Where to cut the tape

In the 1980s and 1990s, radio journalists would record interviews on reel to reel tape machines. Standard equipment on assignment was a “portable” reel to reel tape machine the size of a suitcase and carried over the shoulder, as well as a bakelite microphone in the shape of an ice cream scoop.

Back at the studio, the interview needed to be edited for broadcast. To edit the interview, you would cut the magnetic tape at the start and end of where you wanted the cut, and then use sticky tape to join the two ends of tape back together.

How do you know where to cut the tape? It is black magnetic audio tape, about the width of a finger, featureless. If you were a beginner, you could use a white pencil to mark the start and end. But after a few years, you developed a feel for where to cut.

My dad Peter was a radio journalist for the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) for more than twenty years, and the purpose of this article, really, is to a memory of him. When I was about ten years old, he was the presenter of “Australia Tonight”, which went to air each weeknight at 10pm all around Australia. Something that I loved was that, if our family was going away for the weekend, on Friday evening my mum would drop me off in the city at the ABC studios with my dad. We would have a few hours together at the studios before the program went to air. The building was almost empty at that time. My dad would edit the interviews he had prerecorded that day. He would listen to the audio, rewinding and fast-forwarding to different places (which made a wonderful squealing sound in which you could still hear the voices sped up). Then he would pull out one, two, three arm-lengths of tape, casually cut out a section of tape and join the ends together.

Logbooks of childcare

My daughter will start school next month, and this week she went to her old child care for (almost) the last time. At the end of the day she brought home two large ring binder folders.

They were logbooks of her time at childcare. Until they came home that day, I didn’t know they existed or that the childcare teachers were making them each day. The books are full of notes, photos, artwork in clear plastic pockets, stories and quotes from the children. Many of the pages I had seen in the daily email, but here it was all collected in a book. There is something from almost every day she was at childcare – over three years of memories. Looking through it now I can see:

  • Photos of the children mixing paints and finger painting
  • Stories about learning the names of fruits
  • Paintings and drawings
  • A story my daughter told the class about a time we rode our bikes along the creek to the cafe with chickens in the garden
  • A painted cardboard boomerang
  • Photos of the children making cupcakes
  • Many things covered in glitter
  • My daughter talking about a picture she made: “I am drawing roads and flowers …these are the foot prints.”

It is an extraordinary gift to have received. A gift which is full of memories and photos, which took work over several years. I am not that good with paper records, the sort of person who is not prefers to keep records as files on my computer where I can search them electronically. The discipline and diligence of the staff amazes me, in creating physical paper records for each child, adding to each book each day, moving them around as each child moves from room to room over different years, and I am grateful for it.

Preparing For Monsters

The other night I helped my daughter to make a cubby from the couch cushions to play in.

Earlier in the night she had got in trouble for putting leaves from the garden into my bed, and then again for messing up my son’s train set. She wasn’t going to get any TV for the next few days, and was grumpy about it.

But later in the evening, things improved. We made a cubby together, helping each other with the walls and a sheet for the roof. A box of Lego and her toy monkey went inside to play with. She wanted to play the game where I pretend to be a monster, growling and stomping around outside the cubby, whilst she is safe inside, which was fun.

After that was done, I went off to do some cleaning. Later she calls out, “Daddy, you need to be the monster again!”.

“Ok, a bit later,” I say.

“I want to play the monster game!”

“I’d rather be friendly. Are you having fun in the cubby?”


“Oh, what’s the long thing you are making with the Lego?”

“A gun.”

“What’s that gun for?”

“To shoot monsters,” she says.


The best of the old and new swings

At another park, upstream from our house, there are two excellent swings which the kids love to play on, one new and one very old.

The old swing has a big diamond head, with the sculpted face of a friendly clown. The whole thing spins round and round, and the chairs swing out wider and wider the faster you go. These swings used to be quite common in Victoria when I was growing up. This one has been recently painted (and possibly serviced), but I’m sure it is at least 30 years old. It is great to lie down with your chest on the swing chair and pretend to be superman, flying through the air.

The new swing is the modern version, in the sense that they are very common, I know at least 6 parks with these swings. There is a big hoop suspended by 4 cables, with netting across the hoop to lie in or sit on. The angled steel beams provide some bounce and spring. I can see why these swings are popular, they are a simple design, overall pretty safe, and a lot of fun to swing on.

Fast slides and good times

Not far from where I live is a fantastic playground. There are swings, cubby houses, roundabouts, and in the center is an enormous tower with two slides down to the ground.

The slides are made from metal, not plastic, so there are no static electic shocks and they are fast. The lower slide is ok for young children who can walk and climb, but it has a slight corner and they can come out sideways if they’re not careful. The upper slide has a steep section, with a lot of acceleration, and for older kids it’s a lot of fun.

There are a few extraordinary parks near my home town. There is a children’s playground in the Melbourne Botanic Gardens with a small stream of water running through it, and kids will splash and stomp through the water and have a lovely time. Bacchus Marsh is a small country town, but across from the train station is a park with a huge wooden castle, with four towers connected by bridges with slides to the ground.

These parks make me happy, they are a tremendous public good for everyone to share. They make life a little bit better for everyone, and I’m grateful to all the people who helped to help make them.

What A Country

When our first child was born, a very nice nurse came to visit us every few weeks or so, from when we first got home to when our daughter was two months old. The nurse was friendly, helpful, did a health check, gave good advice, and was very much appreciated.

After two months, the nurse stopped visiting us at home, but we visited her at her office every few months. It was a great service, but we weren’t special – every new baby in Australia gets this, as far as I know, tell, and it was absolutely free.

I remember thinking to myself: “what a country” (which is a quote, more or less, from the movie The Castle). I remember thinking how wonderful it was, at this crazy time in your life when you have a new baby, and you don’t know what to do, and you’re feel overwhelmed at times, that every single person gets a friendly, knowledgable person come and help them for free. It makes you feel like the country cares about your baby.

What a difference it was that it was free, rather than having some co-payment. I would have been happy to make a co-payment, but I realised how different completely free feels to a co-payment. By this time, I had been paying taxes for quite a few years, and obviously I had been getting many benefits that whole time (roads, firefighters, the ABC, a country which is well defended etc.), but this was a benefit which felt very personal. Everyone in the country, including me, is paying taxes to give newborn babies a little help. Then it occurred to the country probably also paid for someone to help my parents when I was a baby. That’s a thought. And a few years later, I went to a hospital emergency room, and at the end they wished me a good night and I walked out, again completely free.

What a country.

Many people advocate co-payments for government services, and in general I agree. Making a service cost something – even a little, even if it’s less than the service costs to provide – causes people to check if they really need it, and to value it more. “People don’t value what they don’t pay for” is the saying. It can help ensure that resources aren’t wasted. For many cases, that is a good principle. But I think that sometimes, completely free is better.