Sunday, March 31, 2013

Ceiling repairs

A few weeks ago my brother Graham’s garage ceiling fell down narrowly missing his Beamer.   I had not heard of this happening before, but when the repairman came he told Graham that it was quite common.  The plasterboard ceiling is  attached to the ceiling joists with daubs of glue and a few screws and if insufficient glue and screws are used the ceiling can be forced loose in high winds.
Last week my garage ceiling almost fell and I have done a repair job on it to save a few dollars.    An older (better) method of fixing ceiling plasterboard was to temporarily set the board in place with some fasteners, climb up into the ceiling space and lag some Sisal/Hemp impregnated with lots of plaster over the ceiling joists to drape down on the plasterboard and make a secure fastening when set.     I tried to buy some Sisal, but the lads at the major hardware store I use had never heard of Sisal or that method....glue they told me was the stuff!  Old method 1 - New method 0.     I still have to fit some cornice which also supports the edge of the sheets of plasterboard.  After Easter I will visit a specialist plaster company and see if they sell Sisal.

                             A car jack and support whilst I made temporary repairs.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Part time gardner

I am a part-time gardener.  Not too interested in non-edible plants and sometimes successful in cultivating things like tomatoes and broadbeans.  At the moment I have a small tomato plot.  I didn’t think too much about the seasons when I planted this plot and now as winter approaches I realise that  I am not going to pick a lot of fruit as it gets colder.

I don’t know where and when I learned to pinch out unwanted shoots, but I have been doing it for many years.   I have observed that the new shoots that grow out between established ‘branches?’ do not bear fruit and take away nutrients from the fruit already setting.    I have, on the other hand, also thought that the more greenery might also benefit the plant with photosynthesis?  Happy to have someone advise me on that.

Other fruit such as Passionfruit grow exceptionally well in my backyard, but for some reason the fruit is not wonderful.  Thick skins and/or bitter taste.  There are many fixes for these problems on the internet, but I think the answer is to ‘rip ‘em out’ and start again.   Another problem with grafted passionfruit is that the rootstock usually sends out far ranging suckers which pop up in the lawn and garden beds.

Passion vine...and no; the fence isn't pink.

About six months ago I planted a locquat tree.  It was probably six months old when I bought it and whilst I hope to eat fruit from it, I am thinking, at my age, something that bears fruit within a couple of years might have been more practical.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Boab Tree

This morning I had an appointment with our financial advisor.   He is a  partner in a large firm, and we have been with him for more than twenty years. We were well pleased with the results he has produced over the years with the exception of a couple of periods when everyone experienced negative growth and even a minus growth, but now it is back to around 15.8%.   We talked about what will happen when I croak it and he suggested I write a new Will.  He offered a few suggestions about what could be written into the Will and stressed that the actual will should be kept in a large envelope without any attached note(s) either stapled or held by a paperclip to the original document.   It seems that when the Will is inspected for probate purposes it is scanned under an Ultra-Violet lamp and any evidence of a previous attachment could suggest that some important document had been removed and make the Will suspicious.    Interesting!

I was a little early arriving in Perth City so I did a drive into King’s Park.  The first thing I sought out was the Boab tree.  This tree was trucked down to Perth 3200km from far up North of the State from a place named Warmun.  It was in the path of the construction of the Great Northern Highway and it was gifted to Kings Park by the indigenous people, the Gija.  Not a beautiful tree, but certainly interesting.    It is estimated to be 750 years old and kudos must go to the horticulturists who re-established it in its new surroundings where it has flourished.

Kings Park is a wonderful park of 1003 acres of natural bush and cultivated gardens overlooking Perth City.  A must for any visitor to Perth.

The Boab 

Monday, March 25, 2013

Sculpture by the Sea

Early Saturday morning I drove to Cottesloe Beach to take a look at the Sculpture By The Sea ‘installation’ (as the arty folk say).  I thought I would easily get a parking spot, but at 8am it was buzzing and I had to walk some distance from where I left my car.  
I am not big on art, but Joan and I always visited Sculpture by the Sea and I have continued to visit it by myself after her death.  I like the mixture of serious and playful pieces.  There seems to be one vehicle 'inst……..' allowed per year.     Some photos..... 

