Sunday, December 30, 2007

Household furniture

At last all the funds needed to purchase the housing unit for our son have appeared in our Bank Account. All we are waiting for now is news that the tenant occupying the place has found alternative accommodation and is about to move out so that settlement can take place. From the time of loan approval, the tenant has 35 days to move and in this case he was hoping that we were buying the unit as an investment and that he would be staying in place. He will either start looking for a place immediately or sit out the 35 days.

We have been using the Quokka, a free to advertise paper, to buy good furniture for the unit. So far we have purchased a nice small dining suite and a lounge suite at a total of $100. The lounge suite is a two piece job; one being a sofa bed which is very heavy. The unit is on the second floor and that plus the size of both lounges will present some difficulty when we shift Martin in.

W.A. is experiencing seemingly increasing violence with bashings being the order of the day. In the last year there have been a number of ‘king hits’ at nightclub venues with several deaths. In today’s paper an article outlines changes to laws about murder. It seems that someone who kills another person with a punch could serve up to 20 years if they are found guilty of ‘intent to cause grievous bodily harm’. I would think that a decent punch would fit nicely into that category. Previously they were charged with manslaughter and if found not guilty were released.

We went to Melville Markets today and bought some herbs to replace those cooked by the Xmas heatwave. I also bought a cordless phone for my workshop for $10. Pity it doesn’t work.
The heatwave has killed off large areas of suburban lawns. We are fortunate that our lawn is couch and will regenerate in those brown spots.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Family Gathering


We usually only see other rellies at funerals lately, so today was a pleasant excursion.

It was prompted by the visit of cousin Anne (with husband Doug) from Canada for her sister Coral's 70th birthday. We met at Matilda Bay Reserve on the Nedlands foreshore, and the weather was very kind. Instead of the 40+ temperatures we have been having, it was in the low 30s and the sea breeze came in early. The reserve has heaps of mature shade trees and we were very comfortable.

Kevin is wary about family gatherings. While he enjoys them, he is not a "hugger and kisser" and there is always plenty of that when everyone first arrives. Some years ago, when I first got an embroidery machine, he asked me to make a T-shirt with the message "I'm happy to see you, but please no kisses". While I did my best, I was a beginner and it wasn't a successful exercise. He is still pushing for it.

Today wasn't too bad. Most of the females were happy to have cheek and air kisses, except for Aunty Vi. Aunty is 92 and the the sole survivor of the 6 siblings from the previous generation. She wants real kisses and she got them. Kevin hopes he didn't give her his cold.

There was at least one descendant, all of our generation, from each of the Lock siblings so it was very representative. Since most of the next generation were working, there were none of them present. A lot of grand children brag books were passed around, and our lack of contribution to that tally was probably noted with pity.

However, we did enjoy the afternoon and will not be reluctant to attend future gatherings. I did a family tree about 20 years ago. Maybe I should make the effort to update it.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Christmas Day


Joan and I exchanged presents in the morning before going north of the river to Hillary's. That was a bit embarrassing as I gave her my usual thoughtful present: a book voucher and she gave me a DVD recorder. Work out which present is mine.

Bit of a trek up the freeway and I was mindful of the Booze Bus traps that could nab me on the way home. I packed my new Breathalizer and it was worthwhile as I was close to the lower limit when we left to go home.

It was a pleasant day with plenty of food and as much drink as one wanted. Mike was sometimes quite animated and other times frozen. Parkinsons doesn't take time off for Christmas!

Mike was 'Father Christmas' adorned with a singing mechanical elf's hat. He didn't like that too much, but managed the job with a few mumbles.

As we were unwrapping presents he noted that he got more than anyone else because 'I'm dying this year'. Earlier we were in his garage workshop and I commented on a new shifting spanner on the wall rack. He tried to give it to me as he thought he wasn't going to need it anymore. His big operation is set for February/March and we all hope he doesn't give in before then.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Figs,Bunnies,fires and Christmas

This morning we decided to walk near Bibra Lake where there is a large fig tree. There were plenty of plump, soft figs to be had. They felt OK, but when opened they were dry inside. I'm guessing that the tree needs more sun. We did see a couple of healthy looking hopping rabbit stews as well. If a fox doesn't get them there will be hundreds in the lake area in no time.

We noticed a huge fire over our back fence. It looked like it was about a kilometer away so we decided to go and rubberneck. Turned out to be about 12 kilometres away and the mean old policeman wouldn't let us get too close. There were a number of fire units there and two helicopters dropping water. I always think that it looks like pissing into a bushfire when planes drop a few buckets worth of water onto a big blaze.
Pics: Maccas wasn't really ablaze. The fire in the pic was at least another 8 kilometers away.
Christmas is no longer the buzz it was for me. When my parents were alive and our kids were young, I liked the present openings and the gathering. Tomorrow we are off to Joan's sister's place and it will be a relatively small show with lots of food. Our son has opted out as he has done for the last 6 years. Helen will be joining us as will Dorothy and Mike's daughter Katherine who is here from San Francisco.

I have never been to, or heard of, a Christmas gathering where Christ was mentioned unless someone had trouble opening a bottle of bubbly. The Archbishop of Canterbury has set the cat amongst the pigeons by pointing out that the Three Wise Men almost certainly didn't exist and there almost certainly was no snow falling at Bethlehem and that Jesus was probably not born in December.
The Anglican Archbishop of Perth said the people had 'lost the plot' if they took Christmas stories at face value. I have heard similar before where believers say that the Old Testament is just a book of stories. I always thought it was!

Friday, December 21, 2007

Another wedding in Papua

At the Catholic Mission things were quite different to the LMS (London Missionary Society) station. The two Priests were French and certainly appreciated civilised living; fine wines and food. Even though the two mission stations were only a couple of miles apart on the same road there was little contact between the two.

I recall that when JFK was elected the LMS people were horrified that a Catholic had become President of the USA.

In the RC compound there appeared to be major division between the priests and the nuns. The nuns ran a small hospital and kept separate to the priests. This was probably because Fr. Michel availed himself of the medicinal alcohol to make Pernod. A colleague in Port Moresby sent aniseed powder out to the mission and voila…Pernod.
Fr. Michel gave a couple of us a bottle of ‘Pernod’ when we went on a fishing trip up the Vailala River. We caught nothing and drank the Pernod with river water.

Pic: Fr. Michel invites me in for a drink


On my infamous motorcycle trip to Kerema along the beach I was surprised to see another motorcycle coming in the opposite direction. I got quite excited as the other bike got closer. It turned out to be a nun heading back to the mission. I waved, but got no response. I never knew whether that was because I had stayed over with the priests or whether she knew I was in league with the LMS. or whether she was just having a bad time.
It did seem strange that two white people passing each other on a deserted beach should not acknowledge each other’s presence there.

The Catholic Mission had a plantation about ten miles inland. It had been run down and was in poor condition. A lay brother, Marcel, offered to run it on a profit sharing basis pitched in his favour and in no time it was making a handsome profit. The Mission was unimpressed. He branched out a bit and started a couple of small trade stores, one of which was very successful because he had a battery powered record player providing Tahitian music. The locals loved it, especially when the record cover featuring Tahitian damsels was on display.

Marcel, a portly Frenchman with a pencil-thin moustache, married a young mixed race girl whose father was a crocodile shooter. The wedding at the Mission station was a big show and as with a lot of weddings there was a bit of argy-bargy and one fellow was decked by the groom. The demon grog!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

The Wedding

A couple of staff members at my school were from the Central District; one was a Motuan from around Port Moresby and the other was from Hula some 90 miles from Moresby. They were both great blokes. We had lots of fun together.

The Motuan chap fell into a relationship with a nurse from the London Missionary Society hospital a few miles away. This wasn’t supposed to happen. The girls were supposed to serve faithfully after their training, not get married and leave the mission.
I was asked to be the go-between and talk to the Rev. Stan Dewdney about my man stealing his nurse away. It wasn’t too pleasant for a while but Stan eventually gave permission and the wedding was scheduled. My man asked if he could wear my suit in the ceremony and of course I agreed. My suit had been hanging in a cupboard for some eight months and tropical fungi attached to it made it look and smell like a mushroom farm. Never-the-less we cleaned it up and he wore it on the day. I was the best man.
Wearing a black suit in coastal Papua on a sunny, humid day is pressure cooker stuff, but he did it and looked pretty good.

