Jeweller death: fingerprints analysed, court hears

Dermot O’Toole, second from left, with his wife Bridget and sons Dale, Christian and Trent.Fingerprints on packaging that contained a knife that was used in the fatal stabbing of a Hastings jeweller are being analysed to determine if they belong to the man charged with his murder, a court has heard.
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Gavin Perry, 26, appeared in Melbourne Magistrates Court court on Monday, charged with the murder of Dermot O’Toole, 64, who was allegedly stabbed for stock worth $200 at his shop, The Jewel Shed, on July 12.

Mr O’Toole’s wife of 41 years, Bridget, was also stabbed.

The court heard prosecutors were still waiting for the results of forensic testing, which included an analysis of fingerprints found on the packaging of a knife stolen from a nearby supermarket.

A blood sample from a nearby laneway, where Mr Perry was seen falling to the ground, was also analysed, the court heard.

As magistrate Charlie Rozencwajg went through the list of witnesses to be called at Mr Perry’s committal hearing, the court was told one witness had identified the accused man outside the shop, having met him the previous night.

Mrs O’Toole was one of six potential witnesses who would not have to give evidence at the committal, the court heard.

CCTV footage would be shown during the committal, the court was told.

Mr Perry, dressed in a green tracksuit in the dock, also faces charges of armed robbery and intentionally causing serious injury.

Members of Mr O’Toole’s family were in court for Monday’s proceedings.

Mr Perry was remanded in custody to appear again on March 24.

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Benefits of buying interstate

Thinking ahead: Ralph Nicholson at his home in Williamstown. Photo: Ken IrwinThere is no denying the residential property market is heating up as investors flood back in, particularly in Sydney and Melbourne. If your local area or state is getting more expensive, then perhaps it might be time to look interstate, at areas that are yet to become the next big thing.
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In fact, buying the current ”hot spot” is often a recipe for trouble as, if everybody already knows about it, the opportunities for growth have probably been exhausted.

The founder of property advice company Destiny Financial Solutions, Margaret Lomas, has 40 investment properties, many of which are interstate. She says buying interstate forces you to do more research about the property and area you are about to invest in. ”I think it’s a brilliant idea to buy interstate,” she says.

”It comes down to knowing how to ask the kind of questions that uncover the investment potential and growth drivers in an area.”

The problem with buying close to home, according to Lomas, is that we believe we know the area when we may not actually be as knowledgeable as we think. Interestingly, she also says seeing or inspecting a property is not always a good thing.

”I think actually looking at a property is dangerous, because it allows you to have an emotional buy-in,” Lomas says.

Property investor, journalist and author of Smart Property Investment Peter Cerexhe says that buying interstate can be a good idea, but that you need to be careful of when and how you do it.

”For a start, there is a well-known risk of buying property in haste while on holiday,” he says.

If you’re visiting a holiday town you might start to believe that property is cheap, just because it’s cheaper than home, which is probably a major capital city.

”A quick trip is potentially more dangerous than not going at all, if you are relying on the expertise of a reasonable professional,” he says.

Our case study Ralph, at left, relies on a network he has hooked into, via Destiny Financial Solutions, to inspect local properties that are not in his state of Victoria, but he doesn’t visit them himself.

Louis Christopher, managing director of property research company SQM Research, says you need to be careful of dodgy property promoters who are coming back into the market as it heats up. ”Whatever you do, don’t speak to property spruikers offering you free flights to the Gold Coast or whatever. There’s no such thing as a free lunch, the cost has got to go somewhere,” he says.

Different states also have different stamp duty structures and land tax, which you need to be aware of before you buy.

Capital gain potential

But the fundamentals for buying interstate and buying locally should not change. You need to find areas that have diversified industries, that is to say they do not rely on one sector such as tourism, councils with money to spend on infrastructure, growing household incomes and a growing population. ”You don’t want to be distracted just by the property,” Cerexhe says. ”The local economy is absolutely key.” And you should try to buy those areas before anyone else does.

You should also consider, like our case study Ralph, property structures that could appeal to the widest share of buyers, which in most cases are families.

All of the above might sound like a big ask, but it’s not impossible and you will end up with a much better investment than if you just jumped on the nearest property boom closest to you.Profile taken interstate

Ralph Nicholson is 53 and lives in Victoria, but four of his seven properties are outside that state. He has two in NSW and two in Queensland.

”I looked at my situation three years ago and I thought we may not have enough to survive comfortably,” he says.

His interstate property investment plan is therefore his retirement plan.

After one misstep buying in a bushfire prone area that took a long time to eventually sell, Ralph took it upon himself to get better educated and do more thorough research. ”As an investor you need confidence to buy in other markets, or else it’s a real risk and you’ve got to mitigate those risks by doing your research,” he says.

But he also values the local agent contacts he has found through his property investment adviser. ”I don’t think, even given the education, I would be confident buying in those areas unless I have those local contacts,” he says.

He buys properties that have the potential to appeal to the greatest market, which means residential houses for families with four bedrooms or at least three. ”I just try and buy garden-variety buildings, hopefully with enough land, because I place a fair degree of emphasis on land value.”

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Be realistic, vendors warned as selling season nears end

1028 Glenhuntly Road, Caulfield South, was sold under the hammer for $835,000. Photo: Ken IrwinProperty sellers are being warned to be realistic about the prices they can expect to achieve for their houses and flats with only five weeks left before the market closes for its summer hiatus.
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Melbourne turned in another solid set of results over the weekend with a few runaway successes, but some agents reported a shortage of bidders.

Melbourne’s clearance rate of 72 per cent over the weekend was derived from 925 auctions reported to the Real Estate Institute of Victoria; Australian Property Monitors (owned by Fairfax Media) reported a slightly higher 73 per cent from 692 results and research house RP Data produced a lower 69.2 per cent clearance rate from 996 results.

RP Data spokesman Robert Larocca said this was only the second weekend in 14 weeks with the clearance rate falling below 70 per cent.

”It’s too early to say the market’s pulling back but it certainly shows it’s not racing away from us,” Mr Larocca said.

Sydney had its biggest weekend of auctions with 784 properties under the hammer. APM reported an 84 per cent clearance rate.

The REIV data shows 124 properties sold before auction and 262 passed in – 142 of them on a vendor bid. A further 141 results have yet to be reported to the REIV.

While not a stellar performance, the market is much healthier than last year when a 59 per cent clearance rate was achieved on a weekend with 1100 auctions.

The solid results follow the Reserve Bank’s decision last week to keep the cash rate on hold for another month but there is some speculation that further cuts to the historic low rate of 2.5 per cent could occur next year in a bid to hold down the value of the dollar.

