Croquet Pro #03

Getting around Jacksonville

After a few weeks on the road and generally I am ok with ‘keeping to the right’. Having spent 20 years driving in Adelaide has definitely helped, drivers there are always going slow in the left lane! For my time here I have a vehicle, a Ford pickup, which I call “Penny”.

Jim with “Penny”

For those of you familiar with The Big Bang Theory the following photo explains everything.

I know how you fell Penny…

I have since been to a shop and found out the best way to fix the issue…

Most cost effective…

Drive through everything…

Ok back in Australia we have drive through bottle shops, Maccas ( and various other fast food outlets), however the most obvious drive through service they have here is banking! Yes there are ATMs, however why should you need them when you can go and talk to a bank teller at the drive up window?

Drive thru banking

After the banking is finished, don’t forget to return the kid’s library books at the drive through library.

And for the local council workers, they have Segway to keep them mobile when cleaning up rubbish or writing parking tickets.

Best way to get around Jacksonville

 

Croquet Pro #02

Getting to know Jacksonville

The first 10 days has been all about getting to know my way around Jacksonville and gaining an understanding of how things tick. During this time I was staying at John’s place in Ponte Vedra. Topics of discussions were wide and varied, from (gulp) politics, the history of Jacksonville, differences in American and Australian cultures, and of course croquet.

The weather has been unseasonably warm. The usual winter maximum temperature is approximately 15C, however it has been a balmy 22 – 25C since my arrival. There have been a couple of mornings where the overnight temperature got to 0C, so I have now officially experienced a Florida winter!

 

Estates – among the golf courses

A number of the suburbs and retirement estates are built around the edges of golf course. Unlike Australia there are no fences on the perimeter of the course, simply natural barriers such as water courses tree lines and roads to provide some distance between the houses and wayward tee shots. The water hazards also attract a range of birds and wildlife.

Ponte Vedra Inn Golf Course

One can watch people play the 9th from their living room

Hazards in & around the course!

Welcoming BBQ – Southern Style

On Sunday, self-proclaimed Southern Gal, Candy O’Gara hosted a dinner for members to officially welcome me to the Ponte Vedra Croquet Club.

Jim Nicholls & Candy O’Gara

Menu was an authentic “Carolina BBQ”. This involves preparing the “slaw”, salads and dessert locally, and having the main dish flown in from North Carolina (300 miles away).

Southern BBQ Menu

Enjoying the Southern BBQ

Croquet Pro #01

Wagga Wagga to Jacksonville Florida

With daytime temperatures around 38C (100F) I took the opportunity to have an early morning walk around Wagga and simply appreciate where I live. The laugh of a kookaburra, the ripple of the Murrumbidgee, the empty main streets will certainly be missed over the next 4 months.

It was fitting long-time friends Carmel & Andrew Woods took me to the airport, as they were responsible for introducing to croquet when I moved to Wagga in 2000.

By and large the travel through to Jacksonville was uneventful, although a delay out of Sydney due to 2 passengers having anxiety attacks (fear of flying) and a 45 minutes search for their luggage  resulted in the transfer at Dallas through customs, security and sky train was a little stressful.

On the flight from Dallas to Jacksonville next to me was an expat Australian (Penelope) who lives in Ponte Vedra and had receive a recent flyer from the Ponte Vedra Croquet Club. So even before my feet were on the ground in Jacksonville my PR skills were called upon.

John Curington, the driving force behind the Ponte Vedra Croquet Club, met me at airport. We went to Taverna in San Marco for a very enjoyable US steak.

First IMPRESSIONS OF JACKSONVILLE

The strange part of the Jacksonville central business district is that it is primarily business. There are no retail malls! There are some cafes and small retail shops, however the main retail shopping district is 5 miles away heading out towards the Jacksonville Beaches area.

Jacksonville is situated 15 miles in land from the Atlantic ocean on the St John’s river. The river is very impressive with the widest point being approximately 2 miles. San Marco is located immediately across the river from the central business district and has numerous restaurants and night clubs.

Travelling east one travels across marshlands area to the Jacksonville beaches. The Ponte Vedra (pronounced pont-a-vee-dra) beach area was originally mined for titanium. Similar to Australia the beaches has transformed from being holiday shacks to very sort after real estate.

The retirement villages (I use the term village tongue in cheek) are amazing. No shortage of dollars here. The more modest estates are similar to Australia. The exclusive estates are simply astonishing.

 

New Year’s Eve

Went to a local entertainment venue – Pussers and enjoyed grilled swordfish while watching a one sided game of (American) football before checking out the Island Girl Cigar Bar to bring in the New Year. The smoking laws in (some parts of Florida) allow for indoors smoking. With the cigar bar there was an entire room of cigars to choose from – I found a specially made cigar to enjoy with your favourite porter or stout!

