Saturday, July 31, 2010


Consumer Affairs got back to me concerning worries I had about paying for a mechanical job on our daughter's car.

If the repairer has assured you that the initial repairs on the valve seals 'will fix the problem' and not...'may fix the problem', then you are entitled to expect that result for your money.

Great, but then CA goes on to say...'If the repairer does not agree, it may have to be decided in court if you decide to pursue it'.

The court cost would be far in excess of the repairer's bill. Kev is a loser once again.

A couple of recent court cases have left me a little puzzled. One Prison Officer accessed a prison computer and harvested details of several inmates and then passed the info onto a bikie gang associate. He received a suspended sentence because the Judge thought he was just trying to bignote himself with the heavies. Another bloke who is a member of a British extremist group got a bit pissed and shot up the roof of a Turkish Mosque in Perth. It was deemed not to be a racist attack and he also got a suspended sentence. He was ordered to pay for the repair of the golden dome. With my luck I would get jail for taking a leak up an alley.

We went to see the oncologist yesterday and also had a top up of Avastin at the cancer clinic. The oncologist was a bit shocked at Joan's weight loss over the last three weeks...5 kilograms.
He was a little hesitant about telling us the exact results of the blood test, merely saying that they are 'all right'. Previously he has told us that they are either normal or good. We are returning next Friday for some more Avastin and to hear the results of the CT scan Joan will have on Tuesday.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Dodgy car repairers

I have been surfing the net for possible cures for Joan’s lack of appetite. It would seem that the people who suggest the fixes have not had a serious problem with lack of appetite.

This morning I tried a Ginger Tea made by boiling fine strips of raw ginger in water and adding a bit of flavour to the tea with honey and lemon. No go: the ginger burned her throat. Chemo damages the quickest growing cells of which the throat is certainly in the race.
Ginger tea is reputed to both help restore appetite and dampen appetite for weight loss....which one does one believe? Probably neither!

Tomorrow we are going to ask the oncologist if there is something he knows that works. All the other questions I have put to him receive the, did that come from the internet smile.

This morning I rang Consumer Affairs seeking help with a dispute I am about to have with a car repairer. Our daughter’s Mazda 626 had started to blow lots of white/blue smoke at startup in the mornings. Once running the engine doesn’t smoke which suggests that the piston rings are not the cause. The repairer suggested it would almost certainly be valve guide seals missing or worn out. They suggested I leave the car with them and they would do further investigation. Next day they confirmed that replacement of the valve guide seals would fix the problem and I reluctantly agreed to an all-up cost of $1450.00. The job was done, but the oil was still getting into the cylinders and creating a warship-like smoke screen at morning startup.

Now the repairer has the car still and wants $1450. for a job that didn’t fix the problem.

Hope Consumer Affairs can help me.

The repairer now suggests that the only fix is to replace the engine with a secondhand one they have in stock....the total cost which included the valve seal repair job is to be $3,500. The car is only worth about $3500.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

A visit from the U.S.

Joan's sister Dorothy and hubby Mike have their daughter Katherine visiting from the U.S.. She brought her new man Rick and he impresses as a nice bloke. He is a doctor (dermatologist) who works for the U.S. Army. Not sure if he is in the army or just working for it. Katherine has a top level job with Price Waterhouse in San Franscisco.
Katherine, Dorothy, Joan, Kev and Mike

Joan is having a bad run with Chemotherapy. Apart from all the physical crap she has to put up with, she has completely lost her appetite. We have tried lots of recommendations from medical sites and patient forums. We are to buy some Ginger Tea today to see if that lives up to the claims of improving appetite. Since diagnosis Joan has lost almost 20kg

Joan, is an avid reader and I am thankful that even in the midst of all this she can still enjoy a book. It is as though she is transported out of chemoland temporarily.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Daewoo for sale

Joan is out in her new car this morning. It isn’t red, but it is a great car fully optioned (is that how you say it?)with lots of high tech gadgetry which will take a while for we oldies to become familiar with.