Some of the biggest deals of the weekend sold for close to their reserve prices. Kay & Burton’s Gowan Stubbings had the two biggest auctions in Toorak.

Just off Heyington Place, 3 Rostill Court fetched $3.02 million, only slightly over its $3 million reserve, with competition from two bidders. Mr Stubbings said the buyer planned to live in the house, which is on 692 square metres.

An hour later, he auctioned 21A Albany Road, a single-level three-bedroom townhouse. While the result is undisclosed, it is understood to have sold for $4.55 million after a single bid.

Mr Stubbings would not confirm the price but he emphasised how much time and effort went into educating vendors about the value of their properties. ”People have to be realistic about … valuing their homes. The buyer pool is big but vendors have to be realistic,” he said. ”We’ve really only got five weeks to go … there are buyers out there for pretty much everything so long as vendors meet the market.”

Williams Batters director Philippe Batters said: ”We find there are very, very good results but they aren’t happening all the time. I keep reading that we’re in a boom market; the trouble is, some vendors believe it.

”If a property is really good, people will fight for it. It doesn’t mean it’s really expensive, it just means it has special features,” Mr Batters said.

As summer is beckoning, the number of beach houses on the market has started to increase but the buyers are slow to arrive.

Prentice Real Estate agent Don Campbell put two properties from a deceased estate to auction on Saturday but the house at 19 Oxford Street, Sorrento, was passed in on a vendor bid of $500,000 and an adjoining block of vacant land was passed in, also on a vendor bid, at $450,000.

”Even in the current market, $450,000-$500,000 for a block of land in Sorrento is cheap, very cheap,” Mr Campbell said.

”Things down here are pretty slow. We’re not reflecting what’s going on uptown. Rye and Rosebud, the cheaper end of the market, are going well. But from Blairgowrie to Portsea, it’s very slow.

Kay & Burton had better luck in Flinders, where 14 Bass Street, a four-bedroom beach house with sea views, sold for $1.645 million.

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Dumpling delight

Delightful: Red lanterns in Chinatown. Photo: Linda McCormick’So, how do they get the soup inside the dumpling?” I asked, biting through the white luscious surface to let the salty contents pour forth.
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With a smirk, our guide, Monique, replied: “Ha, I was just waiting for someone to ask. Someone always does.” Her answer paralysed my swallowing reflex.

We were sitting in Shanghai Street dumpling house, savouring their Xiao Long Bao, which have had a cult following from day one. It was our third restaurant on the dumpling walking tour and I was quickly developing a whole new appreciation for these little morsels of goodness.

Dumplings come in all shapes and sizes, and, as I found out on the tour, are quite particular to certain areas of the world. There’s a way to fold them, cook them and eat them. And they’re all good.

Meeting at a pre-arranged point in the city centre, Monique from Walk Melbourne talked us through the plan for the night. Our group of nine would visit four of Melbourne’s fine dumpling establishments during the evening tour, which would take around three hours.

Our first stop was at North East China Family on Elizabeth Street. While we waited for the first serve of dumplings, Monique gave us a little history of the place and the people who run it. She pointed out a huge poster relaying the origin of the humble dumpling: “Jiao Zi date back 1800 years to the great medical practitioner Zhonging Zhang of East Han Dynasty in northern China, but the dumplings served up at North East China Family are a recipe perfected by one of the restaurant owner’s ancestors.”

Before tasting the dumplings, we were told how to make our own dipping sauce, which is very much up to personal preference. Monique recommends just a few drops of chilli oil in a small dish of soy sauce. I like a hint of heat, but my lips swell up with too much chilli – so I played it safe for the first tasting.

Two plates laden with spinach dumplings stuffed with cabbage and carrot were set in the middle of the table, sending my salivary glands into a little samba all of their own. I was hungry, but etiquette says one shouldn’t just dive in when in the presence of strangers, so I did the decent thing and waited until a few others had taken their first dumpling before nabbing mine. I breathed it in, hoping nobody noticed.

I can’t say I’m a fan of cabbage, but thankfully the Chinese variety tastes very different to the mush I was used to as a child. I gave the second dumpling a little more attention.

After dipping it into my personally mixed sauce I gingerly took a bite, waiting for the chilli to sting. But it didn’t. It was just right. It maybe could have had a little more kick, but I wanted to preserve my tastebuds for later.

Leaving the dumpling house, we walked north through the city streets, following Monique to the next destination. It was an opportunity to find out more about the walking tours, which have been running for a bit over a year.

Monique left a well-paying corporate job to do something more fulfilling. Being passionate about Melbourne’s food, wine and coffee scene, she decided to share her love for her native city and its cuisine with others through a series of tours. Each is set out on a carefully planned route through Melbourne’s very walkable central business district. Most of the tours are a few hours long, with some – like this dumpling tour – being exclusive to Walk Melbourne.

“Don’t forget to look up,” shouted Monique. “So many people forget to look up in a city, and miss so much.”

The writer was a guest of Walk Melbourne.

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Twenty reasons to visit Christchurch

Recycling: The Re:Start complex is built from shipping containers.1 QUAKE CITY
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When a 6.3 magnitude earthquake struck Christchurch at 12.51pm on February 22, 2011, the earth rose one metre. A short time later, the earth moved horizontally the same distance. In its wake, 185 people died and a city centre became a terrifying scene of collapsed and teetering buildings, falling masonry and giant palls of dust. Quake City is a visitor centre dedicated to telling the story of this and a less destructive, but more powerful, earthquake that hit about six months earlier.

canterburymuseum南京夜网/quakecity

2 CITY OF CHURCHES

Given the name of the city and the piety of its founders, it was especially painful that every church was damaged in the February quake. Among the worst hit was the 19th century Christ Church Cathedral, situated at the physical and symbolic heart of the city. Its 63-metre spire collapsed and, so great was the damage, no church member has returned and few treasured items, like hymn books, were recovered. Today, the cathedral stands forlorn behind hurricane fencing, its nave wall is just a massive gaping hole.

3 CARDBOARD CATHEDRAL

Three CBD buildings survived the quake almost intact: a strip club, the casino and a gym. But cathedral worshippers were not down for long. Today, choral music rings out across Latimer Square from the Cardboard Cathedral. Designed by Japanese architect Shigeru Ban, its A-line roof is constructed of 98 cardboard tubes, each up to 20 metres in length and covered in polycarbonate sheeting. There’s also lots of steel, timber and, below ground, tonnes of concrete. Conceived as a temporary measure, it now has an estimated 50-year lifespan.

cardboardcathedral.org.nz

4 185 EMPTY CHAIRS

A few steps away from the new cathedral and close to the CTV building where many lives were lost, there’s a tribute that’s so stark and moving it simply stops you in your tracks. On a grassy, vacant block at the corner of Cashel and Madras streets, 185 white chairs stand starkly in rows of nine. There are dining, office, kitchen and outdoor chairs, stools, a baby’s basinet and a wheelchair. Each one represents a life lost.