In the weeks leading up to the wedding the father-in-law to be travelled to Arehava and shifted in with his son-in-law to be. Tradition had it that he could take anything he wanted, so the son-in-law to be, put all his valuables and his bicycle in my place. Even so, his sheets, pillow and blanket were ripped off by his new Dad.

I must mention Stan and his lovely wife. They had been in Papua since about 1925 and I don’t think they left during WW2? Once a month I would visit the Mission to give Stan a haircut. The ritual was the same every time. As I finished his hair he would say..’Kevin, would you please do my ears?’ Stan’s ears looked like a couple of anemones and it took a strong pair of scissors to cut all the hairs. The rub was, his next comment….’You know they have only started growing like that since I’ve been in the tropics!’
Pic: Rev. Stan Dewdney sans ear hair.

The Mission station was pretty well set up. They had a gun boi (boy) who was actually a man. He shot pigeons etc and their table was always good when I stayed there. There was a price to pay though. Before and after the meal there were prayers. After the meal there were individual prayers around the circle. When it came to my turn I opted out. They knew I was born a Protestant and desperately wanted me as part of the flock. It didn’t happen!

I also stayed over at the opposition, the Catholic Mission, a couple of miles further down the road. Some stories about that later.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Kerema

My school was probably 100k from Kerema the District Headquarters where my boss the District Education Officer lived. During school holidays teachers were told to stay at their schools and not visit Kerema.

A friend, Albert, had a school close to the government station at Ihu and we were both a bit upset that we couldn’t hit the big smoke for a few days. I guess the DI thought we would get drunk and embarrass him. Being so isolated we thought that his ruling was a standard throughout the Territory, but unknown to us it was just his idea. Bastard! Not that Kerema was a metropolis; it had a primary school, a high school, a bush material District Office and a club about the size of the average room. It was however, certainly better than spending two weeks in a one-roomed SOQ listening to Peggy Lee’s ‘Lost Loves’ on a battery powered turntable.

There were about 40 Europeans on the station and a few of them had gone troppo. The first time I visited Kerema I saw a young cadet Patrol Officer walking down the dirt road eating a large drumstick which turned out to be part of his dog. He was soon repatriated south.

I bought a really old motorcycle and one weekend decided to go to Kerema along the beach. Beach trips had to be planned around the tides. Even then there were creeks, rivers and headlands that were major obstacles to a young traveller. At rivers there was always a village with a Ferryman to take you across the river for a stick of tobacco. Trade tobacco looks like a piece of liquorice and the locals pare bits off with a knife and roll it into newspaper to make a cigarette. I imagine lung cancer is rife these days after decades of smoking that tarry stuff in newsprint.

Kerema didn’t actually jump with joy at my visit and after an evening of drinking at the ‘Club’ I bunked down at a teacher’s house and headed back to Arehava the next morning. The next time I visited Kerema was by coastal boat to catch the TAA Catalina to Moresby on leave.













Pics: Catalina in Kerema Bay. Barge taking passengers to the plane.

Writing this, I have rekindled my desire to return to Papua New Guinea for a visit, but I won’t be doing any young-fella stuff travelling by myself along beaches. The locals are a bit too violent these days.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Arehava continued

This photograph shows a group of my Std 6 boys at Arehava PS. Of this group, five are now dead. Malaria is a common cause of death in PNG. From the 1950s, teams of men from “Malaria Control’ visited villages and sprayed houses and out buildings with DDT. The idea being that the Anophelies mosquito bites the person, usually at night and being heavy with blood flies to the nearest wall to rest and digest the blood. There it makes contact with the DDT and dies. DDT gets a bad press, but is still one of the front-line methods of malaria control in PNG.

The District Education Officer instructed me to have villagers build a new double classroom out of native materials. I had a few meetings and the surrounding villagers agreed to commence the building. It wasn’t long before one village complained that the other villages were not helping. Rather than front up to the men who were supposed to be helping, a couple of fellows dressed in warlike gear and came to the school with bows and arrows etc screaming that they would kill the children from the other villages. I talked to them and we had some nasty words, but they left. The students were shaken up and didn’t return to school the following day. I could see that there was only one way to get the job done…pay the group who was half finished to complete the job. They didn’t want money; they wanted some beer. I promised them a little party on completion. Trouble was that by the time they finished the job, I only had one carton of cans between about 16 fellows. That didn’t worry them. Because there was a complete ban on native drinking, they had no idea what a can of beer would do to them. One can of VB and a stubbie of foul home brew I couldn’t drink and they were dancing.
Picture of the new classroom:

The roof material is made of pandanus leaves sewn over a straight piece of palm wood and attached to the rafters with fine cane. When finished it is waterproof…and a rat haven.

Monday, December 17, 2007

More on Papua

My house was a one room aluminium ‘donga’ right in the village. It had a cast iron wood stove which helped by the tropical heat kept things nice and warm. I recruited a cookie. His name was Maisevese Horelau and he had been a cook for other Europeans, so was quite proficient at cooking, washing and ironing. He became my friend and tutor in Motu, the lingua franca of Papua. When I transferred away from the Gulf District to Madang, he came with me. At Arehava he guided me through the village politics.
Maisevese had accidentally killed a man before the war and was a prisoner at the outbreak of hostilities in Papua. He was assigned as a cook to an Australian Officer. He survived with good humour.

Our school garden was some miles away and grades 4,5 & 6 went gardening about once a fortnight for half a day. The garden had a bamboo fence which was regularly broken by wild pigs. A couple of teachers and I decided to sit outside the fence one night with pistol and a shotgun at the ready to try and kill a pig. In the near total darkness my torch failed and we shot blindly into the noisy feeding pigs….without any results besides a bit of blood found on the ground the next day.Some time late in 1962 the District Office at Ihu was allocated a new Land Rover. It came from Port Moresby and up the Vailala River to the Government Station by coastal trader. There was not really much use for it as the only roads were on the station and out to Arehava. A Patrol Officer named Visser, from Rhodesia, first drove out to Arehava school, along the beach and into the village near my donga. Villagers rushed to see the new car; most never even having seen pictures of one before. As Visser alighted he saw village kids touching his Landy. Out came his Rhodesian riding crop and a few hands were lashed. Nice chap!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

The past


In early 1962, at the age of 22, I was posted as Teacher in Charge to Arehava Primary School in an isolated spot in the Gulf of Papua. The school was made of bush materials and the floor was beach sand. It was only about 50 meters from the surf.
I was part of a major push by the Australian government to provide ‘Universal Education’ to Papua New Guineans…providing native English-speaking teachers as mentors for native teachers. Tough work for a 22 year old! I still keep in contact with several of those ex-students. They are in their late 50s.

Many of the Std 6 kids in my class were probably 16 or 17. I say probably, as it wasn’t important for the people of the area to record or remember when they were born. At the beginning of the school year an assessment of age for entry into Grade 1 was made by telling the child to put his/her arm over the head and try and touch the ear. At the same time the teacher looked to see if there were traces of armpit hair.

There was a steep learning curve in dealing with native staff and their families as well as village leaders, sorcerers and of course students.

I think back on those years and wonder if many of today’s 22 year-olds would cope with the isolation, diplomatic wrangles with staff and villagers and almost complete lack of contact with family and friends.

I made a few blues in the first couple of years. One staff member thought I had insulted his wife, also on staff, when I suggested that ‘Roll me over in the clover, lay me down and do it again’ wasn’t a really appropriate song to teach grade three kids. He later wrote a letter to the District Superintendent saying that I was ‘doing the crocodile business and not the school business’. He and his wife got a transfer, not me.

I had a .45 colt automatic pistol I bought from a planter and a gun was pretty important to kill the croc at the same time as a harpoon was rammed into its head.
I only went croc shooting with villagers twice, at night and only one croc was shot. Some crocodile business!