The only one I think needs an explanation is the Balinese singing windmill installation with one windmill for each of the people killed by Islamic terrorists in Indonesia.   It is probably not PC to name them as Islamic, but that’s what they were/are.

Here is a short Poem written by our neighbour when I was very young.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

WSHS Class of '93 Reunion

Last night’s reunion went well.   I met up with a few colleagues and many ex-students.
Brother Graham collected me and dropped me off at the Left Bank, a lovely colonial house long ago converted into a bistro/bar.  The place was packed.  
The 'Left Bank' is on the banks of the Swan River

They do a Friday deal with a Pizza and Pint for $10., so there were loads of people there apart from the 90-something reunioners.  Inside the area designated for the reunion it was extremely noisy with a live band outside and 90 people reminiscing, confessing and catching up on 20 years.  I am not tall...5’6”, but neither am I a midget, but I was staggered to see most of this generation tower over me.   What did they eat that I wasn’t fed by Mum?
This place is not going broke. @ $9.50 per 330ml stubby the business is in good shape I would think.
The photos are snapshots, so no mean comments about the subjects or the photographer.      Around 9.30pm I rang Bro and he came and collected me, drove me home to have a sleep in a recliner.  

I am pretty sure I won't be able to attend the next reunion in 10 or 20 years.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Willetton SHS class of 1993

Tomorrow  evening and almost certainly late into tomorrow night, I am attending the Willetton Senior High School class of ’93  20th reunion at a riverside establishment.    This is not my class of ’93; I taught many of the people who will be attending.    I will be the oldest person there at 73 years of age and if it is going to be anything like the 10 year reunion I last attended it will be a blast.  Photos to come.

Willetton Senior High School was quite a wonderful place to teach.  I still have contact with lots of WSHS students and it is going to be great to see this cohort together again. It seems that there are about 80 ex-students attending and three or four teachers. Of course over 20 years this group is spread across Australia and the world.   I am past long drinking and socialising bouts and will probably taxi it home around 10pm.

Here is a pic from the school magazine at the time.  As I was the school photographer, I am not in the pic.

Sunday, March 17, 2013


What evil lurks beneath the keys of a Graphic Artist’s Keyboard?

I get computers donated from  an Australia-wide printing company and the condition of the keyboards is an indication of the work the graphic artists do when stuck in front of  a computer for a full day.  I imagine they snack, pluck nose hairs and drink coffee whilst on the job and a goodly amount of those waste products end up in the keyboard hiding under the keys.  
Click the pics to embiggen them.

This is a closeup of part of the board.  See if you can see a staple, some eyebrow hairs, odd bits of coloured paper and some aluminium foil resting in a soft bed of fluff.

When I get keyboards I remove all the keys and wash them in hot soapy water. The boards themselves need a solid brushing and a blast with compressed air.  Then finally, the glue (coffee/hair/crumbs), is wiped out with warm water and cotton wool buds.  The keyboard is reassembled using another board to remind me where most of the keys go.
At one school at which I did relief teaching after my retirement, miscreant youths would rearrange the keys in preparation for the next class.  I had to come down heavy on that practice.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Keeping the brain active

I recently supplied a computer to a woman for her daughter’s high school studies. For several days on my kitchen bench, I had given the computer a good run playing music and doing web searches etc.  It was running fine.  A couple of days ago she rang me to tell me it wouldn’t start and that they had been unsuccessful connecting to the wifi modem she had in the house.   I loaded up another machine as a backup, tested it on my modem which is identical to hers and drove to her place, around 40 kilometres from here.  The original computer started up OK and I figured that the power cable had been dislodged.  I could not get a connection by wifi as I believe one of the kids had changed the password.  I brought both machines back home and purchased an ethernet cable and will return this morning to make a wired connection to her modem.  This project can end up costing me.
Every time I think I have had enough of this project (it has been around 12 years now) I get offered some more Macs and I cannot knock them back when I know they would otherwise go to landfill.
This is an Apple eMac.  This model was destined for educational institutions only, hence the 'e' in the name.  It was very popular and was very soon sold to the public. It, like me, is getting a bit old in the tooth. But also like me, still works pretty well.