5 C1 ESPRESSO

For a long time, the CBD was in the so-called red zone and closed to the public. Today, it’s a scene of vacant blocks, half-demolished buildings and limited commercial life. With almost no high-rises, a statue of a bloke on top of C1 Espresso’s grand premises is easy to find. And find it you must for fabulous coffee, great corn fritters and buttermilk pancakes. The cafe’s quirky features include DIY water via an antique sewing machine.

C1espresso.co.nz

6 PALLET PAVILION

C1 also does brisk trade selling a pre-quake street map poster emblazoned with the words “There’s nothing to see here”. It’s harsh, but even the locals confess to sometimes forgetting what once went where. But life is returning. Where buildings once stood, some truly inspirational developments have grown. Places like the Pallet Pavilion, a series of outdoor rooms created using stacks of blue pallets as walls, seats and planters. Food and drinks are served at the site from a double-decker bus and old caravans.

palletpavilion南京夜网

7 GAP GOLF

Fancy a hit? The par 6, second hole of the Gap Golf putting course is located beside Pallet Pavilion. It’s one of nine holes across the city in a project designed to get people to venture into what is known as the Garden City but has the contemporary nickname of “gravel city” because of its vacant lots. Each golf hole acknowledges its site’s history. Equipment available at the Pallet caravan.

gapfiller.org.nz

8 CONTAINER LOAD

Christchurch lends itself to another family game: I spy a shipping container. It’s easy because they are berthed everywhere. After the earthquake they were a quick, easy and stable solution for many homeless businesses. Bank branches and ATMs operate from them along with cafes, bars, a pizza shop and beauty salon. Some are used in their original state – often for storage – while others have been given the Grand Designs treatment with the sides opened, windows installed and superior paint jobs. But most are stacked, like Lego, supporting crumbling facades.

9 RE:START

Containers come into their own at Re:Start, a pedestrianised shopping complex constructed almost entirely from the steel boxes. In primary colours and placed single and double storey with awnings stretched across the pathways, the funky containers are home to more than 40 retailers such as former city bookshop Scorpio Books. Fashion labels include Mimco, Nicholas Jermyn shirtmakers and cool Kiwi outfits like Soeur Design, Kathryn Wilson designer shoes and Christchurch jeans institution Hunters and Collectors.

restart.org.nz

10 HUMMINGBIRD CAFE

Kiwis and Australians share a love of fine coffee. One of New Zealand’s best, Hummingbird, was established in 1990 and hand roasts about 20 single origins. It’s a good reason to visit the two-storey Hummingbird Cafe, constructed of three containers, at Re:Start. Another is the terrific food. At breakfast, try juicy mushrooms on thick toast with spinach, warm fetta and a squeeze of lemon. Choose Re:Start blend coffee and a donation goes towards the historic Court Theatre rebuild.

hummingbirdcoffee.co.nz

11 EAT STREET

In a city centre that goes spookily dark and silent after nightfall, Re:Start is a lively daytime hub. To follow the action after nightfall, head for Victoria Street which radiates from the CBD. On and around this notable eat street, find hip Asian favourite King of Snake and Harlequin Public House, a smart restaurant in a historic house. Take a seat at the counter of slick Japanese restaurant Sala Sala and order outstanding salmon and tuna sashimi with a glass of sake.

kingofsnake.co.nz; hphchch.co.nz; salasala.co.nz

12 COOL BARS

After the quake, people felt safer outdoors. That, and the necessity to use containers, created an awesome bar scene, much of it around Victoria Street. At Revival, a DJ plays, an All Blacks game is projected on a wall, chairs are made from supermarket trolleys and cocktails come from a converted container. A bus acts as a bar at Smash Palace, where patrons sit under giant umbrellas and fairy lights. It’s huge fun.

revivalbar.co.nz; thesmashpalace.co.nz

13 THE TANNERY

The earthquakes are reshaping Christchurch, with much commercial development moving to the outer fringes and suburbs. Woolston, a thriving tannery centre in the late 1800s, is now home to a stylish centre of shops, restaurants and a brewery called The Tannery. In a restored brick and timber building once used for supplying hides to the shoe and boot industry, Cassells and Sons craft brewery operates alongside Gustav’s Kitchen and Wine Bar. Order mussel fritters and diamond shell crab with Alchemist pale ale.

thetannery.co.nz

14 NEW REGENT STREET

Whisky lovers should not leave town without visiting cocktail bar The Last Word. It’s situated in New Regent Street, a delightful pedestrianised mall, fully operating in the city centre, and home to specialty boutiques, restaurants and shops. The Last Word has a wide range of whisk(e)ys but visitors also find shops selling jewellery, clothes and the famed Mrs Higgins cookies. Opened in 1932, the pastel-coloured terraced shops are Spanish Mission in style.

newregentstreet.co.nz

15 HERITAGE HOTEL

Hotels are among the first businesses to be re-established in the CBD and the granddaddy of them all is the Heritage Hotel. For more than a century, this imposing building with arches and columns aplenty has been a gateway to Cathedral Square. A government building for most of its life, the public rooms and bedrooms are on a grand scale with wide corridors, sweeping staircase and high ceilings. Modern necessities include a well-equipped gym and indoor pool.

heritagehotels.co.nz

16 GONDOLA RIDE

No one is quite sure where Christchurch’s population stands. It was about 400,000 pre-quake, making it New Zealand’s second largest city, but many allegedly left town. A recent census will soon reveal all. In the meantime, look down on the city by riding the Christchurch gondola, or cable car, one kilometre up to the top of Mt Cavendish. The 360 degree views include the Southern Alps, ocean, Port Hills and the crater rim around Lyttelton Harbour.

gondola.co.nz

17 ARTHUR’S PASS

Having looked down on the surrounding country, hire a car and take a drive. Head inland to Arthur’s Pass for a spectacular trip across the Canterbury Plains then uphill into the Southern Alps. The road is a mix of single-track bridges across wide, stony river beds and ice-blue waters, splendid vistas of snow-covered peaks and high lakes. This is Lord of the Rings country. Arthur’s Pass village is a good spot for lunch.

