Friday, December 31, 2010

2010 - The Year my Mum died.

It might be a bit of a cliche to write a New Years Eve post reviewing the year but if I don't do my own year who will.

2010 began at Narooma like it had so many years in the past but may never happen again.  Raels didn't have a good time, not only was it a reminder of my past life for her but she had to spend a fair bit of time working and with work comes stress and she couldn't relax properly.

At the end of 2009 her two kids, young adults really, were living with us, my second son after being asked to leave the family home needed somewhere to live and my youngest daughter was with us every second weekend.   We have a small three bedroom house and had decided around Christmas time 2009 that we needed something bigger so on returning from holidays we spent every weekend looking for land and in late January put a deposit on a block of land in an estate called "The Avenue at Casey".

At that stage we had decided we needed a 5 bedroom house and had signed with Porter Davis.   By March though Meg and Damian had moved out so we started to prevaricate over whether or not we would continue with the build or not and come mid year we had decided to down size a little and build a 4 bedroom house with Carlisle homes.  Our land eventually settled at the end of November and our slab is due to go down on 20th January.

Work continued and responsibilities increased throughout the first part of the year but started to sour a little around July when a number of people were made redundant and there was a distinct lack of consultation with me about my role and that of the people who were in my team at the time.  So I came to the decision in October that it was time to move on.   And so found myself in a new position with a new slightly rocky role that is still yet to be played out.  The next few weeks will be interesting as decisions are made and I may well find it could be time to make an early move onto something else.  More of that elsewhere.

In around March Mum was put into hospital after bleeding from the bowel but after tests showed no sign of anything other than a possible infection she came home.

Hospitals were a regular visiting place with Erin having her fifth operation on her diaphragmatic hernia which I will never stop worrying about.

Mum returned to hospital in late August and after a short illness passed away on 11th September and that will be the defining point of this year for me.

So it was a year of hard work, of excitement about the new house and in particular the new neighbours who will become part of our life, a year of sadness and reflection.  And most of all a year of surprises, some welcome and some not.  But that is what life is about isn't it!

I wish all of you a Happy and Safe New Year. I look forward to hearing from you throughout 2011 and in following your progress whether on your own blog or on Facebook.   Thanks to everyone who gave me support during the year when I needed it most, particularly my lady and my family :)

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Boy of Summer

The exceitement began with Christmas Day but continued into Boxing Day when I was a kid.   That was the day that the holiday started.  For many years when we were kids the holiday destination was the Ball Caravan Park on the Murray River at Corowa.   For around 10 years I made that trek with Mum and Dad, my sisters and various other family and friends and we'd camp there for around four weeks every year.  That means that I spent around a year of my life in that town.
 Dad would pack up his old Ford Thames van with all of the gear and he and I would take off early Boxing Day morning.  Many times there'd be a deck chair set up inside the side door and my cousin Gavin or one of my mates, David Palmer for a couple of years, would sit in that chair in the back.   It wasn't illegal in those days, there were no requirments to wear seat belts and besides the van struggled to do 35 miles per hour meaning what is now a three hour trip took us around 7 or 8 in those days.

We went with all the comforts of home, carpet for the floor, an ice chest, chairs, gas stove, umbrellas and a foam mattress for me to sleep on in the back of the van. 

It was a dry heat in Corowa, the plane trees shaded the camping ground and helped keep it relatively cool in the shade.   It didn't really matter because we spent most days at the pool which was adjacent to the camping ground, spending hours perfecting our bombing and horsie technique.  For those who don't know the terms that was a way of leaping into the water and causing the biggest possible splash without doing a belly whacker.  And when we weren't at the pool we were generally down at the river swimming or fishing.

In the years when our friends the Browns came as well, Uncle Arthur would grab me by the two at some ungodly hour of the morning around dawn so that his sone Garaham and I could go fishing.  In the early years we would generally come back with a feed of redfin that we'd cook up fresh for breakfast.
As I got a little bit older I'd play golf.  I could be a student member with reciprocal rights to a lot of Melbourne Golf Courses for $5 per year which was a bargain even if I only played occasionally during the year.    I never played often enough to become any good at the game and I'm just as happy walking around a course these days and taking photos rather than trying to bash one of those little white balls.

My sister Karen and Shirley Brown were far more sociable than I was and they made plenty of friends up there over the years, much to Mum's chagrin because she didn't like them mixing with boys.  In fact every night she'd lace up their side of the tent so that they couldn't get out.  In those days though, tents didn't have floors so they simply waited a while then lifted the side and snuck out.   I remember one night Mum came and got me from the Van because she'd found them missing and I had to march around the park with here whilst she called out to them.  We eventually found them across the other side sitting down laughing with a group of young blokes.  Yes, Mum was over protective.

