Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Government is busy

I spent the past weekend at the Big V Basketball Leagues AGM at the Victorian country town of Shepparton, which as an aside only, was a pleasant weekend.  However, on the way up I decided to travel what might be called 'the back way" through places such as Yarra Glen, Yea, Bonnie Doon and Benalla, thinking there would be less traffic than going up the more direct route of the Hume Highway.  And I was right, but what I didn't count on was miles and miles of reduced speed limits due to "roadworks".

I have come to the conclusion that somewhere in some Board room in the bowels of a State government building, a group of bureaucrats have been tasked with the job of making the people of Victoria believe that the government is actually doing things, and that they have come up with the strategy of putting roadworks signs on every road in the state, even when there is no single road worker anywhere to be seen.  Every freeway within the metropolitan area has been undergoing road maintenance for years, but there has never been any progress.  Every night, trucks roll out of some hidden garages and lay out miles of bollards, reducing traffic to one lane and speed limits to crawling pace, to make us think that things are being done.  And then after 4 hours of rolling these traffic control measures out they return to the start and spend another 4 hours of picking them back up again, only to do the same thing the next night and the night after that.

And on the weekend I found that the same thing seems to be happening on every country road in the State as well.

Now the game is up - we all know what is really going on.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Friday, November 6, 2009

Southern Cross Railway Station in Melbourne is one of the country's busiest.   If you believe what you're told it could well be one of the busiest in the southern hemisphere with most of Melbourne's suburban and all of it's interstate rail links passing through or terminating there.  And that's why I was surprised one morning a few weeks ago when as I went up the western escalator towards Bourke Street I noticed a birds nest on one of the overhead wires.  Over the next couple of weeks I noticed Mum and Dad nesting, the eggs hatch and the chicks finally fledge.  One morning last week the nest was empty.





Now I'm a little embarassed to post the next couple of photos because camera shake in the low light makes them pretty ordinary but the lesson is check the photos at the time that way you won't miss an opportunity.  Now I may well have to wait until next year to see if they will return to nest in the same spot.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Grief

Like many people who saw the article I was deeply moved by this photo of chimpanzees gathered at a fence and watching as one of their own who had died was being taken away.

I have never been one who was so human centric that I did not believes that animals can feel emotion.   Anyone who has grown up with dogs or cats in their house will know that they do feel sadness and can mpoe when people they expect to be around are not there.  If you have had two dogs at one time and one of those passes away it is easy to understand that animals too can grieve.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

My Underbelly the second

The next few years in the late 80's saw us have to babysit a parade of undesirables.  If they were given protection because they were informing on other crooks it was something we could stomach but in several cases we were required to look after people involved in the murders of policemen.

In 1986 whilst I was still with the PSG [Protective Security Groups] a bomb went off in Russell Street outside the major city police station.  At the time we had no idea whether it was terrorist related but it certainly seemed to be aimed at the police force.  The bomb was in a car that was parked outside the main police communications centre.

It was timed to go off at lunch time and on almost any day of the week the street was crowded with police, the public and lawyers milling around outside the Melbourne Magistrates Court which was across the road.   This day, however, was Easter Thursday and the courts had been in wind down mode for the Easter Holidays so there were only a couple of people in the vicinity of the bomb as it went off.  One of those was Angela Taylor, a young police constable who had her clothes blown off with the force of the blast and who survived, her skin blackened and falling off, only to pass away in hospital around a month later.

Our office was around 150 meters from the blast but that day I was away on holidays and driving with my family down to Lakes Entrance in eastern Victoria.  My sister Deb was on duty that day and she was sitting in an office on the first floor of the building when the bomb went off blowing her off her seat and sowering her with glass.  I heard the news on the radio that a policewoman was seriously injured and it wasn't until late that night that I was able to find out that it wasn't my sister.

It turned out not to be terrorism, it was conducted by a group of crooks whose aim was to disrupt police communications so that they could commit some armed robberies in the northern suburbs.

The investigating police eventually were able to make some connections to the perpetrators based on forensic evidence from the remains of the car but in the end it was evidence given by Paul Hetzel that helped to put them away.

Hetzel lived for years in the witness protection program and we looked after him for the time in the lead up to the trial.   This was different to the Tizzone job.   This time a police woman had been murdered, a colleague and it could have been anyone of us.

We moved around a lot.  In one suburban safe house on a few acres of land there was a large shed at the rear of the property.  I remember one of the guys, nicknamed "Vegie" cobbled together bits and pieces of junk and came up with something resembling a machine gun which he mounted on a tripod aimed at the back of the house the witness was in.  It didn't last long because the braid at the time took a grim view of it and the witness nearly shat himself one morning when he stuck his head out the back door.

Before I move on a little more about Vegie who thought he was called that because as a red head he had a carrot top.  Truth is it had more to do with some of the things he said that earnt him the name.  One day we were driving along a country road when he said, "There's a lot of those new breed of horses around."

We bit and asked him what he was talking and he said the Caution Horse breed.  Then he explained that he'd seen a sign on the back of every horse float we'd passed "Caution Horses."

We also moved at one time down to a diary farm near Koo Wee Rup.  As with some of the other places we stayed at, the witness got the house and we had to make use of the sheds on the properties.   Another colleague who I shall call TT was a horrible snorer and as such he was put on permanent night shift so that the rest of us could get more sleep. 

Now we weren't the only occupants of these sheds and on this farm our constant companions were Huntsman spiders.

One day one of the guys came rushing into the shed and said "Quick, come and have a look at this."

So we all followed him quietly into the shed where TT was blissfully and loudly snoring.   On his face, moving up and down to the rhythym of his snoring was one of the largest huntsman I have ever seen.   Did we wake him I can hear you ask? 

Nope, we stifled our laughter and backed out thinking that finally he had found something that enjoyed his snoring.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Inspirational


Sent to me by a colleague.

As we get older we sometimes begin to doubt our ability to "make a difference" in the world.  It is at these times that our hopes are boosted by the remarkable achievements of other "seniors" who have found the courage to take on challenges. Harold Sclumberg is such a person.
VERY INSPIRING!!!

Harold said, "I've often been asked, 'What do you old folks do now that you're retired'?

“Well… I'm fortunate to have a chemical engineering background, and one of the things I enjoy most is turning beer, wine, Scotch, and margaritas into urine”.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Ripped Off

Late one afternoon last week I had left a meeting and was walking down Collins Street when near the corner of Exhibition Street I was approached by a young lady.

"Excuse me?" she said.  "This is really embarassing but I've been asking a lot of people for help and no one will."

She was well dressed and groomed and about the age og my oldest daughter so I stopped and said "OK tell me the story."

She proceeded to tell me that her car had run out of petrol and that it was left in a clearway.  For those not from Melbourne that means any cars parked in that area for certain periods of the day can be towed away and impounded.

"I've left my purse at work and don't have any money.  If you could loan me $15 so I can buy a jerry can of petrol I'll make sure I call you and arrange to pay you back tomorrow."

So I did.  I gave her my card and I wandered off wondering whether I'd been scammed or not.  Now 6 days later it appears I was.  I should have used my mobile phone to take her photo and told her I would send it to the newspaper if it did trn out to be a crock.