Driving to her place yesterday I experienced what thousands of daily commuters do....a major traffic jam.  It took me almost an hour to cover the first 12 kilometres.  I will wait until later in the morning when the traffic thins out before heading up to her place again.

Our son Martin is settling into his new job as a maintenance man at a hotel.  The range of repairs and general maintenance is extensive.  He comes home very tired, but satisfied that he is doing well.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Lance Armstrong

Thanks Lance for alerting us all to the fact that many sports people use performance enhancing drugs. Lance didn’t actually say that, but after all the publicity about LA coming out about his drug use, it would seem that all sorts of sports have had a serious dabble with drugs.  Football, rugby and soccer teams have fessed up.  Next, some disaffected lawn bowls player will blow the whistle on his/her team mates.  We all now know that cycling and horse racing is a bit dodgy and I seriously wonder how anyone could think that Championship Wrestling is real, but football codes being a bit naughty is something else.  What

Here is a pic of  a crow secreting excess food from my back yard in a pencil-pine tree.  He/she will return and consume it at the proper meal time.

I like the internet, but it is a medium open to abuse and untruths.  This story about KFC is so outlandish that it is hard to see how anyone could believe it...but lots of people do. A simple way to recognise a hoax is the line ‘please forward this message to as many people as you can’.     'Snopes' is the premium source to check out and debunk such messages.

Google Snopes and type KFC in the search space.  Worth a read.

Monday, March 11, 2013

A short story

During our week in Bali, cousin Val and I had many conversations about family and related happenings.   One was particularly interesting, wherein Val told me of some neighbours who went feral and created big problems for her family.  I urged her to write it up as a short story and she has done so, with names and places changed. Congrats Val!