One year it absolutely poured with rain the whole time we were there.   Dad must have had to return to work early because I remember Mum had to dismantle the camp, pack up the van and drive us home.    The van boiled every 50 mile and we'd have to stop and refill the radiator.  It took us around 12 hours to get home that year.

I've written before about how Karen and I used to have a race to see who could get brownest the quickest.   Sunburn wasn't the horror story in those days that it is now.  We didn't cover up, in fact we wore as little as possible and lay out in the sun for hours at a time.  In Dad's words by the end of the holidays we were all as brown as berries.

As I tend to do on holidays, a lot of time was spent reading.   I remember that I bought the Robert E Howard Conan books one year at a book store up there which were my first introduction into the Sword and Scorcery genre.  I re-read the Lord of the Rings and the Dune trilogy one holiday and became a fan of Michael Moorcock in yet another year.  And I shouldn't forget the E E Doc Smith Lensman series.

Fo the most part they were good times.  I'm sure Mum and Dad chose Corowa because it was in New South Wales and therefore had poker machines in the local clubs.   But Dad continued to drink while we were away and the rows would also go on.  Often Mum would march over to the bowling club after Dad had disappeared for too many hours.  She wasn't averse to yelling and telling him what she thought in front of everyone figuring that embarassing him was the only way to get him to leave.  And she was right.

I think that was where I grew to hate New Years Eve because inevitably everyone would get pissed and so I'd hide in the van reading my books, venturing out when the clock struck midnight and quickly retiring after a fast Happy New Year to everyone.

What I liked best was that we were away from home, for a while the world was on hold.  No school work, no need to mow the lawns or polish the shoes.   I could do what I wanted to do when I wanted to do it.  read, fish, play golf, swim, all the things that made summers fun and school seem a long way off.    The year I went to univeristy was the year I stopped going to Corowa.  Holidays with mates were more important than holidays with Mum and Dad, and anyway, I had to work over the school holidays to earn enough money to see me through the next year.

Thus ended 10 years of summer school holidays with good memories far outweighing the bad.

This year for only the second time in the past 18 I am not at Narooma where that summer holiday tradition continued with my own kids.   And now, as with Christmas, I ave to begin to forge some new traditions, not better, not worse, just new.  Bring them on :)

Saturday, December 25, 2010

The Ghosts of Christmases Passed

I loved Christmas as a kid.  The whole day was one big present.  The weeks of excitement and anticipation were fantastic and the memories are powerful and sunk deep into my psyche.   When my own kids were born we tried to make it the same for them and only they can answer whether it was or not and this post is about my reflections of my childhood Christmases.   The good times that lurk in the shadows and seem probably much better looking backwards than they did then, although they were pretty special.

Decembers were the time when the days warmed up and the north winds sometimes blew so hard they could suck the moisture from you as soon as you stepped outside the door.  This was the herald of Christmas in our part of the world.

The tree would go up in the early days of the month and it was a family affair - those very same decorations that lived on that tree year after year for more than half a century were lovingly wrapped in tissue paper each year by Mum and packed away, and this year when we were cleaning out her place after her passing we again unwrapped them and shared them amongst the three of us.  On my tree this year is a bird, one of three, that were the favourites of my two sisters and I, that we used to argue about who would put them where.

And with the winds and heat would come the Christmas cards.  Each of us kids received them from aunties and uncles and cousins, and how exciting it was to rush to the letter box after hearing the postmans whistle to see what he would bring.  They would then be hung across the windows on bits of wool and it seemed like there were always 100 or more each year which we would also reply to.   That appears to be one of the lost arts of Christmas, I guess social media, texting and emails have bumped that tradition aside.

Each year we would visit Father Christmas at Myer.  In those days the only store was in the city because it was well before any of the shopping malls were built in the suburbs.    Mum would dress us in our Sunday best and we'd trek into the city in her old Vauxhall, line up to see the magic in the Myer Christmas windows and then make our way to the toy department to see Father Christmas.  I was sometimes confused that he looked a little bit different each time I saw him but I knew that he would be visiting me on Christmas Eve.