Throughout the evening spoke to a number of people, all of whom “loved the accent”, in particular Mark who had me say his name numerous times.

It was rather nostalgic feeling being in the same time zone as New York and experiencing the countdown to the new year and the famous Times Square ball drop.

2016 Festivus

Wagga Wagga Airing of Grievances

This year’s Airing of Grievances tries to cut through the red tape and asks brewers to provide greater transparency when promoting their craft beer.

24 Hour Croquet Fundraiser for Junior Diabetes

24 Hour Croquet

It’s on again – 24 Hour Croquet, where we literally do eat, sleep and play croquet.

24 hour croquet - girls

This year we are raising funds for Type 1 Diabetes. Our great friends, Claire & Trev Bassett have been directly impacted and have had a busy time managing T1 Diabetes with their daughter Evie.

As usual we will be having a great time, playing all sorts of variations of croquet throughout the night to keep us awake. And this time we will also have world number 1 Robert Fletcher giving us expert tips. We will also be turning the lights off when he takes lift shots so we have a chance of beating him!

Many thanks to the Shepparton Croquet Club for hosting us.

To donate please follow this link  – Claire’s Page and click on Donate to Fund Raiser.

2015 Festivus

Serious issues have been raised at the Airing of Grievances at Festivus 2015. Yet again they are then further investigated by the tireless team of professional journalists at the Daily Advertiser.

 

Wagga Festivus 2014 – Airing of Grievances

Once again Festivus hits Wagga Wagga and the Thirsty Crow.
A low key affair with many people far too apathetic to even attend.

It would seem that some people do not take the “Airing of Grievances” seriously.
Thankfully the local Wagga Daily Advertiser and their professional team of journalists further investigated this year’s grievance.
You can read their findings at the Daily Advertiser website

24 Hour Croquet for $24,000

24 Hour Croquet – WE must be mad…

Country Bumpkins 24 Hour Croquet Challenge

Country Bumpkins
24 Hour Croquet Challenge

Actually it is all for a good cause – Cerebral Palsy Alliance.

The Canberra Croquet Club is hosting the inaugural Charity Weekend on 8 and 9 February 2014 to support Cerebral Palsy Alliance ACT.

All up there will be 12 players, 4 teams of 3, battling it out to see who can stay awake and play reasonable croquet at 3am in the morning.

I was fortunate enough to pick up some of the subtleties of “night croquet” on my visit to Ireland. It was amazing how well the Irish could run hoops in the dark; not once did you hear the ball hit the side of a hoop. (as seen it photo below)

Night Croquet in Ireland

Night Croquet in Ireland

As captain of the “Country Bumpkins” I will be directing my trustworthy, honorable team members Trevor and Claire Bassett to adopt similar tactics. 😉

However, and most importantly, I am asking you to support the “Country Bumpkins” and raise some much needed funds for Cerebral Palsy Alliance.

Please click on “Country Bumpkins” for details about how you can donate.

Thank you for your generosity.

 

 

Wagga Festivus 2013

Gearing up for the Wagga Festivus

Festivus will be celebrated in Wagga Wagga this year at the Thirsty Crow

Festivus is a holiday celebrated on the 23rd December, which fortunately for us is $5 pint night, so we don’t have to spend any more money than necessary.

The Festivus dinner, usually a plain meal, will not be served as the staff at the Thirsty Crow haven’t a clue about serving up a boring meal. Therefore some alcohol may be consumed whilst seated around the Festivus pole.

Come air your grievances around the Festivus pole

Come “air your grievances” around the Festivus pole

The customary tradition of “Airing of Grievances”, where we tell each other how they have disappointed us throughout the year will be take place. Craig “the brewer” Wealands will be awarding a prize for the best “grievance”. Any prize awarded will also be the first Festivus Miracle to occur in Wagga Wagga!

A $5 donation will be collected to support a local charity.

Be at the Thirsty Crow on Monday 23rd December 2013 commencing at 6pm to celebrate Festivus “with the rest of us”.

So Festivus came and went. A small group congregated around the Festivus pole at the Thirsty Crow to mark this auspicious occasion. No donation were made to the “Human Fund” as most couldn’t be bothered, a true reflection of the host (Craig the Brewer) triple booking himself and therefore unavailable for the “Feats of Strength”.

At least there was one grievance…

 

Happy Festivus… from the rest of us.

 

2013 NSW Gateball Championships

Wagga Wagga entered a team in the 2013 NSW Gateball championships.
We had a lot of fun on the way to producing our best ever team result of 6 wins in 10 games.

The experienced Japanese teams were simply too good and were very precise with their ball positioning, as you can see in the video below.

For more information about Gateball visit the Gateball Website