There was a nice teacher from New Ireland. He was settling in well and I taught his wife how to make pikelets. We got pikelets every recess for ages. After a couple of months his wife started screaming and wailing from their house on the school lot. I had to try and calm her, but as soon as I went she would start up again. She had dreams that her husband was having an affair with a student. This went on for a few days and we found that one very large Std 4 girl had gone bush. Turns out that my teacher was giving her extra curricular treatment in his toilet. Emergency! I had to ride the school bike along the beach and through numerous creeks to get to the government station to talk on the two-way radio to the District Superintendent to have the teacher shifted immediately before the villages speared him. We managed to organise a tractor and trailer to come to the school and we loaded all their gear on the trailer just in time. As the tractor and trailer made its way down the beach a large group of villagers arrived looking for him. Too late!

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Museum or Historical Society?

Up until yesterday I had a nice collection of my deceased uncle's medals and badges of rank from his long career as a police officer in Western Australia. When he was dying he told me that it should all go to the Police Museum. I contacted the Police Department and was directed to a man who was collecting stuff for a proposed museum. I said he could have it all, but he has not been back to me in over a year.

On Sunday night last, on one of the commercial radio stations, there was an ex-police officer talking about a major bombing incident in the Goldfields in 1942. He is Vice President of the Police Historical Society and they have a small museum with quite a few exhibits and lots of information about the force and its members from colonial days to the present.

He mentioned my uncle as the source of most of the available information about the bombings. Graham Lee, my uncle, was a constable in Kalgoorlie/Boulder at the time. I decided to contact him to see if his society was the same as the one I had offered the collection to before. As it turns out they are rivals...not bitter rivals; sort of, in competition. When I rang him, he drove to our place and I was impressed enough to give him all the stuff. I did keep some very interesting documents relating to police procedures in wartime.

The Vice President of the society, Peter Skehan retired from the 'force' as Deputy Commissioner, the number two job. He should be able to help me if the cops come around and want the stuff I promised them.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Hair, visits and edger

We went for a walk around part of Bibra Lake this morning. The figs are not quite ripe and the rabbits are breeding like...well, rabbits.

Our friend John is going into respite care tomorrow for one week. His wife Joy needs a break. I went over to their place to give John a haircut...head, ears and eyebrows! I didn't venture into the nostrils. He looked pretty good after it was all done. He is at the moment, quite good about going into care for a week. Last time it was tried was a bit of a disaster. He broke out and went AWL eventually ending up in the city bruised and bleeding. It is hoped that this time his nocturnal wanderings and demon-chasing will not upset the management too much.

After lunch I visited a friend of 50 years, although I have only briefly met him twice in the last 30 years. He has Mesothelioma. I have been trepident (word supplied by Joan) about visiting him on his deathbed after so many years. When I arrived at his place I was pleasantly surprised to find that the chemotherapy he has been undertaking, seems to be working. He was bright and we had an update on the last thirty or so years. I told him that I was a bit frightened about visiting him in his final months and he told me that all his friends obviously feel the same. They no longer visit, but make phone calls to check up on him.

Thinking about all the money our son has/is costing us I decided to buy a lawn edger. I already have an electric edger which tries to cut the power cable and can only cut to a depth of 38mm...useless! For $199 I bought a four-stroke petrol powered edger made in the Peoples' Zingjang Ironworks. It is of course, a copy of a well known Australian brand at one third the price, but it is a beauty! Tomorrow I will be out doing all the edges I can find; might even do a bit of our neighbor's lawn.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

spiders

I am not afraid of spiders; they just make me cranky when I walk into a web. The spiders at our place are quite small and I think they could survive a nuclear holocaust. I spray them with flyspray and residual insecticide to no avail. This morning I walked into a single thread stretching across maybe three meters. If they would stop setting these traps I would promise to supply them with free flies from my fly trap.

Yesterday I read a posting on the West Australian Mac Users' Group from a mature age Indonesian Uni student here in Perth. His 'signature' on the bottom of his posting contained a familiar word...binatang, which in Pidgin English means insect. I copied the signature and popped it into a free translation program named Toggle Text.

The result.....'The High Season, Nectarine, Peach and.. the Fly!
The fly ought to become the national Australian animal!'

Pidgin is a quite wonderful language that has become the Lingua Franca of Papua New Guinea. There are some 800 pure languages in PNG and English is the official language. Tok Pisin, which is pidgin for Pidgin English, has spread to even remote villages. The structure of Tok Pisin is similar to English. For example, husat I stap? means 'who stops there?'
Or ' Wanaim as bilong trabel hia'
translates as....'What is at the bottom of this trouble?'

Inap. Taim bilong kai kai. Mi hangri tumas!

Monday, December 10, 2007

Jury Duty report

Joan drove me to Perth Central Law Courts to start my jury duty. We have had some experience on peak-hour traffic on the freeway north and thought it wise to leave just before 7am for an 8.15 start at the courts. Wrong!! The freeway was free; well almost and we were in Perth by 7.15am, an hour early. We did a touristy drive around Kings Park and even tried to spot the track where Mrs Corryn Rayney's body was found by our hapless constabulary. The murderer has not yet been apprehended, though her husband has been named as the prime suspect.

After wasting a bit of time, Joan left me at the courts. As the doors were opened at 8am potential jurists flooded in and crowded the lifts to the 4th floor. A series of security checks of summonses, and ID got us into the main foyer where we were issued with a card with a number on it. Further in this was scanned and my name appeared on the computer and I and the other 350 people sat and waited and waited and waited. The numbered cards was a new touch for me. They are designed to protect jurors by not giving out names for the villains to track you down.

Eventually the ballot for each trial started. There were four trials starting today and three more during the week. All potential jurors were eventually assigned to a case. The longer the estimated trial time the more jurors are selected in case one of them falls off the perch mid-trial. The two trials for my group of 50 were set to run for 5 days each and two extra jurors were selected for those trials. I assume it was the same for the murder and grievous bodily harm trials also starting today. Some trials were at the Central Criminal Courts; some at the Supreme Court and another two in Fremantle.

We were led into a court room prior to the final selection of the Jury. The four accused were in the dock, a married couple and two part Aboriginal men who were all accused of several house robberies and stealing a vehicle. All pleaded not guilty to the robberies, but the wife pleaded guilty to stealing the car. Each one of them had a defence lawyer; probably appointed by the Crown. The Clerk reading out the charged used legalese when describing the charges. The stealing charges were 'entering a property knowing that the occupant was present in a place of habitation'. Which, I think, meant that they knew there was someone living in the house they robbed?

Fortunately I was not selected and we all traipsed back to the selection room and waited for the next Trial Judge to call us. The court officer looking after us filled in time answering questions about selection and rejection of jurors etc. I told her that It was only on Saturday that I had seen that I could be exempted because of my age (68). She offered me exemption and I signed a document witnessed by a JP and I was out of there like poo through a goose.

People over the age of 70 are not eligible to do jury duty so I have no chance of being called again. If I am I will state my age again. I have done jury duty before, so don't feel that I am shirking my responsibities.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Jury Duty 1

Kevin has been summoned to do jury duty, starting tomorrow. He hasn't been all that happy about the prospect - sitting for hours doing nothing and feet in shoes and socks are major problems.

Today we started organising him. I charged his mobile so he can ring me when he is dismissed or if he is called up. We will switch it off tomorrow. I found him a book to read while he is waiting (Tim Winton's The Turning) and I have set the alarm. He has to be there at 8.15am so we are estimating an hour to get there (30 minutes in non-peak hour traffic).

Then we took the notice down from the fridge and actually read all of it. We discovered that he could have been excused on the basis of age (65 to 70 years - just needed a statutory declaration to be completed and submitted). Too late now.

So off he goes tomorrow.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Mike & Dorothy

I spent most of yesterday looking after my bro-in-law Mike. His regular carer was not available and I drove up the coast to be with him until his wife Dorothy finished work at 3.30pm.

Dorothy is retiring from her career as Principal of Mt Hawthorn Junior Primary School to look after Mike. Hopefully things will get better when Mike has the operation to insert electrodes into his brain to stop the violent dyskinesis. The operation is loosely scheduled for February...that is, if the surgeon doesn't take holidays or go to a conference somewhere.