18 AKAROA AND BANKS PENINSULA

For an altogether more gentle day’s drive, head to Akaroa, the South Island’s oldest colonial town and the country’s only French settlement. It sits by a beautiful harbour and, when you’ve explored the historic town, take a cruise to see penguins, fur seals and the world’s smallest and rarest dolphins, Hector’s dolphins. There’s no escaping New Zealand’s shaky character … the peninsula originates from volcanos millions of years ago.

akaroa南京夜网

19 ANTARCTIC CENTRE

Christchurch is the world’s airline connection to the Antarctic. America and Italy are among those who use the airport, flying about 100 military aircraft with 5500 passengers and 1400 tonnes of cargo annually. Take a trip to the world’s coldest place without leaving the ground by visiting the Antarctic Centre. Dedicated to recreating the harsh continent, visitors can take a 3D simulated cruise, experience a storm at -8C, see an Antarctic light show and travel in a giant overland truck.

iceberg.co.nz

20 JUST WALK

Few of us ever visit a disaster area – or want to – but there’s an element of it in Christchurch CBD, a fascinating study of a place in transition. There’s also vitality about the place and some of the world’s most creative minds are there to work on a blank canvas. Just walk to see exciting street art, new buildings, creative uses of ordinary objects. It’s an inspiration.

The writer travelled with assistance from Christchurch and Canterbury Tourism.

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The green beyond the gold

Luxury lodge: Dreamridge Retreat is set in about 10 hectares of landscaped gardens in the Currumbin Valley. Grand setting: A dining area at the retreat.
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A hilltop haven is the perfect place to dream a weekend away, writes Angela Young.

As our poor little car struggles up the incredibly steep incline of Tomewin’s slope, it becomes abundantly clear that even if there is just a tiny, grotty little shack at the top, we are going to have some amazing views.

Of course, there is no shack. And Dreamridge certainly isn’t tiny.

But those views definitely are amazing. Spectacular, in fact.

From the sumptuous master bedroom (one of six), two walls of floor-to-ceiling windows allow the occupants sweeping, 180-degree views of what the locals call “the green beyond the gold” – the stunning Gold Coast hinterland, proof that a trip to the Gold Coast doesn’t have to mean over-bronzed blondes or yachties with tattoos.

Beyond the region’s golden beaches lies this lush, mountainous realm, with idyllic, rural communities that still manage to boast sea views – yes, even from our serene inland spot.

Owned by Shaun and Donna Williams, Dreamridge Retreat is among a small handful of high-end properties available to hire on Tomewin Mountain, and is definitely the most impressive (although the others, including the very funky Viria and gorgeous little B&B Kallora Escape, are still lovely, beautifully presented holiday spots).

Bedecked in sculptured wood and a vast array of antiques, the furniture and many of the fittings are handmade by the creative pair, while the historical items adorning the walls and shelves – ranging from 1950s Coca-Cola freezers to ancient-looking tools and traps – are from their personal collection.

The sheer expanse and outlook from Dreamridge, over Mount Cougal, Springbrook Mountain and Mount Tallebudgera, is breathtaking, but we’re soon back on solid (albeit high) ground with a comforting cup of tea and homemade muffin from the overflowing hamper kindly provided by Donna atop a kitchen worktop that must once have been a serious piece of forestry.

Dreamridge is not only a timber wonderland. The landscaped gardens are also perfectly coiffed, testament to Shaun’s landscape gardener background – and he’s obviously a perfectionist.

The couple have thought of practically everything when it comes to the little details – plush linen, comfy bathrobes, a very well-stocked kitchen and larder, music equipment and DVDs, candles, birdseed . . . The only thing amiss is the lack of a full-length mirror in each of the bedrooms – crucial if the property is to host weddings in the future, which is definitely on Shaun and Donna’s agenda, with “entrance by helicopter” an option for the flamboyant.

We’re keen to experience Mount Tomewin properly, so we head off down the hill to purchase some of the tasty produce on offer at the quaint, dilapidated Freeman’s Fruit Stall truck, selling organic fruit and vegetables, including tasty bananas from trees planted way back in 1928.

The night is almost as impressive as the day at Dreamridge. We follow a beautiful sunset with a roaring log fire to keep out any hilltop chills. Probably best not to watch a horror movie on the widescreen, though – those vast windows, blackened by night, could have even hardy souls jumping at the slightest noise.

Next morning, I make sure to wake early in order to open the master’s curtains – it would be sacrilege not to lie in bed and lazily revel in that glorious view.

Duly sated, and after a handsome breakfast enjoyed on the large verandah, we take the short hike up to the local Hanging Rock, a precarious-looking geological formation just behind the property – impressive, if sadly lacking author Joan Lindsay’s air of mystery.

This mild exertion leads the weary group to collapse into the four hammocks in the garden, where we gently rock away our final afternoon, snoozing and taking in the unbelievable peace and serenity.

It’s hard to believe the bustle and activity of the brassy Gold Coast is so close . . . just over there, in fact.

I can see its golden beaches and blue surf, but I can’t hear it up here on my peaceful perch.

It would be silly not have to one more doze in these blissful surroundings, I think, as I nod off to the sound of birds singing and absolutely nothing else.TRIP NOTES

GETTING THERE

One hour’s drive from Brisbane, 10 minutes from Currumbin.

HOW MUCH

$1600 a night.

STYLE STATEMENT

Natural, woodsy haven on high.

PERFECT FOR

Groups of friends or couples, families, weddings.

SHAME ABOUT

The lack of a pool or spa.

KUDOS

The artefact and photo-adorned walls – the cosy front lounge is like a history lesson.

TAKE THE KIDS

Yes, there’s plenty of space for gallivanting, and the games room/library is well stocked.

MORE INFORMATION

Dreamridge Retreat, 639 Tomewin Mountain Road, Currumbin Valley, Qld.

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Salute to the Fab Four

Peppered: Blake’s restaurant is an appreciation of the designer of the amazing Sergeant Pepper album coverWhen writing about the Beatles, it’s tempting to mine their song list for titles and phrases. With that in mind, I’ll try to avoid mentioning my “golden slumbers” (sorry, too late) at the Hard Days Night Hotel, but I should mention that the room service menu is labelled “Any time at all” and you can hang a sign on your door saying “Let it be,” rather than the usual “Do not disturb”.
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This isn’t the only four-star hotel in the Beatles’ hometown of Liverpool, England, but it is certainly the ideal port of call for many of the 600,000 tourists who visit every year to pay homage to the world’s greatest rock ‘n’ roll band. (Such is their status that, even if you disagree, “world’s greatest” sounds like a rational description.)