We would then go and do most of our Christmas shopping in Coles and walk up and down the aisles picking out stuff we thought our cousins would like, because we would buy something for every one of them.  Guns for the boys, dolls for the girls, Enid Blyton and Biggles books, California poppy hair oil or brylcreem for those who were a bit older and for the oldest ones the old chestnuts socks or hankies.

And when the night came we'd leave out biscuits and cheese and Dad would insist on leaving him a bottle of beer, not sure whether it was for Father Christmas or the reindeer, but each Christmas morning it was standing on the hearth of the fireplace bone dry.   I remember the year we had the briquette heater put into the fireplace cavity I was really worried that he wouldn't be able to get down the chimney so I insisted that Mum leave the front door open.

The sacks would be placed side by side on the hearth and we also found them at Mum's place recently, faded and somewhat tattered but lovingly folded and kept as the echoes of our childhood continued to resonate with us.

Oh the excitement of Christmas Eve was unbearable.   I'd toss and turn for hours thinking I would never get to sleep and then suddenly it would be time to wake up.  I'd creep into Karen's room and later Debra's wake them both and rush up to the loungeroom.  Before we touched anything though we'd rush back down to Mum and Dad's room yelling at the tops of our voices "He's been!  He's been!"

So what did we get?   Well it's a little too long ago to remember these things in chronological order but some of the things I remember are a triang train set, a fort with cowboys and indians, a scalextrix car racing set.    Each year their would be a book and I still have two Tarzan and two Eagle Annuals that turned up in my sack on various occasions.   Always there would be some clothes, usually some sort of short sleeved shirt and shorts that I wore on Christmas Day and most years new bathers because on Boxing Day we'd be off on a camping holiday.

When the sacks were emptied we'd exchange our own gifts and then rush outside to see if the rest of the neighbourhood was awake.  There would always be kids out and about on brand new bikes or scooters.  Then we'd do the rounds of the neighbourhood with gifts for the other kids and collecting more presents ourselves.

Some time late morning after a few drinks with neighbours we'd be in the car and off to Merlynston for Christmas with the Joyce's and then onto the Smith's for dinner in Brunswick.   By the time we'd get back home on Christmas night we's be lugging home a boot full of presents and be exhausted.  Usually Mum would be driving because Dad would inevitably be under the weather.

As Grandparents aged, and the days became to hard for them to host, we would have the lunch and dinner at our place in Box Hill, but as the cousins got older and partnered up the numbers coming gradually dwindled until the cycle began again with our own children.  And now I wait with some anticipation for the time when I too will be graced with Grandkids and have the wonder of Christmas rekindled.

Funny how little snapshots are appearing in my brain as I write this - the year I told Mum that I knew who Father Christmas really was and how I cried when I told her and she held me and said that it was OK there would always be a sack on the hearth for me as long as I wanted one, and there was until my little sister Deb finally fessed up to knowing the truth when I was around 17 years old.   I remember dropping my dacks and showing off my leopard skin jockettes, the first adult undies I had after years of white Y fronts and arguing that it didn't matter who I showed because they were just like bathers anyway.    I remember the year Nana and Grandad Smith gave us Mark 10 guns, complete with spring loaded rocket launchers and grenades and how we ran around the back laneways of Brunswick.    One really hot day when a bottle of loys softdrink sitting in the sun outside exploded and a shard of glass cut my chin.   I remember waking to the news of Cyclone Tracy wiping out Darwin in 1974.

Mostly I remember how lucky I was to have been in a time and place when we lacked for nothing, when even the hardest times still saw plenty of food on the table and gifts under the tree.   I lived a privileged life.

I wish all of you who read this a very Merry Christmas and hope that we don't lose sight of the fact that we also celebrate the birth of a special person who changed the world for the better more than 2000 years ago, and irrespective of what beliefs you hold you should remember that.

Friday, December 24, 2010

This Melancholy Christmas

I tend to get a little bit maudlin at Christmas, maybe it's because the kids are beyond kids now and the new traditions with a new partner are still yet to be defined.  It's always been a balancing act but is even more so now in a blended family when not everyone gets along.  So we try and make the best of things despite some tension at times.  If I had a Christmas wish it would be that all six of the kids got along and things didn't feel so uncomfortable when they are together.   Not sure whether that will ever happen.

This year though I have come to Christmas Eve with  the knoweldge that my job may not continue in the New Year.  Directors and owners are arguing over the spoils and the company direction seemingly oblivious to the fact that they have fucked up a lot of peoples Christmases this year.  Worse yet is that they have not given us the courtesy of an explanation.  I think that even if it does go forward it is not likely that many of my colleagues will stick things out.   And nor should anyone when they get treated this poorly.