I haven't spent a night looking after Mike as Dorothy has to, but I got a taste of the strain it must be putting on her, by being there for him over some 5 hours. He had two long periods of 'freezing' where he cannot do anything and panics, then a couple of relatively 'normal' periods where he urgently attempts to fix things. I managed to get a computer printer working again and helped set up a bedside table so that Mike can reach the bed controller and bedlamp. For him to get in and out of bed is a major effort and he has to use an overhead aid to start him rocking forward and back until he builds up enough momentum to sit upright.

Because of his condition, eating, drinking and other activities we would do without thinking about become enormous hurdles for him. He rarely gets depressed. I think I would have topped myself long before reaching his current stage.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Busy day

Today we have been signing up for a loan of $90.000 which, with some other cash we have, is to purchase the unit to house our son. We decided to go with an interest-only loan over three years and will sell off some shares to clear most of it pretty soon.

Waiting to see the loans officer at Police and Nurses Credit we decided to have a sandwich in a downstairs cafe. Next door to this cafe is a school teaching English to foreigners. There were several girls in their teens sitting next to us and it was strange to hear them talking in English as a common language. I guessed that there was a Swedish girl, a Spanish girl and maybe a German girl. The conversation was interesting as they were talking about the schoolies on the Gold Coast and although they didn't seem prudish they were astonished at the drunkenness and activities they had witnessed. It was obvious that schoolies week(s) were not part of their graduation from high school. It made me think about that and how we just accept that kids are going to get smashed and vandalise accommodation and buildings etc. Foolishly tolerant!


I have had a parking meter in my shed for some time. It wasn't stolen from the street; I bought it at a council sale. A couple of days ago I decided to put it in the garden to give an hour to a few people who are likely to outstay their welcome.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Paperwork done

This evening we drove to Rockingham to meet with the vendor of the unit we are buying to sign the offer and acceptance papers. There were many more papers than just the offer and acceptance.

The facilitator, the principal of the company Go Private introduced himself and gave me the once over. 'I think I know you from somewhere?' he said. And as quite often is the case he turned out to be an ex student of mine that I taught in 1977. Fortunately he was a good one and had a few good words to say about me.

I remember him well. I taught him in a class of bright kids and the subject was Electricity: low voltage of course. I recall that an option class had collapsed because a teacher had left and I was told to take the class. In those days I was able to show the boss that electricity would be a worthwhile subject and a new option was created for one semester. Couldn't do that these days! I started off with batteries and bulbs and we created circuits in parallel and series.

Later we made battery powered games of skill and even progressed to simple pinball machines made with solenoids I gathered from the scrap bins at an auto electrics workshop. Karl, my ex-student remembered these activities well. I was pretty chuffed that he remembered so much of my lessons thirty years ago.

I made another lot of chilli sauce today. I didn't want to waste the bag of chillies I bought a few days ago. I decided to keep the chilli seeds, dry them and grown my own. As I was collecting the seed I thought that I should do a 'Tom Lehrer' (Poisoning Pigeons in the Park) and scatter some seeds amongst the biscuit crumbs I spread for the magpies. Joan didn't think that was nice, so I decided not to.

I missed out on a ten year reunion of ex-students of my old high school last Friday. I was looking at the photos on FaceBook and I received an email from an ex-student saying that a few people asked after me on the night. He suggested that he organise a few beers at my local to catch up with some of them. I thought it was a great idea, but suggested it should be at our place so that I don't have to drive home. I look back on the 1997 cohort as a truly wonderful group of kids, now 27 years of age. Joan reminded me today that I am now 68!

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Offer accepted

Last night we made an offer of $200,000 on a two bedroom unit to house our son Martin. Today the vendor rang back to accept the offer, so tomorrow evening we kickstart the process by signing formal papers and giving him a $10,000 deposit. He has a tenant in the unit and so must give him 35 days notice to move out. We will arrange the finance as soon as possible in the hope that he finds alternative accommodation and Martin can shift in as soon as possible. We have decided to furnish the unit rather than have Martin use his roadside collections. I saw an advert for small kitchen appliances; toaster, cordless kettle and iron for $12. each so we bought one of each. Then later when I was in a cheapo store looking for plastic sauce bottles for my latest chilli sauce brew saw the same things for $9.99 each. Bugger!

This afternoon we had a session with our financial adviser who showed us the good returns made on investments for the financial year up until 30th June 2007....overall something like 16%. But the last three months have been horror months for the Australian investments. He believes that things are on the mend and December/January are traditionally better. Let's hope.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

On Friday evening we went to Joan's sister's retirement show. Lots of people there; mostly teachers from the various school Dorothy has taught at. I did the Kev thing and took lots of snaps. I was able to use my birthday present from daughter Helen; a breathalyzer. I was under the limit. Mike, Dorothy's husband was out of hospital for the day and stayed over at home for the night. He is in Osborne Park Hospital which is a hospital for Parkinsons and dementia patients. Mike has been in there for a couple of weeks after having a fall and cracking two vertebrae and a wrist. His Parkinsons dyskinesis makes it very painful and he was transferred to Royal Perth Hospital for a nerve sheath injection.
He was taken to his specialist on Thursday where he was finally told that he had been assessed as a suitable candidate for the deep brain implant surgery.....in three months.

We are still looking for a two bedroom unit to house our son Martin. This afternoon we are going to Orelia to take a look at one priced at $205k which I guess means $200k. It is in a reasonable area with a large pool, BBQ area and full security. There are several blocks of units in Orelia at about the same price. Originally these blocks were State Housing flats, but were refurbished, walled off and sold to the public. Orelia is a suburb near the notorious Medina, but a much nicer area. We both taught at Kwinana High School in Medina in the sixties and blackboard jungle had nothing on that school. Orelia is approximately 25 minutes from Martin's workplace by car.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Ooops!

A lot of new retail units are being developed along Leach Highway in Myaree.

There are new ones like the group that contains JB HiFi and the Kitchen Warehouse. This has now had a third block added at the back which will house, among others, Spotlight. Yet another blow to the Fremantle shopping scene.

Another block closer to Norma Road has been refurbished and is now ready for its tenants. Some expensive looking signage has been erected. The proprietors of this new showroom must rue the lack of a spell check on theirs.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Birthdays

It is Helen's birthday tomorrow, Kevin's the day after. I have always maintained that it didn't matter that I didn't buy him a 30th birthday present because Helen was it.

I went to work on the Melville Community Textile Art project today and discovered that today is the birthday of Juliet's elder son (Juliet is one of the organisers of this project). He is 19 and seems to be setting out on the same path that Martin has trodden. I can offer nothing but sympathy to Juliet and Chris. I hope they have more success than us.

But in idle conversation the question of clustered birthdays came up. In our extended family most birthdays are (were, since some are now deceased) in either late March/early April (Aries ) or late November (Sagittarius).

It is an obvious cliche that the November arrivals were conceived about Valentine's Day. But why the March/April flush?

Sunday, November 25, 2007

House buying

We have decided to buy a 'flat' to house our son. It is that time in our life when we decide whether to leave our kids property, shares and money or enjoy what is left of our time on this place. The flats...now called apartments, are quite pricey. We looked at one from the outside today at a price of $240,000+. It is a two bedroom unit (that is another name for them) and it is in an area which looks reasonable. We determined that it is 'reasonable' by looking at the vehicles parked in the parking bays. There were no 'Bogmobiles' or wrecks. There were, however, a lot of supermarket trollies near the letterboxes. The letterboxes looked a little suss with some having doors ripped off. Joan has applied for a housing loan through Police and Nurses Credit Society. We are due for a largish lump of cash from the sale of shares in a mining company named Jubilee. We will have to pay capital gains tax on the cash from that but hope that the previous government's changes to the taxation laws will still exist next year so that our superannuation payments are not taxable. That will mean that the Capital Gains on our shares will be spread over our total income from our allocated pension and we will not lose too much to Mr Rudd.

On Mr Rudd, it is interesting that after a hectic pre-election battle the side that lost now has time to have a few beers and relax and the winners start work tomorrow.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

alcohol: beer and wine

This afternoon I visited my brother Graham and we had a few drinks: some beers and a couple of glasses of wine. I parked my car in his garage and Joan came to collect me and bring me home. I remember accepting a glass of bubbly in front of telly and that was it.