A Beatles hotel? The idea is so obvious, it’s surprising that it took so long for some enterprising soul to open one. Obtaining the rights, of course, was a lengthy process. (You could say a “long and winding road”, but we won’t, thank you very much.) The music in the lobby is a mixture of Beatles songs and – just to provide variety – cover versions.

Happily, it is a step above the usual theme hotel. Each room is bright and colourful, with a different framed picture over the bed. Some guests specifically ask for a room with a picture of their favourite Beatle. I’m happy with anyone, so I awake under John Lennon, alongside his scrawled lyrics to Help.

The hotel’s two upstairs suites – the John Lennon Suite (styled after Lennon’s whiter-than-white New York apartment) and the Paul McCartney Suite (complete with a suit of armour in the corner, cheekily included because Macca is now a Knight of the Realm) – are out of action for the 50th anniversary of Beatlemania, thanks to a fire earlier this year. They should reopen in early 2014, in time for anyone wishing to celebrate the anniversary of the band’s momentous Australian tour.

Fortunately, the thematic decoration doesn’t go much further. While the room design is funky and cheerful, the hotel withholds the desire to place a lava lamp in each room. The Beatles, after all, were not simply a frivolous pop band. Hard Days Night is not a cute, Disney-style construction, but part of a stylish, 128-year-old building.

For Beatles fans, the locale is part of the attraction. It’s around the corner from the Cavern Club, the Beatles’ first public venue, where new bands still perform. It’s a hop, step and jump to the Beatles Story museum, which sends visitors into a yellow submarine and an expert reconstruction of the Cavern Club, circa 1960.

But it’s also in the centre of modern Liverpool, which has transcended its working-class reputation, and still has many clear reminders that it was European cultural capital in 2008. Here is the home of the Tate Liverpool, northern England’s centre of modern art, and such development projects as the $1.7 billion Liverpool ONE shopping and leisure centre. Yet the city’s most famous cultural contribution is still the Fab Four.

Hard Days Night also has Bar Four, wallpapered with news clippings and Beatles-inspired artwork, with unique Beatle-esque cocktails. Next door is Blake’s Restaurant – named (as the more devout fans might guess) after Sir Peter Blake, the artist behind the Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album cover – where guests can dine on pigeon breast with beetroot and balsamic-coated root vegetable salad. As I said, not your typical theme hotel.

At Blake’s, diners are watched by photos of the many people on that album cover, all of whom inspired or influenced the Beatles.

Guests at Hard Days Night have already included everyone from Michael Buble to Mike Myers. Justin Bieber’s visit, somewhat fittingly, attracted so many screaming fans that the roads had to be closed. Liam Gallagher’s, however, was a relatively quiet affair, in which the Oasis frontman was both enthusiastic (no surprise) and very pleasant.

Downstairs, the hotel offers function rooms like Hari’s Bar, dedicated to George Harrison. The hotel also has a wedding studio, The Two of Us Room, used almost every week – and not just by Beatles fans. Even non-fans are willing to endure endless Lennon-McCartney ballads to stay here, hold their functions, or even get married. Like the very best songs, it’s simply a nice place to be.

The writer was a guest of Hard Days Night Hotel, with the assistance of Visit Liverpool.TRIP NOTES

GETTING THERE

Hard Days Night Hotel is in Central Buildings, North John Street, a 10-minute drive from Liverpool’s John Lennon Airport, just over a kilometre from James Street railway station.

HOW MUCH

Rooms range from about $130 (single “luxury room”) to $1580 in peak time for the Lennon Suite (with grand piano, and $300 more than the McCartney Suite). Phone + 44 20 7836 4343, email [email protected]南京夜网.

SEE + DO

Hotel taxi tour is a treat for Beatles tragics. More expensive than the Magical Mystery Tour bus, it goes into more depth, from all of their childhood homes to Eleanor Rigby’s grave.

MORE INFORMATION

harddaysnighthotel南京夜网;

visitliverpool南京夜网.

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Floating through Provence

Provence: The town of Vienne on the Rhone south of Lyons Photo: . Picturesque: The mediaeval fortified village of Les-Baux-de-Provence
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Avignon’s famous bridge from the water.

Service: The river cruiser AmaDagio?s welcoming party

We’re not the first eager Francophiles to visit Provence and we certainly won’t be the last. Foreigners have been invading for centuries. The Greeks planted grapevines there in 600BC; the Romans gave Provence its name and stayed for about 700 years; seven popes deserted Rome for Avignon; artists such as Vincent Van Gogh and Paul Cezanne made it their home – and English writer Peter Mayle’s best-selling 1989 book A Year in Provence attracted truckloads of Brits looking for their rural French idyll.

Our river cruise on board APT’s AmaDagio, heading north on the Rhone, started in Arles and finished in Lyon. I still can’t believe how much ground (or water) we covered in a mere seven days, although the pace never felt hurried. I could have happily stayed in Arles for a week, but a night and day had to suffice. This is where Van Gogh stayed in hospital (now an art museum) before he was shipped off to the nearby St Paul de Mausole asylum, where he produced some of his most famous paintings. It is a fascinating, if haunting, place to visit.

The market at Arles on a sunny autumn Saturday is a visual feast. Mouthwatering Provencal goods such as olives, olive oils, nuts, fruit, vegetables, herbs, spices, cheeses (fromage sounds so much more appetising), nougat, meat and fish are displayed on colourfully artistic stalls; live rabbits and ducks in cages await their future.

Bullfights are still held in the 20,000-seat Roman amphitheatre and there are impressive Roman monuments and ruins throughout Provence. The Pont du Gard, 21 kilometres from Avignon – our second port of call – is a magnificent example of Roman design and engineering. The three-level, 50-metre-high aqueduct bridge took 15 years to build in the first century AD and over 2000 years it has withstood earthquakes, wild weather and even bombing in 1944. Contemporary builders might appreciate the recipe for the mortar, which was made with pig fat and figtree sap.

The living history lesson continues with a visit to the beautifully preserved Renaissance town of Uzes – Mick Jagger once had a house nearby but that was just last century – and a night-time guided walk through Viviers. Local actors in medieval costume told the story of the philandering Huguenot captain who was responsible for building the 16th-century facade of the grand Maison des Chevaliers.

There is a very good choice of shore excursions from AmaDagio, orchestrated by our tireless cruise director Anja. One of my favourites was to a truffle farm in the Rhone Valley near Grignan, yet another impossibly picturesque mountain village surrounded by lavender fields, orchards and olive groves.

Domaine Bramarel is run by Gilles Ayme, whose great-grandfather established the farm in 1850. Gilles talks us through the growing cycles of Tuber Melanosporum, which is known as the “black diamond” because of the €1000 a kilo price it commands.