  She held my hand tightly and smiled at me as I said “ Do you remember me?”.She gazed at me and slowly said “ Yes I do, you were my lovely neighbour in Crew Street all those years ago” She had been quite beautiful back when I had first known her; tall and slender, brown skinned with lustrous black hair but now she looked ill and old. She also had a damaged eye. It looked as if she had been cut right across the eye and eyebrow with something sharp. I didn’t want to think of how that might have happened. 
      I worked in that hospital and had noticed her name on the inpatient list and I decided to visit her, not sure what her reaction would be. We had a troubled past Lorraine and I.
     We were both young married women with toddlers when she and her family moved in next door to us and although we never got to the coffee morning stage of friendship, we would chat over the back fence and most mornings her two littlies Susan and Kenny came into my yard to play with my 2 and 4yr old sons.  They arrived chubby and shiny and bubbling with excitement, because today might be the day I would take them on a picnic.  With no money and no car I was limited in what I could do to entertain 4 children but a picnic was do-able. It was walking distance to Queens Gardens and a much longer walking distance to Hyde Park but on a nice day, a very pleasant walk. Usually the children, mine and hers, would just play in the sand heap my husband had made and their imaginations turned the cartons and boxes I put out for them into anything they wanted them to be. But picnic days were the best.
      One washing day, while pegging out clothes, sheets nappies etc, she told me the news that would change everything --- and for the worse.  She was pregnant with twins. All was well until I offered to help, perhaps at bath time. But “No “ she said “ my sister is coming to help me, she was brought up in the Mission like me”   “ Lovely” I said. But it wasn’t lovely. Anything but. Her sister arrived with her own 8 children who I found were feral, little thieves. The very few actual toys my children had, gifts from my parents and grandmother, all disappeared within days, and I learned very quickly not to leave outside any object I wanted to keep. And although I knew where things had gone I didn’t complain or request a return, thinking that this state of affairs would not continue for too long and we would return to normal. However I was wrong.
     Her sisters  “help” degenerated into drinking, and as the drinking continued the downslide  into arguments and indeed, fights, began. The happy little ones who were such a pleasure, became surly and joyless and no longer came into my yard to play. At first Lorraine’s husband Bill, just complained angrily about the chaos and mess in the home and the state of the neglected children, but it wasn’t long before he started drinking too.  The sister eventually left, but we never returned to our previous easy relationship. In fact a lot of verbal abuse came our way along with rubbish thrown over the dividing fence, and I could no longer allow my children to play outside.
       One terrible Saturday, a day I would like to forget, I heard an odd sound at the front of our house and I went to investigate. To my horror Bill was holding Susan by the wrist and beating her across the lower back with a hockey stick and the sound I heard was the breath leaving her body in gasps. Running back into my house, I tried to get my husband to stop the beating, he refused to get involved but he did phone the police.
     The result was one I should have anticipated but in my ignorance of such matters I did not. The welfare of the children must have been uppermost in the minds of the authorities and they were all removed from Lorraine and  Bill’s care, and they had no doubt who was to blame for that. After one particularly savage night of abuse that went on for hours, we realised we had to move. We had been saving for years to buy our own home and although we didn’t have enough to buy what we would have liked, we bought what we could afford at that time. 
       Moving was difficult, my four children had been born there and although it was substandard housing, it was the only home they had known and we had been happy until recent events. We didn’t see Lorraine or her children for many years, but did read in the West Australian of Bill’s death and later of Susan’s engagement, that is until I visited Lorraine in the hospital.
     She seemed to have no memory of the bad times and we spoke of where all our children were now, who was married and who lived where, and I found Kenny was married and lived in the same suburb as my oldest son, and that Susan also was happily married  She held my hand  throughout my visit and when I got up to leave, she begged me to come again. I did go back and we talked again in the same easy way and I realised that I had not been wrong in my original high opinion of her, that she was a victim of circumstance and time. That by the grace of God it might have been me.
       She was discharged soon after my second visit and to my great sorrow I read of her death about a month later.  :You could say she was a victim of the demon drink, but it was more than that. The veneer of quiet capability and serenity she had, was not strong enough against the pressures of the world in which she lived. Even now so many years later, on thinking back over my part in her life, I couldn’t in all conscience say I would do anything different. That I was responsible for having her children taken from her is a burden I still carry and putting myself in her position doesn’t help. Also, I wonder if I should have admitted that fact to her when I met her again, but I have to say  I was so relieved that she did not remember that; it would have been impossible to bring it up and I was too cowardly to do so.
     So it is with mixed feelings that I remember Lorraine, but I will never forget the beauty of that lustrous long black hair and her tall slender form, and the quiet voice and the charm of the person I first met all those years ago.  

Thursday, March 7, 2013


Last night I watched a TV program hosted by the actor Ewan McGregor.  It was about a Unicef program to vaccinate isolated village children in rural India.  The program was called Ewan McGregor: Cold Chain Mission which referred to the chain of freezer stations designed to keep the vaccines cold and viable as the vaccination team moved into isolated areas.   I was impressed to see villagers lining up for life saving vaccinations for their children.   In Australia there are parents who refuse to allow their children to be vaccinated citing the chances of nasty side effects.  Oh darlings, remember Polio? 

In 1962, Indonesian President Sukarno ordered the invasion of Dutch New Guinea, which was the western half of the island of Papua New Guinea and Netherlands New Guinea.  The Dutch had conceded their colony, Indonesia, earlier and gave up their New Guinea colony without too much argy-bargy.   At that time I was Teacher-in-Charge of Arehava PS in the Gulf of Papua.  The Australian administration of  The Territory of Papua New Guinea was concerned that the invaders may bring smallpox to the Dutch side and that it could jump the border into T.P. &.N.G.  Areas closer to the border ( Arehava is about 350km from the border)were to be contacted for a vaccination program and a team fronted up to my school to vaccinate pupils and villagers.  To show that it wasn’t going to hurt, I went first, but not one other person would have the shot as they believed that it was an Australian mark and if the Indonesians invaded their village, those with the Australian mark would be shot.   The Indos didn’t invade and smallpox was not a problem.  I still have the Australian mark on my shoulder.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Private Health Insurance