I know of other people who under the influence of alcohol do nasty things, like fight, vandalise and abuse others, but to be a party to the change of government over a few drinks is terrible.

To awake and find there was a new government of our nation was a frightening thing.
I hope that the promises of the election campaign are fulfilled.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Flytrap fixation

I admit it, I'm out to kill as many flies as I can. Down the backyard I have set up a flytrap farm trying out various baits: fish fertiliser, a commercial fly bait, beef stock and the mighty prawn heads. At this stage the prawn heads are in front by a mile. In the photo, that black mass is thousands of flies. Maybe I should start a competition like 'How many jelly beans in the jar'.

The prawns are also helped by the smell of all the dead flies. Fellow fly killers argue as to whether a successful trap is merely attracting flies from other houses. I guess that if there was a China-type drive to kill flies and everyone had a fly trap we could see a difference.

The fly brain is very small, but powerful. Even the smallest fly waits until you have both hands full carrying a carton of beer before it crawls up your nose for a drink. Farmers and politicians are not bothered by flies. On TV they can be seen earnestly talking with flies at their mouth, nose and eyes. At this time, on the eve of a federal election, the politician must make sure that nothing deters them from getting the message out; not even an Aussie bush fly.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

win some lose some

We have just registered our two cars and applied for the seniors’ discount. Don’t know why we have never done it before? It is a worthwhile discount of over a hundred dollars on each car for a year’s registration. We drove home pretty chuffed until we opened our mail and found a bill for two hundred and then in the afternoon our son came to get $68 to fill urgent scripts. We are his ATM. Did we win? Nah.

The flies are bad at the moment and Kev has gone into trap mode. I have several fly traps with different baits, but I can assure you that prawn heads have them lining up to get in the trap. Years ago there was a great product by Bayer named Tugon. It was a pinkish crystalline product when spread on a damp piece of cloth attracted flies and almost immediately sent them into epilepsy and instant death. Anything that good had to be banned and it is. I found a product that was supposed to be as good and shelled out $33 for 400g. It works, but doesn’t seem to have the attraction to flies that Tugon had. I read somewhere that Australian soldiers in the North African desert during WW2 had competitions to see who could catch the most of the billions of flies that bred in/on corpses. Wouldn’t want them landing on your bully beef.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Prawned out

When we bought the 10kg box of prawns yesterday we needed to pack them in smaller quantities to share with Graham and Helen. It was quite easy to break up the prawns - keep them in the plastic bag and box and just keep dropping them on the floor. We packed 6 x 1.5kg and 1 x 1kg. Then we had to find freezer space. There was a 1.5kg packet that I had bought earlier in the year that we decided needed to be used to make space for the latest additions.

So we set about thawing that packet of prawns - it had been so long in the freezer that it had solidified and couldn't be broken up. The block kept attacking me as it thawed - I have cuts and slashes all over my hands. Then we had to shell them and discard the heads (bin collection this morning so no need to bury or freeze them). 1.5kg rapidly reduced to about 800g, which is still a lot of prawns for 2 people.

Out with the recipe books. A friend had recommended an Australian Women's Weekly cookbook called 50 Fast Prawns. I have more than enough cookbooks, but when I went to the newsagent for quite a different reason I saw it and decided that we could afford $4.95 if it would expand our gastronomic horizons.

Last night I made Masala Prawns from the book. It is a variation on a basic curry recipe, but uses a pile of fresh herbs. Mint and coriander were specified, but I added parsley as well. It was delectable, but I had used only half the prawns.

Tonight Kevin used the same book to make Garlic Prawns from the remainders. This was NOT the garlic prawns one might expect to eat in an Italian restaurant. Since Graham had dropped in to pick up his portion we shared with him. None of us were really impressed, so I did another book search and found a more "classic" recipe to give him.

I think we will eat steak tomorrow.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Compost and prawns

Sunday evening Dave and Judy from next door visited for a few drinks and to swap experiences about both our recent overseas trips. Dave regularly travels for conferences and research about his business; that of composting. I mentioned that the Canning Vale Waste Management facility has a few residents up in arms about the pong it emits. I had wondered how it operates. How they make compost out of all the rubbish that goes into the green wheely bin. Dave has a business relationship with the facility and takes their end product. He explained that all the rubbish from household waste from several city councils is taken to Canning Vale and tipped onto a large concrete area where the large stuff that should never have been dumped as household waste is separated…gas bottles, printers etc etc. The rest is ground up in a big muncher and after a little breaking down (fermentation I guess) labels and paper and indeed anything that was originally living breaks down. This lot is put through a large screen which separates metals and glass and allows the rest to further break down until it is in a state to be used as compost. The residual metal etc is recycled.
Of course I did have three King Browns (800ml bottles of beer) whilst listening to his explanation and well may have missed out several steps in this explanation of the composting process.

Dave’s composting plant is near Mandurah about an hour’s drive from here. It is adjacent to Watsonia’s Pig farm from where a lot of the raw materials come. The flies are a bit savage at the moment, but it is hoped that the dung beetles will get into gear soon and reduce fly numbers. We are getting some flies here and also hope the dung beetles do their job soon.

A friend, Paul, gave us a tip on a good deal with prawns for sale and we went today to buy a 10kg box for $110. I asked my brother Graham if he also wanted some extra Cholesterol and we are to share the 10kg. He happened to mention it to his boss and I had to go and buy another 2 boxes for him. These prawns are not from the sewerage swamps of Vietnam. They are Western Australian sea prawns from Exmouth. Paul also mentioned a small kitchen tool which de-veins and shells prawns. I bought one and it works well.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

razor blades

The technology used to make razor blades is quite old. I started shaving with 'Blue Gillette' blades. My father thought you could sharpen them by pressing them on the inside of a drinking glass and rotating the glass using water as a lubricant....nah!

I have graduated to using Gillette Mach3 blades. Four blades are more expensive than a 1Gb flash drive and last only a few shaves. What a great business! Mind you, I shave in the shower and the times I have tried cheaper blades it ends up like a scene from Psycho with blood swirling down the drain and me looking like the 'the little Aussie bleeder', Norman Gunston, with bits of tissue stuck on wounds.
Even when we have travelled overseas to countries noted for their cheap gear, Gillette blades are much the same price as at home. If the Chinese can copy the iPhone, why can't they make half-price Gillette Mach3 razor blades?

5.30am

It is 5.30am and I have been up since 4.30. Kev and Joan carefully calculated the time needed to get sister Shirl to the airport for her 7.30 flight back to Esperance. Joan set the alarm on her phone, but as usual I spent the night worrying whether it would actually go off on time and in this state I had in my mind that the time to arise was 4.30am. Most of the night was spent checking the time at hourly intervals and at 4.30 I got up and woke Shirley. Now we have been sitting around for an hour waiting for the correct departure time. I have this problem every time we are traveling.
Shirley's burns were treated and assessed at RPH Burns Unit and when back in Esperance will do a tele-conference with RPH from Esperance Hospital so that the progress of the healing can be monitored and a decision about skin grafts made. Her house is going to need major repairs to the kitchen and general cleaning and repainting to smoke affected areas.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Burns

This morning my niece from Esperance down south rang to tell us that my sister had had an accident and been burnt on the arm. She was deep frying and was called to the door when a neighbor's child came to borrow something. By the time Shirl had dealt with the child, the deep fryer was ablaze. She tossed it into the sink; it splashed back and burnt her arm badly. She put the fire out and called an ambulance and was cared for at Esperance Hospital. The head honcho there determined that she would probably need skin grafts and booked her into the Burns Unit and Royal Perth Hospital. He reasoned that there was no sense trying to treat her in Esperance when Perth has Australia's premium burns unit. The hospital paid her airfare and we collected her at the airport. Her appointment is at 9am so we will have to plan carefully to get there on time in peak traffic conditions.