Two happy honey-coloured female Labradors give a demonstration of truffle-hunting and come up with a few samples of the autumn variety, which are not as valuable as the black winter ones but it’s just lovely seeing the dogs in action and obeying orders in French and English. Our group was then treated to a generous tasting of the black diamonds – very pungent – washed down with a crisp rose from a local vineyard.

Other foodie highlights of the shore tours were visits to a goat farm in the Ardeche Verte and a saffron farmlet in the Isere district, near Lyon. Both businesses are owned and operated by women, who share their specialised knowledge with charm and enthusiasm. The adorable alpine goats, which were all due to give birth the following day, tolerated us photographing them and were probably very relieved when we moved on to tasting Geraldine Cognet’s superb home-made chestnut cake and quince paste in the peaceful garden of her farmhouse.

Stephanie Sable runs one of just a few hundred saffron farms in France – Iran is still the world’s major producer of the “red gold”. Saffron sells for about €32,000 a kilo, totally eclipsing the prices even for the white Italian truffle (about €3000 a kilo). It’s a one-person, highly labour-intensive business, although she says she has help from her farming neighbours during the brief picking season.

Following Stephanie’s informative talk, she invited us to her rustic home where we tasted exquisite jams, chutneys and mustards that she makes from local organically produced fruit and spices when she’s not working on her saffron plot.

Excellent food, fine wines and good fun are also integral to the experience on board AmaDagio. Head chef Jozsef Kovacs has worked with the cruise line for eight years and he and his team of eight create dishes that reflect the regions we cruise through. Jozsef’s soups and desserts are a major highlight and fromage fans like me were seriously spoilt for choice every evening at dinner.

The crew is a tight-knit family and our very young French captain (all of 27) is extremely popular with the ladies. The officers put on a hilarious show one evening and certain passengers danced and partied hard until the wee small hours – is 65 now the new 25?

Lyon, our final port of call, is another eye-opener. Set at the confluence of the Rhone and Saone rivers, it is France’s second-largest city after Paris and gives it a good run for its money. As with all the places we visited, I could have stayed there for days, but a joy of cruising is sampling a destination and returning later to savour it.

The writer travelled as a guest of APT and EmiratesEATING OUT IN LYON

Lyon is reputedly France’s “gastronomic capital’’. Treat yourself to at least one fabulous meal there. Celebrated chef Paul Bocuse’s three Michelin-starred l’Auberge du Pont de Collonges, is near Lyon and he has four brasseries in Lyon: Le Nord, l’Est, Le Sud and l’Ouest – somewhat more affordable.

Then there are bouchons, small, informal brasseries that are a Lyon institution.

They serve regional dishes, particularly duck, pork and offal. There are about 20 bouchons officially certified by the Association for the Preservation of Lyonnais Bouchons but many more in the style. To find a genuine bouchon check out en.lyon-france南京夜网.

Bon appetit!TRIP NOTES

CRUISING GROUNDS

AmaDagio operates seven-night cruises between Arles and Lyon on the Rhone River, and 14-night cruises between Arles and Amsterdam.

GETTING THERE

Emirates operates 82 flights a week to Dubai from Australia (Sydney, Brisbane, Perth, Melbourne and Adelaide) with onward daily connections to London and Europe. Phone 1300 303 777, emirates南京夜网/au.

MORE INFORMATION

aptouring南京夜网.au; en.lyon-france南京夜网.

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Taking the market’s temperature

Bonds yieldsShelby Davis, one of the greatest value investors you’ve probably never heard of, who in 47 years turned $50,000 into a $900 million fortune, said: “You make your money during bear markets – you just don’t know it at the time”.
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In my experience the inverse is also true. We make our biggest mistakes in bull markets but we don’t know it until the market turns ugly.

So with the All Ordinaries Accumulation Index up 111 per cent since the lows in March 2009, let’s use Howard Marks’ Poor Man’s Guide to Market Assessment discussed in his book The Most Important Thing, to see what action we should be taking.

Poor Man’s Guide To Market Assessment

(1) Economy: vibrant/sluggish. Australia’s economic growth is tipped to be slightly below average over the next few years but we’ve ticked “vibrant” as the economy is performing relatively well, even though it may not feel like it.

China is still growing strongly thanks to renewed stimulus, official unemployment isn’t far off record lows and low interest rates are reducing debt repayments.

(2) Outlook: positive/negative. Bill Smead of US funds manager Smead Capital Management says: “In the latest week (October 21-25), individual investors, as measured by the American Association of Individual Investors and investment newsletter writers, as measured by investors’ intelligence, were bullish by nearly a 3:1 ratio to bearish”.

(3) Lenders: eager/reticent. In March last year interest rate comparison website RateCity warned that nearly 70 per cent of lenders were accepting mortgage deposits as low as 5 per cent. The competition has only heated up since then.

(4) Capital: loose/tight – see (3).

(5) Terms: easy/restrictive – see (3).

(6) Interest rates: low/high. Rates are at record lows, which is usually not a good sign for shareholder returns.

(7) Spreads: narrow/wide. Junk bond yields have fallen to record lows below just 5 per cent (see chart).

While defaults are very low, there’s no margin of safety if bankruptcies or interest rates increase.

(8) Investors: optimistic/pessimistic; sanguine/distressed; eager to buy/ not interested in buying – see (2).

(9) Asset Owners: happy to hold/rushing for the exits. Not only are passive owners happy to hold, but the initial public offering market has sprung to life as private equity groups and entrepreneurs take advantage of investors prepared to back companies with short histories, leveraged balance sheets and few competitive advantages.

(10) Sellers: few/many – see (9).

(11) Markets: crowded/starved for attention. Many individual investors have shunned the market since the global financial crisis, with 38 per cent of Australians owning shares. Of those, 34 per cent are direct investors, down from a peak of 44 per cent in 2004.

Things could be changing though. Perpetual recently recorded its first inflows for a while, and investors fed up with low interest rates may be jumping back in to the sharemarket to avoid missing out on further gains.

Institutional investors are also increasing their weighting to stocks and we’ve heard that local small-cap managers are winning mandates, which is a sure sign of bullishness.

(12) Funds: hard to gain entry/open to anyone. I chose “hard to gain entry” as hedge fund managers Seth Klarman and Dan Loeb are returning funds to their clients due to a lack of attractive investing opportunities. I’d weight their actions over just about anyone else’s, given their remarkable records with large sums.

(13) Recent performance: strong/weak. The All Ordinaries Accumulation Index is up 36.4 per cent over the past two years.