I have finished preparing one of our cars for sale and it sits on the front lawn, shiny and beautiful...just like a dog that you want to give away, but snuggles up and licks you. I haven’t had a single call from the advert I placed in today’s paper. Too expensive at $5,000, or is it that second hand Korean cars are hard to sell? Probably both.
2003 Daewoo Nubira

The Australian Prime Minister has just announced that her government (if re-elected) will follow the U.S. model of giving $2,000 ‘Cash for Clunkers’ to everyone who upgrades their old pre 1995 car to a new ‘green’ vehicle. The name of the scheme is similar to the U.S. one except the U.S. was stimulating the car industry and the Aus scheme is aimed at reducing emissions (or winning votes). Most folks driving a pre 1995 car are unlikely to suddenly take $2,000 and buy an approved car costing between $13,000 - $40,000. She aint gettin my ‘92 Mazda 929 for two grand!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Ford Fiesta

We collected the new car yesterday and I must say it was a major hand-over. About 45 minutes of instruction on the controls, of which the voice control was the most interesting. The last car we bought new was about three years ago and we just got the keys and drove off. I am unsure if it just Ford that has this full-on handover?

Because Joan could not get a red car, the salesman sprung a nice present of a red flower arrangement as a consolation. Because we paid cash, he also threw in a couple of extras.

I have advertised one of our fleet of cars in tomorrow’s newspaper and today have cleaned it thoroughly, drained and replaced the coolant and have yet to drain the oil, replace the filter and give it a drink of nice new oil.

Amateur car buyers have been schooled in how to sniff the oil on the dip stick and determine whether the engine is in good condition. There IS a 100,000 mile smell! This car has only done 70,000 kilometres and is in good shape.

Friday, July 23, 2010

No red car for Joan

Haddon’s funeral went as well as could be expected with his friend Dennis reading the eulogy which brought back memories of his life and adventures peppered with humorous anecdotes. The wake was held in their semi-tropical ‘Bali’ back yard.

Joan has been going through a tough period and had to stop the Xeloda chemo three days short of the round, because of severe damage to her hands and feet. We hope that her appetite will return over the week before seeing the oncologist again. She is to have a CT scan next Thursday in preparation for the oncologist’s review of her treatment.

Joan’s new red car is, it seems, out of the question due to lack of supplies from Europe. She has agreed to take a silver model and the dealer is rushing the preparation, licencing and insuring of it so she can take possession today after 4pm. I hope that will cheer her up somewhat as the last couple of weeks have been decidedly unpleasant.

The scan results will give us an indication as to whether the Xeloda is worth all the pain and misery; not that the man will give us much choice in the matter of treatment.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

One funeral and a wake

This afternoon we are attending Haddon's funeral. Joan helped write the eulogy and Dennis, who is brave enough to read it, made a few additions and changes. It is a good farewell tribute. There will be a wake held in Marg and Haddon's backyard.

Joan has had another setback with her chemotherapy. The Xeloda has once again caused nasty side effects…this time the Hands and Feet Syndrome where capillaries in the extremities burst and cause considerable pain. She stopped taking Xeloda this morning and this evening the oncologist is to ring and discuss the next move.

In recent months Joan has thought that she should have a new car….a red one! Her first car was a red Fiat 500 Bambino and she reckons her last car should be a red one too.

We looked at several brands around the $20k price…Mazda2, Hyundai i20, and lastly the Ford Fiesta. We 'drove past' several other brands which didn't appeal. We were waiting for the release of the i20 and when it arrived this week, we were a little disappointed. The Mazda is quality but rather large for a small car. When we took the Ford for a drive we were sold. For $21k drive away it is loaded with features the others cannot match….too many to list here, but one nice one is voice command which controls all the electronics. Tell it to start the radio and it asks for a location…'720 ABC' and hey presto ABC starts. Same with Bluetooth phone, CD and iPod.

Anyway, we signed up and made a deposit to buy a red Fiesta with a wait period of 5-6 weeks. Then they told us that there is only one red one here and it has been sold. I took the man aside an explained about Joan's condition. They agreed to refund the deposit if we aren't completely satisfied. This morning Joan is still very keen on the Fiesta and is thinking a silver one might be OK if we have to wait months to see a red one delivered from Europe. Of course we don't know the wait time on a silver car either at this stage. Waiting for a call from the salesman.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Farewell Had

Haddon Rudkin has left us. He died without pain leaving many good memories for family and friends. Seven years of chemotherapy and radiotherapy failed to stop the progress of his prostate cancer. Only in recent times did he despair about his condition. I hope I will be as brave when I am going.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Farewell Had

Joan and I have just returned from Hollywood Private Hospital to see Haddon for probably the last time. He has been getting worse over the last few days and morphine has wiped him out. He is unconscious and the doctor has given him at most two days. He looked peaceful and ready to leave us all.