Joan spent five weeks in the RPH Burns Unit some years ago. She had a number of grafts and the superficial burns on her face actually smoothed out a few wrinkles.
Here is a pic of her on the second day in the unit. I took a daily photograph of her and presented 10X8s of the whole healing process so that others would see that all is not lost.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Cedar cladding


Friends, Dennis and Carole live in Fremantle in their lovely two storey house. It has Cedar planking as weatherboards and need painting with very expensive preservative every couple of years. They usually build a makeshift scaffold and Carole the fearless goes up high to do the painting. This time Den went and bought a stack of steel piping in preparation for the scaffolding and it was on the verge outside their house on a trailer. Den loves the engineering of such constructions, but as it turned out a fellow was passing, saw the pipe and knocked on the door to try and buy it. He was told what it was for and he offered the free use of a mobile cherry-picker if Den would sell him the pipe. I dropped in to see how it was going and was surprised to see Carole up on high, operating this rather complex machinery without even a tremble....looked like a tradesperson! The job was done in no time with minimum fuss. The cherry picker is on a diesel truck and reaches about 40-50' and has a rotating bucket. The safety features are high tech. Sensors shut off the machine if it is too near something or nearing the point of over-balancing. The truck speaks loudly in Japanese warning people when backing up.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Hear, hearers and Dorothy Dixers

Politicians around election times kiss babies and visit workers in factories etc and always use the opportunity to announce a bit of pork barreling or slag off the opposition. Inevitably there are two or three of the party faithfulls behind the man and they nod approvingly, tut tut appropriately or smile widely when the opponent is slagged off. Both the PM and Mr Rudd do it and it is as transparent as the Dorothy Dix questions in Parliament. The member for such and such an electorate asks a question of the Speaker along the lines of...'Mr Speaker, I address my question to the Minister for Silly Walks. How is it that since coming to office, the government has been able to overwhelmingly improve the silliness of Australia's walkers?' Of course the member posing the question must be a member of the government for the DD to work. The Minister for Silly Walks is then able to waste plenty of Parliamentary time explaining his success.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Run rabbit, run


I went to Bibra Lake again last evening to try and photograph the rabbits we had seen previously. There were only two of them playing in the grass. They look pretty nice and allowed me to get quite close before hopping into tall grass. When I was younger; much younger, rabbits lived in burrows and I wondered if these city dwellers still dug burrows? It seems they do also live in bushland when sufficient cover is afforded them. The story of rabbits in Western Australia is covered in this nice presentation; well worth a read. Yum,rabbit stew.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Pests?


We have had a few days of insect infestation….thousands of small hovering ‘flies’ with yellow stripes on their backs. A friend thought that they were native stingless bees and they do look similar to the pics of the many variety of native bees. They are about the size of a small house fly and hover. This morning I rang the W.A. Ag. Dept and was told that they are Hover Flies and the whole metropolitan area is infested with them. Fortunately they are not like ordinary flies; they don’t bite, get on your BBQ snaggers or try and get up your nose for a drink. It seems that they are beneficial, pollinating flowers and fruit. I am, however, glad that they have moved on.

On the subject of flies, we have had a good run this last year…..very few flies as a result of the very dry conditions. Now, however, the flies have had a good season and are back in force. On our walk today near Bibra Lake we were almost choked by swarms of midges. Also near the lake in an open area we saw a family of six rabbits. They looked like they were having fun playing in the mowed grass. I will return today at dusk with a long lens on my SLR and try and get a few shots of them. Rabbits have had a bad press. They were here in plague proportions and I remember netting them around dams in the fifties on my grandparents’ farm in the wheatbelt. The Bibra Lake rabbits are unlikely to do much damage as there are no crops for them to destroy and if they ventured out of the parkland I am sure pussy cats and Rottweilers would soon eat them up…or in the case of the latter…tear them apart.

There is a mature fig tree in the parkland at Bibra Lake and it is laden with fruit. We have never been lucky enough to taste them as they suddenly disappear as they ripen. I guess it must be the council employees who cut the grass inside the park who do daily checks as the fruit ripen.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

A Cockup

Over the last few days I have been eagerly awaiting a flood of letters of protest to the newspapers about the Director of Public Prosecutions here in W.A. Nothing! Zilch!

Mr Cock, an unfortunate surname if ever there was one, decided not to prosecute a Member of Parliament John Quigley, even after Mr Quigley admitted that he had made threats to an undercover policeman involved in the trial of one Andrew Mallard.
Quigley is also a solicitor and represented Mr Mallard in his trial review.
Mr Cock has,I believe,made a big Cockup by not charging Mr Quigley because of his public profile. I doubt whether Mr Cock would be as kind to me if I were in the same situation.
Mr Quigley is a high profile solicitor who worked hard to overturn the murder conviction of Mr Mallard, who is now free after 12 years in the big house.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Melville markets

This morning we decided to get out and visit 'swapmeet' at the Melville Plaza car park. It is a big event with probably 150 sellers. It has a good variety of goods,even some antiques, most of them showing off their little yappy dogs.
We bought a couple of plants and Joan bought a nice old carving knife.
Some of the hundreds of buyers are regulars and two of them we recognise have probably been to every swapmeet since it started about 15 years ago. One of these two we call 'Bang' because he lets loose with a very loud yell 'Bang' at passing cars. The other fellow we call the vacuum man because he has a fixation with buying vacuum cleaners. Even though he cannot speak too well he knows his vacuums and carefully inspects every part before making a purchase. He has no preference...upright, barrel, he likes them all. He lives in care in Fremantle and after making his purchase crosses the road to a bus shelter to catch the 103 to Freo. While he waits for the bus he strips the vacuum down and reassembles it and just before the bus arrives smashes it on the side of the bus shelter and carefully puts all the bits in a nearby bin.
He will spend no more than $10 on his purchase and gets very angry if the seller will not lower the price.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Heathcote

Today was a lovely warm sunny day. I went with some friends (actually we are all committee members of Designing Women and we had a meeting) to Heathcote. We met at the cafe there.

Heathcote is such a beautiful spot - perched high above the Swan River with views to the city and almost to Fremantle. Today the river was crowded with yachts and because the Red Bull air races were on, the sky was almost as full of planes.

There was a wonderful textile art exhibition at the gallery. There were lots of families enjoying the playground and picnic facilities. The restaurant was the venue for a wedding reception - we didn't see the wedding party, but we were treated to the view of numerous very well dressed guests. Everyone on site seemed to be happy.

Heathcote was once a dreaded destination. It was a hospital for patients with psychiatric problems - mostly women. When I was a child, when some one was "sent to Heathcote" it was a shameful thing, talked about in whispers. Today it is recognised that most of the patients were probably suffering depression; in many cases, post natal depression.

Provision of facilities for the treatment of mental illness is presently a political football in this state, and there is no doubt much more needs to be done. But the "good old days" were far from good, and Heathcote is more beneficial now to the mental health of its visitors than it ever was in the past.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Guru and junior Guru

OK, I confess; I couldn't fix our daughter's iBook. I managed to get a great deal on a similar model for $325. I removed the Hard Drive from her now dead iBook and bought a cheap USB enclosure so that we could access her work. I managed to find a few of her bits of work, but couldn't see all her settings for her email client etc etc. Go to the Guru.

Rob is my Mac Guru. I am a junior Guru: a bit like an auto mechanic...can fix other people's cars, but not his own.

Rob is very good and after a couple of hours of transferring data, all Helen's settings, music and photos were on her new machine.

Rob is a bit like a tradesman..."who did this lousy job?' I have to endure a few gibes such as 'Kevin, what have you done here?' But in the end it all works out fine. I owe him a nice bottle of something for his efforts. I hope Helen realises the effort which goes into such work.

The chap I bought the laptop from pointed me in the direction of an free on-line data storage site named Mozy. The free storage is a max. of 2.5Gb which is enough for important files which could be lost if otherwise not backed up to CD etc. I will use it.

Junior Guru Kev helped out friends' daughter today by sorting out a few problems on her Mac. I was also able to show her a few tricks and shortcuts. She gave me a bottle of bubbly. How did she know that we drank alcohol??

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Halloween Trick or Treat

Halloween has never been an Australian tradition, but it seems to be becoming an adopted fashion. Groups of kids roam the streets of suburbs such as ours, knocking on doors requesting "trick or treat". A handful of lollies (sweets) is the accepted response.