(14) Asset Prices: high/low. From art to stocks, asset prices across the board are being inflated by low interest rates.

(15) Prospective returns: low/high. In an article republished in the US with the headlines “Market valuations are obscene” and “The stockmarket will probably crash”, US fund manager John Hussman recently calculated that “virtually every reliable measure of market valuation we observe is now within the highest 1 per cent of historical observations prior to the late 1990s bubble.”

In Australia, Perpetual reportedly calculated that the price-to-book ratios of the big four banks have breached levels from the tech boom and before the global financial crisis.

(16) Risk: high/low. Marks recounted earlier in the year that in his career the list of risks had never been so long.

(17) Popular qualities: aggressiveness/caution and discipline. I picked aggressiveness as margin loans have been increasing despite remaining well below pre-financial crisis levels. With the amount of money flowing into property, many individual investors scarred by the financial crisis may end up swapping one bubble for another.

More importantly, though, institutions have been taking larger and larger risks as interest rates have fallen, particularly in the fixed-income markets. This could be another bubble waiting to pop.

What to do

Marks advises that for “for your performance to diverge from the norm, your expectations – and thus your portfolio – have to diverge from the norm, and you have to be more right than the consensus.”

First, that means you need to avoid highly valued, popular stocks. The best margin of safety is a cheap valuation and, right now, just about every high-quality, high dividend-paying stock is achieving record highs with regard to price and valuation.

Second, don’t lose your discipline and invest in poor quality stocks you wouldn’t normally consider. However, keep an eye open for average stocks priced cheaply because of short-term quality concerns.

Caltex is a good example of an ugly duckling that should look more like a swan in a few years, as its retail fuel business grows. Profits and cash flow should also become more predictable once the Kurnell refinery closes.

Third, control your portfolio limits. Don’t risk your wealth by getting overexposed to particular stocks or sectors.

Fourth, don’t get sucked in to chasing stocks as they climb, and let valuation and a decent margin of safety temper any greedy thoughts.

The time to be aggressive was in 2009 and 2011. Now’s the time to ensure you hang on to your profits.

Fifth, don’t be afraid to build your cash holdings. Billionaire investor David Tepper recently told a class of graduates that even in a world of derivatives and complex securities, cash was the best hedge against uncertainty.

His fund is 40 per cent in cash, which has never been the case before, and plenty of other respected value investors have 30-40 per cent cash holdings and are returning capital to clients.

Sixth, consider taking advantage of the high Australian dollar to invest overseas. As well as opening up more opportunities, this will reduce your dependence on the local economy and, by extension, Chinese growth.

Finally, maintain your focus on value. There are still opportunities but they may not be in the areas you normally expect to find them. Despite the extreme conditions, we’re still finding stocks that combine defensive characteristics and attractive valuations.

This article contains general investment advice only (under AFSL 282288).

Nathan Bell is research director of Intelligent Investor Share Advisor.  You can unlock all of Share Advisor’s stock research and buy recommendations by taking out a 15-day free membership.

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Ten shareholders to vote on billionaire-backed loan

Rescue plan: Lachlan Murdoch and James Packer join billionaire Bruce Gordon in a plan to guarantee a “covenant lite” loan for the Ten Network. Photo: Rob HomerTen risks breaching its debt covenants if shareholders do not approve a deal that could hand security over all of the media group’s assets to three of its billionaire shareholders, James Packer, Lachlan Murdoch and Bruce Gordon, in return for the three guaranteeing its new $200 million loan.
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A covenant breach could lead to another highly dilutive capital raising if the “covenant lite” loan is not approved at its December 18 shareholders meeting.

“Given current operating conditions and recent performance, there is no guarantee that Ten will be able to meet covenants,” the company said in its notice of meeting, which was released on Monday.

In the company’s annual review, which was also published on Monday, Ten chairman Lachlan Murdoch said: “The outlook for the media sector remains challenging”. Advertising bookings remained short and the outlook for advertising was “uncertain”.

The media group’s independent expert, Deloitte, said the transaction – which could cost the company up to $43.8 million in interest costs to its lender, Commonwealth Bank, and fees to the guarantors – was fair and reasonable to shareholders not involved in the transaction.

Most of the money would go to the billionaire guarantors, who will receive a minimum 3.5 per cent fee for the life of the four-year loan.

The fee may rise if the company’s debt breaches certain ratios but could cease earlier if earnings improve to the point that the company can arrange a less onerous loan.

The fee is also convertible into shares in Ten – at the option of the guarantors when the loan ends – with a strike price based on the average share price in the 10 days leading up to the company shareholders meeting next month.

Ten has said Australia’s richest person, Gina Rinehart, has indicated she will vote her 9.9 per cent stake in approval of the transaction, which she declined to be involved with.

The guarantor shareholders will not be able to vote their combined 32.8 per cent stake on the proposed transaction.

The transaction will free Ten of loan covenants that are preventing it from investing in programming at a time when its ratings are at record lows.

“Without these covenants, Ten will have greater capacity to pursue its programming and turnaround strategies during this period of depressed and potentially volatile earnings,” said David Gordon, who heads the independent board committee that dealt with the directors providing the guarantees.

Commonwealth Bank will take security over Ten’s assets and earnings in return for its “covenant lite” loan, but if Ten is in breach of its loans and the guarantors are forced to act, the security over Ten’s assets passes to these guarantor shareholders.

“This may lead to the shareholder guarantors having the right to enforce that security and appoint a receiver which may conduct a sale of Ten group assets in which the shareholder guarantors may participate,” the company said in the explanatory notes to the meeting.

This week News Corp denied reports that its chairman, Rupert Murdoch, spoke with government “about the possibility of acquiring the Ten Network”.

At the meeting next month, shareholders are also being asked to approve the issue of up to 50 million shares to chief executive Hamish McLennan under its executive incentive share plan.

Ten’s shareholders will be asked to approve an incentive plan for Mr McLennan.

The long term incentive component, worth up to $1.48 million a year, will be awarded to him each year in the form of loan-funded shares in Ten with the value of these options based on the share price on issue and “potential volatility of the company’s shares over the life of the loan”.

Any dividend will be paid to Ten as interest on the loan, which is effectively non-recourse to Mr McLennan. Ten is responsible for the debt if the incentive shares are below the market price.

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Game of Thrones author George R.R. Martin rules out sharing Westeros

Game of Thrones’ author George R.R. Martin speaking in Brisbane, with actor Jerome Flynn, who plays Bronn. Photo: Renee MelidesGeorge R.R. Martin, the author of the epic bestselling novel series A Song of Ice and Fire, which has been adapted for television as Game of Thrones, has vowed that he will never let anyone else write a story set in the universe he created.
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“Not while I’m alive,” Martin says. “But eventually I will not be alive because Valar Morghulis – all men must men die.”

