients are intermediates and in our group most are heli-skiing for the first time. One, who hasn’t skied for 10 years, finds it easy and has a ball.

Food A mountain picnic of sandwiches, vege soup, wraps and super sweet treats.

Best for Anyone who can ski and board down a regular slope.

Overnight We check into Wanaka’s Grand Mercure Oakridge Resort, which has hot tubs and pools to soak in.

More informationheliski.co.nz

DAY 3: SOUTHERN LAKES HELI SKI

The day: We ski with HMH’s rival Southern Lakes Heli Ski. We fly from Wanaka’s airstrip almost 15 minutes across Lake Wanaka into the jaw-dropping peaks of The Minarets.

Skiing We have the experience of a lifetime, landing on knife-edge ridges, skiing the most perfect runs and feeling like we’re in heaven – and, in fact, we are. Heli skiing is the pinnacle of the sport and it rarely gets better than this.

Food This mountain picnic lunch beats HMH – just. As well as gourmet sandwiches and soup, today’s high alpine feast, which was delivered by helicopter, includes hot quiche, sliced tropical fruit, percolated coffee and a delicious chocolate walnut cake.

Overnight Grand Mercure Oakridge Resort, Lake Wanaka.

More informationheliskinz南京夜网

DAY 4: TREBLE CONE

The day: Some of us feel like a rest but we simply can’t resist Treble Cone, the South Island’s biggest ski resort. A 35-minute drive from Wanaka up a steep, winding road, TC’s highlights are beautiful views across Lake Wanaka and the alps, as well as the resort’s natural half pipes and exciting terrain. We strike it on a sunny Saturday and at lunch bask on the cafe deck listening to the live guitarist. Bliss.

Skiing Want a challenge? Head for the Motatapu Chutes, arguably the steepest inbounds terrain in Australasia.

Food A cut above the rest, with treats including fresh New Zealand salmon and roast pork.

Best for Intermediate to advanced. Timid skiers and boarders are better off elsewhere.

Overnight Grand Mercure Oakridge Resort, Lake Wanaka.

More information treblecone南京夜网

DAY 5: CARDRONA

The day: It only takes 30 minutes to reach Cardrona up the wide access road. We love zooming all over Cardrona’s excellent intermediate terrain. Adam and Stevie lead us down the best lines in the steeper Arcadia Chutes. Cardrona’s views stretch to Wanaka in the north, as well as Queenstown and Lake Wakatipu.

Skiing Best terrain park system in the southern hemisphere, including an Olympic-sized half pipe. A highlight is watching the experts spin and jump in the parks below McDougall’s Quad chairlift.

Food Five eateries from fine dining to an Asian noodle bar. We chow down on pizza, excellent soup and homemade pies on the sunny deck of Captain’s Restaurant.

Overnight Cardrona is the South Island’s only ski resort to offer on-mountain accommodation in the form of apartments. Most visitors stay in lakeside of Wanaka.

Best for Families, due to excellent kids’ ski school; intermediates and terrain park junkies.

More informationcardrona南京夜网

DAY 6: CORONET PEAK

The day: We returned to Queenstown’s Novotel after our day at Cardrona, an easy 45-minute drive, so the next day it takes only about 30 minutes to breeze up Coronet Peak along the bitumen access road. The team loves the rolling slopes, especially the roller coaster-like runs off the Greengates Express six-seater chairlift. However, as Queenstown is New Zealand’s adventure capital, some of the group skip skiing on the last day to go sky-diving, paragliding or zooming around in hired Lamborghinis and Porsches. Activity choices abound, from whitewater rafting to winery tours to mountain biking.

Skiing Hit the on-slope ice bars carved from snow near Heidi’s Hut on one side of the resort and at the top of the Greengates Express on the other.

Food Coronet Peak serves up hearty nosh (roast chicken, pork belly) in a huge modern base lodge overlooking the slopes and valley. Excellent coffee too thanks to CP’s own Altitude 1649 roasted beans. That night we celebrate with a farewell dinner at Queenstown’s fine diner Botswana Butchery.

Staying Hotel Novotel Queenstown Lakeside.

Best for Blue run (intermediate) fanatics. It’s also a family favourite, thanks to its benign road access, large comfy day lodge and free Wi-Fi. CP is Queenstown’s closest resort, too, so it’s possible to schedule a half-day ski and afterwards go shopping.

More informationnzski南京夜网.

The writer was a guest of Whiteroom Tours and travelled courtesy of Air New Zealand.

ABOUT THE WRITER

Bronwen Gora is a travel writer and fanatical skier who has dedicated almost every trip in the past 20 years to exploring the world’s ski resorts, visiting well over 100 in the process.

TRIP NOTES

GETTING THERE

There are daily direct flights from Sydney and Brisbane to Queenstown, and five a week from Melbourne. See airnewzealand南京夜网.au

STAYING THERE

Hotel Novotel Queenstown Lakeside, see novotel南京夜网; Grand Mercure Oakridge Resort, Lake Wanaka, oakridge.co.nz.

SKIING THERE

Whiteroom Tours guided New Zealand eight-night trip costs $3890 twin share including all lift passes, accommodation with breakfast, two days heli-skiing (four run days) and four-wheel-drive transfers. To find out how to join Whiteroom Tours and Adam Streete from Shinsetsu Mountain Guides next season, go to their website whiteroomtours南京夜网 or phone 03 90056763

MORE INFORMATION

nzski南京夜网; heliski.co.nz; heliskinz南京夜网; cardrona南京夜网; treblecone南京夜网.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.


Come hell or high water: the teenager who has never missed school

Teenager Nicholas Short considered himself “lucky” when the doctor told him he had shingles on a Friday afternoon.
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At least the worst of his illness would be cleared up, he figured, in time for him to be back in the classroom first thing on Monday morning.

Yes, you read that right, and no, Nicholas is not your average high school student.

Incredibly, he has never missed a day of school since he toddled off to kindergarten at Ulmarra Public School, just north of Grafton, 13 years ago.

That’s about 2600 days of school, without faking a cough or taking a genuine day off for illness.

The now 17-year-old graduated from South Grafton High School on Friday morning with a blemish-free attendance record, earning a pat on the back from principal Robert Perl at the graduation assembly.

Nicholas is one of a rare breed who listens to what his mother says, it seems.

In kindergarten, she told him: “If you’re too sick to go to school, you’re too sick to do anything.”

“I’ve been tempted plenty of times [to have a sick day],” Nicholas said. “But I always remembered what mum said.

“In kindergarten, we noticed that I happened to have 100 per cent attendance and we thought ‘we’ll try it again next year’, and then it happened, and it happened again.”

There have been challenges, of course, including this year’s floods, which inundated the Grafton area.

Nicholas got together with family and friends and brainstormed a way to get him to school, come hell or high water.

“We had to try to get through two sets of floodwaters, so we were going to go across in the tractor, and then go across in a cattle truck for the other part of the water,” Nicholas said.

“But that didn’t need to happen because they closed the school, thank god.”

Last year, when he wasn’t feeling well, the doctor told him he had shingles.

“I copped that on a Friday, and then I got better over the weekend, so that was a bit of a challenge,” he said.

He’d already had chicken pox and measles before he went to kindergarten and puts his generally good health down to “plenty of green apples”.

“I’ve never broken a bone. I am 100 per cent break free, another part of the luck,” he said.

Despite graduating on Friday, it’s not the last Nicholas hopes to see of the inside of a classroom.

After completing his HSC, Nicholas plans to head to university, where he will study to become a high school history teacher.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.