Last year we were embarrassed when we had nothing to offer the kids who knocked on our door. While Kevin wanted to give them cough lollies, I think we scrounged together some small change for their treat, so they were probably quite happy.

This year we decided we would be prepared, but we both forgot to buy the lollies. I went out with a friend today and when we returned to her house we saw a group of kids setting out on their trick or treating. So, on the way home I called into a supermarket and bought three bags of lollies (last year we had three groups ring our doorbell). I mixed them up and put them in a bowl near the front door.

I needn't have bothered. It is nearly 10 o'clock and we have had only one visitor - a teenage girl who nearly had a heart attack when Kevin opened the door and said "BOO!!" to her. She did take some lollies though.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

more amateur tech stuff


I managed to get the laptop stripped down and when I tested the start button mentioned, found that that was not the problem after all. A bit about half the size of my little finger has been cooked. Luckily I am able to get a spare for, I think, free. The tec who is looking for the part has warned me to ensure that the screws (about two dozen of them) go back in the same places otherwise some screws may go in too far and cause a short and blow up the whole machine. I am pretty sure I know where most if not all the screws go. I do have a jar of left-over screws and bolts from other repair jobs.

It should be back working in a couple of days, but I won't fess up if I can't get it going. So there!

On Sunday we had a visit from Joan's sister and husband Mike. Mike's Parkinsons is still bad even though several attempts at regulating the medications have been made. He tried the electronic pump to no avail, so is back on hourly tablets. They have a possible/probable date at around three months for the big Deep Brain Stimulation operation.

Kev

amateur technician

A few days ago our daughter Helen got me to look at her laptop computer. The start button was playing up. I fiddled with it and thought I had fixed it but it was still dodgy and yesterday it failed and we couldn't start it at all. Following the first'fix' I went to a sale of Mac gear at Presbyterian Ladies College and bought a top case which included the start button. Last night I disassembled the laptop, carefully labelling every one of the dozens of
screws and when I went to replace the top case with the one I bought found that it was for a smaller iBook. Damn! I will go back to PLC today to see if they will exchange it for the correct one.

Although we are still coughing, today is the day we must attempt to get over it and start living normally. I am unsure if I am still infectious. Hate to give this lot to someone else. The woman we got this flu from in NZ is visiting us in a couple of weeks and she is still suffering. Maybe it is the 100 day flu as the NZ Air hostie said.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Looking for things to do . . .

We are both still under the weather and we have been wandering about the house at a loss for things to do that do not require much physical or intellectual effort.

This morning Kevin did an oil change on the Daewoo and I stitched out some embroidery designs. We spent a lot of time on the computer and I found a very interesting site which offers a donation of rice for correct definitions of English vocabulary. I spent quite a bit of time there.

In the afternoon we went down the hill to the vegetable market and stocked up on vegies. It is the season for broad beans and we bought a few. Kevin decided Sweet and Sour would be a good evening meal so we went to the butcher there and bought a piece of pork.

When we came home I cooked the broad beans and we had them as a snack with butter, salt and pepper. YUM! I hated broad beans as a kid, but I think this was because they were overcooked. Also, I firmly believe they must be eaten in season - frozen broad beans are horrible.

The sweet and sour pork was yummy. I used a recipe from an old Australian Women's Weekly Chinese cookbook. It needed some modification in respect of the amount of meat (2.5 kg of pork chops for 4-6 people?!?) and quantity of oil, but the result was great.

I may need to revisit some of my older cookbooks.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

takin' it easy

I have been taking it easy over the last couple of days. We still have our colds/flu and the GP has given us another round of anti-biotics. I did have time to help a friend set up his computer for Broadband connection to the internet. The ISP is AAPT and their package posted out included a modem and a CD to set up the connection. That was typical of the treatment meted out to Mac users: the CD was for Windows only and when I contacted AAPT they told me that if I just plugged the modem in it would automatically connect...BS!
After a bit of fiddling I rang again and talked another young man into talking me through a manual set-up. Five minutes later we were 'on'. All there was to do then was configure the mail programme and everything was 'running like a Buick'.

Our daughter Helen has been attending a two-day PD course at a local yacht club. This evening she rang to tell me that another teacher on the course was an ex-student of mine from Willetton SHS and fortunately he had only words of praise for Kev. Made my day!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

On the mend

Today we are both feeling better. Last night we slept in the same bed and didn't disturb each other with coughing...I slept through Joan's coughing and I didn't cough.

Today I ventured out to try and buy a fruit tree to replace the nectarine which died some weeks ago. I visited several nurseries and hardware places and couldn't find something we liked with a fruit bearing time span within my use-by date.
At one place I was reading the label of a mango tree with a nice colour photo of the mango fruit and bugger me there was a fruit-fly trying to lay eggs on the photo. An optimist!

Later this evening I went to have an ale (or two) with my brother. We haven't seen each other for a few weeks because of our NZ trip. Graham is experiencing dizziness and his/our GP says his neck is out. I would like five bucks for all the times I have heard that. Graham has all the hallmarks of inner ear infection. I have had that affliction several times as has Joan and our daughter. Damned annoying in bed; when you roll over you get the spins just like when as a young fella you imbibed too much alcohol. There are drugs to help, but the problem eventually goes away. Our GP is a nice enough bloke, but he is all too happy to talk about his yacht or politics than take my blood pressure. I should move to a new GP, especially one who bulk-bills, but John has all my medical history and I don't want to start again with another GP.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

unwell still

We both visited our GP on Friday. Joan's hearing problem was partially cured but I have to talk loudly for her to hear me. I can still mumble and swear without her knowing.

The Doc gave us different antibiotics and wants us to report back as to which one was more efficacious. If we were part of a medical trial I reckon it should have been free.
When I went to the pharmacist to fill the scripts I was informed that we had reached the threshold of the Medicare safety net and all the scripts were free. Up until then, as seniors, the scripts cost us something like $4.90 each. There are some benefits to getting old! I must try and get sick again before the year ends to get full benefit.

A few months ago I had the free flu shot. I have had them every year and not had a dose of the flu, so I have been trumpeting the use of the vaccine. I know there are a few breeds of this bug, but it certainly didn't help me this time.

We have been house-bound and not wishing to pass this bug on to any of our friends. Been trying to think of someone who deserves the flu...I could spread a little sunshine.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Home, sweet home

We arrived back in Perth at around 5.45pm yesterday Our daughter Helen collected us and whisked us home. The flight in Business Class on Air NZ was good as was the executive lounge with lots of food and drinks. Pity we couldn't really enjoy the treatment as we were both very sick with the dreaded NZ lurgy. One of the hostesses (now termed cabin crew) told us that it was called the 'hundred day cough'. Thanks for that. Joan has been partially deaf since landing in Auckland from Christchurch. I have to yell at her to get a message across. Bodes ill for the future. I have seen couples get very offside with each other over partial deafness:the no need to yell at me syndrome.
We slept in separate bedrooms so we wouldn't wake each other with coughing. The last couple of nights in Auckland were bad. We got hardly any sleep. I have booked us in to the GP tomorrow. He can't do much with a virus, but we'll give it a go.

Today is washing day....the handkerchiefs separated and steeped in Pine O Clean.

My plans to sit in the sun have been thwarted by NZ style cloud.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

last day in NZ

Tomorrow we are flying out for an almost eight hour flight to Perth. Looking forward to getting home and sitting in the sun without a freezing gale blowing.

Today we took the Auckland Explorer @ $30 each. It does two routes and passengers can get off at stops of interest and reboard at specific times. We both had a horror night with coughing, headaches and runny noses, so didn't enjoy many of the sites. The Auckland Museum is an architect's dream and it houses, amongst other things, a vast collection of Pacific Island heritage items. Beautiful! We also visited MOTAT (the Museum of Transport and Technology) which was OK....6/10. Whilst we were there there were a couple of primary schools visiting. The museum is going to regret that visit. There was an exhibition on the evolution of computers and those knobs and switches got a good work out.