So the melancholy simmers and the presents, such as they are, go unwrapped, because some of the family have missed out this year.    With no guarantee that I will be getting paid in January we have had to curtail spending so that we have enough aside to cover the mortgage.

And I have to admit this first year without Mum has things looking different as well.

I know there are people in way worse places than we are and I can only imagine their despair if these lousy feelings are anything to go by.  But this too shall pass.   The New Year will bring new opportunities and I have already started applying for other roles.   Something will come up.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

More than a dream

The night I wrote the last post about scattering Mum's ashes Raels woke up during the night with the bed shaking and thought it was Ramsey, our Spoodle, scratching himself. When she looked, Mum was sitting on the end of the bed shaking my leg and she said “Laurie, why do those girls have to make such a fuss of everything. They should have just thrown me in the river so we could get on with things.” That was when she woke me up and told me :)

Funny that I'd written to Mum in the post that I had a visit from Dad after he died but that was at a time when I was living alone, not with someone who is attuned to these things.   Oddly enough when I told my sisters one of them had a dream about Mum that very night.  She said -

"Mum finally came to me in a dream as vivid as the one I had when Dad visited me and I woke up straight away wishing she had stayed longer. I was in my car with Shez driving and there was Mum's old little white car driving in front - I said to Shez "That looks like Nanna" and with that she turned around, and it was her with the most amazing smile that lit up her entire face - I yelled out "Mum" and then I woke up. I now really do know that she is so happy, she has free movement ,is driving and obviously pain free."

I am a natural sceptic and there was a time when I would have scoffed at these things, but now they seem to me to be more than dreams.  Has anyone else shared similar experiences?

Sunday, December 12, 2010

The Scattering Again

Dear Mum

You probably already know this but I thought I'd let you know anyway.   We scattered your ashes today,as close to the place where we did the same to Dad's back in 2004.    The river was a bit higher and running quicker than it was back then so your journey, wherever that may be will be quicker than Dad's was.    Remember how amidst the tears we laughed back then when you said that there was some irony in the fact we were scattering Dad's ashes in the river when he couldn't swim.   He would have laughed at that too and we did chuckle about it again today.

Unlike back then there were no ducks around.  Remember they came in and scooped up some of Dad's ashes as they floated on the water, eventually scattering them a bit further than we intended I guess.

You would have been proud of Deb, she read a couple of poems for you and said a small service around how we eventually return to the elements from which we sprang - from fire, earth, water and air.  I was glad that the air didn't spring up and blow part of you up my nose because I'm still suffering a bit from hay fever and it wasn't something I needed today.

Andrew and Gerry were there as well as Chase, Shez and Cal, Raels was home ill in bed and sends her apologies and the other Grandkids found it a bit hard to face, like they did with Dad.  Maybe they don't fully understand how this ancient ceremony is yet another step along the way of recovery for grief.  But I know you'll understand.   I know you will prefer them to remember your laugh and your raised eyebrow when you disapproved of something than a container of mortal remains.

Speaking of which, I carried them down from Karen's house and I have to say that you weighed a fair bit more than Dad.  But you'll know that too, because he did have a touch of the Mahatma Ghandi's about him in the last few years,  "Fine as a sunny day" I remember him saying on more than one occasion.

We did have to keep watch because like the day we did Dad's there were a few people around and whilst Deb was speaking Andrew, Gerry and I were keeping a lookout for anyone who may have happened along.  I remembered the time you told us about you and Uncle Phil and Aunty Nancy taking your cousin Lila's ashes out to the cemetery and shoving them down a crack in the grave of her Mum Aunty Phyllis and Dad Uncle Perc.   You told us you were worried that someone would see and think you might be defacing the grave, but we all had a great laugh everytime you told the story.

Deb brought some yellow roses from her garden and each of us placed one on the river to follow you down. As the last one was placed on and the rain started to fall the sun came out giving that sense of renewal that comes with a new day.  A different day maybe, but a new one, and despite the sorrow, a reminder that there will still be many good things to come.

I hope you finished the book that we sent with you.  You were adamant that it had to go on the journey because you always finished any books you started even if you didn't like them.  And I hope you managed to magic that toy horse into one that carried you across the fields of heaven like you said it would.

I have so much to thank you for, we all do and I'll leave that to some future posts, but I do want to say a couple of things here.  Firstly, I remember how proud you were of Luke when he was presented as your first Grandchild.  You were actually the same age then as I am now and that's a bit of a scarey thought because I thought you and Dad were kinda old back then.  Now I know differently of course.   And then you were given another 10 grandkids within the next ten years and everyone knew how much you loved them.