I have been at other death beds brother's; my father's and mother's. Mother fell down with a massive stroke, but her heart was still beating when we rushed to her house after being called by my sister who was looking after her. She died as we tried to revive her, which was probably fortuitous because there would have been major brain damage.

Margaret, Haddons wife, will have much to contend with .....the funeral; the estate settlement as well as the emotional strain of losing a lifetime partner. Their children are strong people and will give her all the help she needs.

She can also rely on us for support.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Prostate Cancer

This morning I rang our daughter to suggest that we get the RAC to immobilise her car immobiliser so that I could start it. Having lost the car key and the immobiliser button previously I was getting very frazzled as to how to fix my old timers' bungles like losing her car key. She rang the RAC and they were on their way to do the job when I found the key and immobiliser in the grass as I brought our wheelybin in from the front verge. I rang Helen to get her to cancel the RAC call out. It had been out in the heavy rain and didn't want to start the engine, so I dismantled it and dried it out with a hair drier and it is now a 'goer'. Already with a head of grey hair I now have plenty of white hair after that little episode.

I searched every square foot of our house, workshop and storage shed as well as four cars. Never thought that I would have dropped the key in the grass outside the house.

Our friend Haddon is, it seems, near the end. He is in a private hospital, Hollywood Hospital, and has reached the stage where the doctor in charge has requested a family meeting tomorrow morning. I fear that they are going to be given a frank assessment of the situation and alternatives which may be unpalatable to loved ones. I will visit him with another friend tomorrow, possibly as a farewell visit. He has had seven hard years of treatment for advanced prostate cancer.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Custom Composts

I still haven't found Helen's car key. At each inquiry amongst friends and businesses I have had contact with over the last few days I have received the same...'what were you doing when you lost it.' That doesn't help one bit. Helen thinks she has a second key somewhere and we can buy and re-program the engine immobiliser
A wheel wash entering the piggery area

Our neighbour Dave runs a composting business near Mandurah. About two weeks ago we were in Mandurah and decided to check out Dave’s poo farm. He has a business partner and a reasonable sized work force. There is lots of machinery; front end loaders etc, turners and a very smart separator.
Rows of compost in progress

On the 400 Hectare site there is also a large piggery with approximately 18,000 guests at any one time. The muck from the pig pens goes into a series of filtering ponds and water and nutrients are used in the composting process. At any one time there are about 10,000 cubic metres of compostable material mixed in precise proportions in rows where turning machines turn it every couple of days. The whole composting process takes about 12 weeks. Dave estimates that they market about 150,000 cubic metres of finished product per year; most going direct to farms. A large mushroom compost operation is also on site.

A turning machine turning the line of maturing compost.
The Separator
The separator is a million dollar machine and passes the product through a series of screens, magnets and blowers to separate metal, plastic etc. The turners are also very expensive, running to around $500,000 each.

For the home composters here is Dave’s composting formula:

30 Parts Carbon to 1 part Nitrogen

The carbon can be...(woody stuff, leaves,paper,sawdust)
The Nitrogen can be ....(Greens)

The water to air proportions are also important....the mix should squeeze in the hand without being able to show any water. Turn regularly for the air part.

I must have those proportions all wrong as my compost tumbler makes compost cricket balls.

Test your internet connection speed here. This is not an advert.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Winter blues

It's wet and cold here. It seems like only a few weeks ago I was looking forward to winter; being able to rug up and feel warm near a heater, but the reality of it is quite different.....bring on summer! Don't know how we would survive in a place that really feels winter. Ours is quite mild really, with minimums of around 1 or 2 degrees Celsius at worst.