Auckland is the big smoke of NZ. 1.5 million people live here out of a total population of 4.28 million. That is not counting sheep. It may well be that our motel is in a different area, but there seem to be thousands of Chinese people here. Another thing we noticed as we walked out for a meal last night is that there is a lot of rubbish in the street and especially on escalators and stairs: cigarette butts everywhere. There are also large groups of Maori and Asian youth congregating even in the windy areas. They are doing the usual things young people do...leave rubbish, bottles and Macca wrappings around. The older I get the less democracy I wish to afford young people.

We walked out to try and buy a bottle of bubbly only to find that Auckland seems to have different laws/customs to the South Island and booze cannot be bought in grocery stores. We had to pay top dollar for wines or buy cheap Italian imports which we did.

Kev: on Joan's account

Monday, October 15, 2007

Auckland

We are in Auckland after a midday flight from Christchurch. We caught a cab from the airport @ $68. We won't be cabbing it back to the airport.

Christchurch is a lovely city with many heritage buildings. Our train trip to the west coast was great. The Alps didn't disappoint...plenty of snow on mountains, deep ravines and about a dozen tunnels....one 8.5 kilometres long. The destination, Greymouth was certainly grey. We had an hour there before returning to Christchurch. It was an all-day trip and well worth the fare.

Yesterday we visited the cultural precinct which includes the old Christchurch University (now an impressive arts centre) and the museum. The Christchurch museum was probably part of the old university as it has the same architecture. The museum is superb and I will suggest that the curator of the Perth Museum take a taxpayer funded trip to see how it is done.

New Zealand is the land of the hoody. In Aus, people wearing a hoody are probably considered to be villains. In NZ a hoody is required because of the freezing winds. Even farms have large pine tree hedges to try and break the wind.

NZ is a bit hard to work out. On the train trip the meals and drinks were very reasonable. I had a Thai curry and rice dish for $7.00. On the aircraft today everything was sold, even a biscuit cost $3.00. We were full-fare paying passengers???

Kev: Posted on Joan's account.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

On the road again

Yesterday we left Blenheim on a dreary wet day to visit a few wineries before travelling to Kaikoura on the east coast. It was a good day to visit wineries and we went to three: Highfield, Wither Hills and Montana. We bought some wine at Wither Hills which is owned by Lion Nathan breweries. The wine was a bit costly until Mike, one of our group, pulled rank as an ex-executive of Lion Nathan and got us staff discount of about 30%. Good one, Mike! Wither Hills is a magnificent building and the underground cellars are enormous.

This is the second day at Kaikoura, a seaside town. Our motel is rated as the best motel in NZ and I can well believe that. Only thing it lacks is a wireless internet connection.
Kaikoura is between high snow capped mountains and a rugged coast. There are seal colonies along the beach and dolphin and whale watching all year round. Kaikoura was established as a whaling outpost in the 1840s.
We are travelling with a group of five others…Three from Queensland, two from the U.S. and us from Western Australia. We are getting along fine; all drinkers and non-smokers. That makes for a few laughs.

Tomorrow we head off to Christchurch, about 200 kilometres away. We have two days there, on one of which we board a cross-island train for a trip to Greymouth across the Alps. On the Monday the group divides and people fly to Auckland at different times. We will have a couple of days checking out Auckland before flying home to Perth…this time in Business class.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Real Estate weather




We have had two days of lovely weather whilst based in Blenheim 'New Zealand's Sunniest Town'. Blenheim is a nice tidy town almost city-sized. Our motel is the best we have stayed in anywhere. In the two days we have done a touristy drive around the edge of beautiful waterways and lunched in Picton. Joan and I even thought it would be good to live here. Then the long white cloud of NZ came in and the rain has settled in for what seems likely to be a long time. Today is day 3 of 8 of this tour and today I am driving the bus on a vineyard tour. It will be good for me staying completely alcohol free...until we get settled in our next motel. It will be interesting to compare motels. This one we are in has set the standard.

Monday, October 8, 2007

South Island



Yesterday I thought Bob was going to give me a rest day....no way! In the morning we went for a drive into the bush not far from his house to see something interesting. It turned out to be a Buddhist temple. Quite something in the middle of the bush!
In the evening he suggested that I might like to accompany him on a short walk. Didn’t sound too strenuous. We ended up climbing a small mountain. I felt reasonably good and we went for an Indian meal later that evening.
The next day we did nothing except washing and waited around until 2pm and he drove me to the Brisbane International Airport. The airport is quite new and nicely appointed. The Air NZ flight to Wellington was not the best I have experienced. The aircraft was fully booked with families and their crying kids. The meal was the worst I have had on a plane. The flight encountered a bit of turbulence and so tea and coffee was not served. We landed on time in Wellington after a flight of 2.55 hours in a violent thunderstorm. Cheers from the passengers announced the touchdown. I caught a cab to the hotel where Joan was. The cab driver was an African who was lamenting the NZ loss in the Rugby. Joan told me that the flag at the convention centre was flying at half-mast. This is Rugby town.





This morning we walked down to the docks in howling winds and driving rain to visit the National Museum, Te Papa. This Museum is really outstanding with changing exhibits. My only trouble was walking around, as Bob’s mountain climb had caught up with me. Legs and feet of Jelly! We are now on the inter-island ferry and although in high winds there is little rockin and rollin. A three hour trip will see us ashore at Picton where we collect the hire bus. I have been nominated as a driver..one of three. Hope I don’t have to drive near cliffs, snow or ice. Our first overnight is at Blenheim where we will spend two nights visiting vineyards and I suspect have a few samples.

I have a settings problem with the blog and cannot arrange my photos properly. Have to look at that when we have time.

This evening we are in a very nice motel in Blenheim, about 25k from Picton the port for the ferry from the north island. Had a good pub meal and tomorrow we are off to do a wine tour. This country has a lot going for it!

Friday, October 5, 2007

Brisbane

This is the second day in Queensland I am am being treated royally by Bob, a colleague from Forty-six years ago at Malaguna Teachers' College in Rabaul, New Guinea.
Yesterday we drove for about an hour to Currumbin Waters near the Gold Coast to have a most pleasant day with another colleague, Howard and his wife Ann. Their house in on over an acre of land sloping steeply down to a small lake...beautiful spot! We had plenty to talk about recalling the characters we studied with. Some great, humorous and scandalous stories there! Had a lovely lunch and too much wine before returning home.
Today we went in to Brisbane by bus and caught up with Tom another fellow from the college. Again, many stories which we should collect for a book of PNG experiences.

Not sure what Bob has for tomorrow...it might be a rest day.

I had New Zealand in my mind for this trip and neglected to pack a pair of shorts for the Brissie weather.It is 30+c at the moment.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

I'm ready

Helen is coming down to our place to cook us a meal rather than taking me to her place. Good idea. She will drive me to the airport at about ten.

Joan has been phoning me daily on a magical $15 phone card that seems to be like the Magic Puddin and never runs out.

The conference/workshop she is at in NZ has daily sessions finishing at 4.30pm and the restaurant they all eat at is above a smart looking car museum which unfortunately closes at 4pm. The convener of the conference has approached the manager of the car museum asking that the museum be kept open for another hour so that the 50 or so women might visit @ $10 a head. He wants $100 to stay open as well as the entry fee. Is that dumb?

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Google SketchUp


Google offers a free sketching program for both Windows and Mac. I have just had a little play with it to try and draw the Methane gas producer mentioned in yesterday's post. It doesn't really look much like the pig sty/methane producer I talked about, but it could, with a lot of imagination explain what I tried to describe yesterday. The individual pig pens were arranged around the circumference of the pen and daily the wastes were washed down into the fermenter.

I have started collecting all the gear I need for the trip to Queensland tomorrow night. Medicines, clothing (NZ South Island is cold and wet) and shoes. Helen, our daughter will collect me and make sure I have the tickets and passport etc, take me to her place for a meal and a couple of glasses of wine, then deposit me at the domestic terminal 2 hours ahead of departure. I am hoping to talk the airline staff into giving me a window seat so that I can rest my head on the window when I try and sleep. I have never been successful at sleeping on a plane, so this time I am taking a couple of Temazepam tabs. I'll either sleep or be hyper.