Our son Martin starts work this morning in his new job.  He has me, and a friend who is in the house restoration business, to call on if he gets into a sticky situation with  a maintenance job outside his experience.  He starts at 7am and finishes around 3 - 3.30pm.  Being ‘on salary’  means he can be required to work outside normal hours without overtime payment.  Hope it all goes well today. 

Scrubs up pretty well hugh?

The state elections are running down to voting day next weekend.  In all the spin from both sides I have the most concern for the incumbent government’s plan to privatise some public hospital services such as dietician, physio, counselling etc.  During my wife’s specialised treatment for cancer at a large private hospital we experienced the drop-by visit by a dietician who had a short chat and later we received a largish bill.  ‘Not used to that and I would not like to see it happen in public hospitals such as the Fiona Stanley hospital which is to open its doors next year.  

In Australia, treatment at a public hospital is free.  The patient is asked if he/she has private health insurance, but there is no legal requirement to disclose membership of a fund.  Sadly, those who do admit to being in a private health fund will have to pay a gap fee on services provided.  People who do not have health insurance have no gap to pay.       We had and I now have, private insurance and in the end it paid off.  Immediate treatment and most services for $16,000 for a day surgery for SIRT treatment for Joan's liver cancer.
Private patients can get non-urgent major surgery such as hip replacement with a short wait for a hospital bed, but public patients join a waiting list and may be waiting for up to 18 months.

Sunday, March 3, 2013


Been very busy getting our son Martin outfitted for his new job starting Tuesday.  He is to be the Maintenance Man at a riverside hotel near Fremantle, which will involve cleaning, gardening, general maintenance and some technical stuff looking after any problems with the hotel’s TV systems.   We have spent some time looking into toilet systems and water tap repairs.  Hope he isn’t presented with a major problem that both of us cannot easily solve.
The Australian government is very nice to unemployed citizens and when they have eventually gained employment, support them with limited funds for clothing, tools, public transport costs and other personal items to ensure they can start work looking and feeling good with themselves.

I collected some good computer gear over the last week and some have already been placed with needy folks.   When I am given people’s discards I assure the donor (s) that I will do a ‘clean install’ of the operating system to wipe all previous data.  One machine presented with a dead DVD drive, so I pulled the Mac apart and replaced it with one of a pile of spares I have. It took three ‘tear downs’ before I found a good drive.  I can now do a ‘tear down’ of that model eMac blindfolded.   Last night a young African fellow came to my house to collect a laptop I had prepared for his family.

There are a couple of welfare organisations who lean on me regularly with requests for  computers and I am happy to help out where I can, but I have not fully explained who I am and how I work by myself.  I am not a registered charity and receive no funding or tax relief for the costs involved. A recent request was for three computers for a family who live at least 50 kilometres from my house.  Often the reception I get when I deliver a machine, set it up and give the recipient half an hour instructions with telephone backup, suggests that it is thought that I am employed within the government welfare system.  Regardless of that, I still think it is all worthwhile.  Altruism Kev!
There are a few other organisations, such as the 'Men's Sheds' which do similar work to me, but there is a cost, albeit small; around $60.00, for one of their refurbished computers and no deliveries, training or backup thankyou.

I have previously mentioned an old old pocket watch I have. It is a Waltham Traveller and it needs a glass rim and glass and a clean.  It was made in the U.S. in 1898. I found it in a drawer in the house and I am sure it is not from either side of our families.  Perhaps my late wife Joan bought it and was going to have it repaired and give to me as a present?  I will never know.    I decided to let a jeweller in a local shopping centre have a look at it and give me a quote on its restoration.  He came back with the ridiculous amount of $1,000.  When I said no and started to walk out he offered to buy it from me.  No further conversation there!