On Friday we attended St John's in Subiaco for a consultation with the oncologist and a top up of rat poison at the Ivy Suite. Joan's bloods were perfect: good liver and kidney function, but the CEA ( the blood tumour marker) had risen again. It was a small rise, but a rise.

We asked for more details from the last CT scan report and he gave us a photocopy. That scan was on June 16th and another scan is due in a couple of weeks. The report noted that there are small differences in some of the tumours in the is slightly larger and one smaller. It doesn't mention anything about the bowel cancer. Once again it suggests that the 'small irregular non-descriptive peripheral aspect of left lung may well represent a benign cause'. or in layman's terms..that lump might not be cancer. The report suggests that this is a Stable Disease.

Our daughter Helen is today returning from a week in Melbourne. While she was away, I took her car for some TLC. I have 'repaired' a rear mudguard scrape she had and replaced a broken rear light. Painting comes next...not my forte. I guess age is catching up with me as I have lost the key to her car which also has the remote and immobiliser attached. So, we will loan her one of our vehicles until I either find the key or re-key the whole lot. Bugger!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Pavlovian Ruby

The (new) Prime Minister of Australia has in a statement told Australians "People should not be afraid to say what they felt about border protection". Boy, is that a green light to all the racists here?!

In fact Australia's refugee problem is just a drop in the ocean compared with many other countries. Leaky boats chartered by refugees sail mainly from Indonesia; some direct from places like Sri Lanka. Many letters from readers and indeed remarks by opposition politicians say that the government should intercept these boats at sea and send them back to where they came from. I would assume that would mean giving them fuel, food and water, medicines and ensuring that the craft is seaworthy. It would be worldwide news if a single boat sank after being turned around by the Australian Navy. Fail!

Another suggestion is that we let them get to Australia and then immediately fly them back to their country of origin. Fail!

A letter from a cretinous reader suggested that all the boats be towed back to their port of departure, the refos unloaded and the boats sunk. Fail!

Whilst I have sympathy for refugees, most of them attempting to reach our shores are Muslim. A letter to the editor of one of the local newspapers said....

' Nearly 500,000 Muslims living in Australia cannot vote for Julia Gillard (the PM) because according to the holy Koran, an atheist cannot be a leader of the believers'.

The letter was written by one Hafeez Shaikh who, I believe, is an ex Muslim. There are a few dyed-in-the-wool Australian Christians saying the same thing.

Helen and James' puppy, Ruby (the destroyer) is still trying to eat anything left within her reach. They have purchased an electronic teaching (punishing) device which has a electronic collar and a base station which is placed in Ruby's target zone. As soon as she approaches the base station there is a loud buzz and if ignored the collar gives her an electric shock. It soon as Ruby hears the buzzing sound she swiftly leaves the area. It will be interesting to see if Ruby later associates that area rather than the buzz with the punishment.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

No good news here

About twenty minutes ago we witnessed an accident in Fremantle. An aboriginal man who was very intoxicated walked into the rear side of a slowly moving bus. The victim fell to the ground unconscious. As it happened there was an ambulance on the spot caught in traffic. The ambos jumped out and did a splendid job. The bus driver was most concerned for the man and I guess for himself. I gave him my name and contact details as a witness. The victim didn't look too well when we were leaving; a fair bit of blood coming from the head and face. He was on his way to Fremantle Hospital. The ambulance crew also witnessed the accident.
Our friend Haddon is in Hollywood Hospital getting life saving treatment for the compounded results of chemotherapy and cancer. He has had a lot of fluid drained from his lungs and one lung has 'collapsed'. See here if you wish.

He will be in hospital for at least another week and then it is hoped to get him home with the help of that wonderful organisation the Silver Chain. They will supply a hospital bed and visit at least 3-4 days a week to administer medicines and attend to his toiletry etc.

Our other friend, who is in full-time care as a dementia patient, has recently caused a few problems. It seems that he was on an outing with other patients and when the bus was alongside a school, something clicked in John's head and he became very animated and struck one of the carers. When back at the residence he struck a couple of other elderly patients, knocking one to the ground. The management of the residence have told his wife Joy that if any more incidents occur they may have to either sedate him heavily, or transfer him to a secure home. The incident came 'out of the blue' and for a few days his speech was quite understandable. The brain is unfathomable!