Martin has followed up comments in Brisbane at the weekend, where he described fan fiction as lazy, by ruling out the possibility of allowing other authors to write licensed works set in the lands described in the Song of Ice and Fire series.

Yet he seems resigned to the notion that Westeros will not die with him.

“I don’t think my wife, if she survives me, will allow that either. But one thing that history has shown us is eventually these literary rights pass to grandchildren or collateral descendents, or people who didn’t actually know the writer and don’t care about his wishes. It’s just a cash cow to them.

“And then we get abominations to my mind like Scarlett, the Gone with the Wind sequel.”

Martin himself has written three novellas, the Dunk and Egg series, which are set in the same world, 100 years before the events of A Song of Ice and Fire. However, he will not license other authors in the manner that the estates of Ian Fleming (James Bond) or Robert Ludlum (Jason Bourne) have done, or that George Lucas did with the Star Wars franchise.

“I’d hate to see that actually,” said Martin. “I’ve always admired [J.R.R.] Tolkien and his immense influence on fantasy. [And] although I’ve never met the man, I admire Christopher Tolkien, his son, who has been the guardian of Tolkien’s estate who has never allowed that.

“I’m sure there are publishers waiting in the wings with giant bags of money just waiting for someone to say ‘yes, go ahead, let’s write Sauron Strikes Back’.

“I hope I never see Sauron Strikes Back written by some third rate writer who leaps at the opportunity.”

George R.R. Martin will appear at the Dymocks luncheon in Sydney on Tuesday, hosted by Giles Hardie. In Melbourne, Martin will appear at the Wheel Centre on Wednesday night and at the Dymocks luncheon on Thursday. Martin will attend the Supanova convention in Adelaide at the weekend.

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Podsiadly ready for new start with Crows

James Podsiadly has a bit of a head start on his peers when it comes to any butterflies which might be associated with joining a new club at a more senior age than most recruits.
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Firstly, he’s done the football rounds over the years. Including his junior career, Adelaide becomes the seventh different club of any description for whom he’s played. And then there’s the matter of his deceptive birth certificate.

The former Geelong key forward might be 32, but in football years, has a profile a fair bit younger. Podsiadly didn’t even start playing the game seriously until the age of 17.

And as far as the wear and tear of AFL-standard football goes, there’s just four season’s worth. Compare that, say, with the similarly-aged but recently-retired St Kilda veteran Jason Blake, for whom 2013 was his 14th.

“I’ve got to go against the trend,” he conceded on Monday after a first training run with Adelaide’s younger list players. “I know physically and mentally I’m right, but just learning the game is where I think I can improve and take my game forward.

“I don’t know what a 32-year-old footballer is supposed to feel like, but from what I’ve been told I don’t feel like that. I’m not here to fill spots or fill numbers, I’m hopefully here to make an impact.”

And early indications are that Podsiadly will have every chance to do that. One of the key factors in the demise of Adelaide in 2013 was its inability to score enough, the Crows falling from a ranking of second for points scored in their top-four finish in 2012 to only ninth last season.

The hole left by the departure of Kurt Tippett was never adequately filled, the subsequent loss of Taylor Walker early in the season to a serious knee injury proving a fatal blow. And with Walker’s return date still uncertain and another key forward in Josh Jenkins recovering from ankle surgery, Podsiadly may end up playing much more than the 20-25 games coach Brenton Sanderson said he would over the duration of his two-year contract.

“The club could have a whole heap of injuries and if you’re not prepared to play 25 games after a pre-season you’re almost letting the team down,” Podsiadly said. “If it’s five, if it’s 10, if it’s 25 it doesn’t really affect me.

“I definitely wouldn’t have put my hand up and asked a club to give me a contract if I didn’t think I could play a full season. When the start of the season comes we play the NAB Challenge games, we’ll see where the side’s at and where my body’s at.”

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Online poll pans giant hat pergola

Crass, tacky, and an unnecessary waste of ratepayers’ money.
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A proposal to build a hat-shaped pergola to honour Orange’s poet Banjo Paterson has been almost universally slammed by Central Western Daily readers.

As of Monday afternoon, 87.8 per cent of 303 respondents in an online poll said Orange City Council should abandon the hat pergola.

Just 12.2 per cent wanted the council to build the $30,000, five-metre-high monument.

Many of the reader comments objected to ratepayer funds being directed to the Paterson tribute, with several saying the money would be better spent on road repairs or efforts to improve employment prospects in Orange since Electrolux announced its closure.

But the man behind the pergola idea, councillor Chris Gryllis, is unswayed by the criticism and believes it could even be a selling point for the would-be tourist attraction.

“Quite often controversial things bring attention,” he said.

“If it becomes controversial, the more publicity we get out of it. We might have it on the national news.”

Cr Gryllis said people were free to express their opinions opposing the pergola, but he had received an encouraging response from ratepayers supporting the project.

“Beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” he said.

“It will serve a purpose and create an undercover area for people to enjoy a meal and it won’t be out of place. It won’t make anyone broke.”

The few favourable reader comments said the giant hat would put Orange on the map and could bring thousands of tourists to town.

Cr Gryllis believes there is still time for the pergola to be up in time for the Paterson festival in February.

Members of the public have 28 days to have their say about the pergola before councillors make a final decision.

Footing the bill for Banjo’s birthday

If Orange City Council decides to honour Banjo Paterson with a $30,000 hat-shaped pergola, it will bring the total spend for the poet’s 150th birthday celebrations to $187,000.

And the money is well worth it to celebrate the one-off event, according to councillor Chris Gryllis.

So far the council has budgeted $20,000 to improve Banjo Paterson Park and $10,000 to design a life-sized bronze sculpture of the poet.

Taste Orange was given $5000 to manage February’s 10-day Banjo Paterson Festival and last week the council agreed to give $5000 to the Rotary Club of Orange towards the official opening of the restored Emmaville Cottage.

The estimated $90,000 for the bronze sculpture and $30,000 for the pergola has not been budgeted.

The council is also yet to allocate funds for $7000 extra needed for the cottage restoration and about $20,000 for its landscaping. Cr Gryllis said Paterson deserved more than one monument.

“These bits and pieces bring people to that area. I don’t think it’s a waste of money … it’s not extravagant and it’s not overkill,” he said.

FEDORA UP: Councillor Chris Gryllis and mayor John Davis want to construct a giant Akubra to commemorate Banjo Paterson

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