I also want you to know that Raels really appreciated the last things you said to her - that you loved her and that you told her to look after me.  She will and I think you know that.  Thanks for finally accepting her, I know it wasn't an easy thing for you to do.  But we both are really grateful for that and Raels for being able to come to know you over the past couple of years.

Did I tell you that a few months after Dad died he visited me one night.  I felt him sit on the end of my bed just like he did so many times when I was a boy and he'd come home from work and come down and say goodnight.   We couldn't talk but just let him know that I'm OK and I love him deeply.

I still feel you around Mum.   I know that wherever and whatever Heaven is, that you'll watch over all of us no matter how long you have to.   I can hear you telling Dad and Nana and Grandad and the others there with you now how I "turned around and said".   And I know that when you disapprove of something I do, and there probably will be things you don't like before we meet again, that your eyebrow will rise and the cheeks will puff out and you'll let me know exactly what you think.  Just like you always have.

So Farewell for now Mum.  I will always love you.

Your son

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Cemeteries, Dairies and Nut Trees - Merlynston Part 1

So my earliest memories of space are of the immediate neighbourhood in Box Hill South.  If I may digress before I even get into this post, I found out this week that one of the blokes I now work with lived around the corner from me and in fact knew some of the kids I went to school with.  It is a small world.
And back then it was even smaller.  Childhood memories sometimes play like incomplete scenes in a movie and different days run into one another so we end up with an amalgam of images rather than distinct chapters and such are my memories of Merlynston.

Most people in Melbourne have never heard of this tiny suburb north of Coburg and on the edge of the Fawkner Cemetery.   For a time my Grandfather was a grave digger there and a Chapel is named after my Uncle who for a long time was on the Board of the cemetery trust.

I was born not far from there and Mum moved back into a bungalow at the back of my Grandparents place at 55 Orvieto Street after I was born whilst they were saving for their own home.   They had been living in a flat at Mordialloc for a few years. 

But my memories of Merlynston don’t stretch back quite that far, they in fact begin on any one of dozens of weekends when we visited Nana and Pa which seemed to be at least fortnightly, usually on a Sunday.  Now here my cousins may in fact say that my memories of Orvieto Street may well differ from theirs but for me they are very vivid.

Pa would generally meet us on the front porch and usually he’d have a 2 shilling piece to give us.  Pa had his voice box removed after getting cancer of the larynx the year I was born and it was a source of grim fascination that he had a hole in his throat covered with a gauze square.  He sort of talked with a wheezing croak that was really hard for me to understand.   I wonder what his voice was like – did ne sing, did he have a baritone or tenor?

On the wall in the foyer was a crushed velvet belt containing badges that Pa had collected during his time with the New Zealand army in the First World War.  On a cabinet at the end was a photo of my Uncle Keith in uniform and I have this vague recollection of a photograph of the Queen.   On the side wall was a portrait of Nana’s Mum and Dad.

But it is the smell that stays with me mostly.  Nana would inevitably be baking and the smells of fresh scones and roasting meat would greet us as we walked inside the front door.  I loved the scones piping hot from the oven covered in melted butter and smothered in vegemite.

The lounge room to the left had a piano and Nana would sometimes sit down and play it for us and my favourite part were the big club chairs which I would perch myself in and read from the set of encyclopedia from a bookcase against one wall.   In later years Nana had a huge 26 inch black and white TV with a hard wired remote control.  I remember being fascinated by being able to actually sit in a chair and change a channel or turn the volume up and down.  It was to be years before we had one at home.

The back yard had a lemon tree which legend had it was well watered by the men of the family.  At the back of the yard was a wood shed and a chook house and if we were lucky, Pa would allow us to go down and collect the eggs.  There was a massive nut tree – walnuts I think – that dominated one corner of the yard and my cousins Paul and I spent a fair bit of time climbing it.

But the magic place was Pa’s garage which we used to sneak into and poke around.  It was full of tools and the cut down wagon that Pa used to push around the streets of Coburg whilst he collected beer bottles for return to the brewery.  I still marvel at him as an octogenarian with one leg shorter than the other because he got blown up in France in the First World War, and no voice box because he had it removed as a 72 year old, pushing a cart laden with hessian sacks full of beer bottles for miles oblivious to the traffic he was holding up.  In 1974 Pa was the first of my Grandparents to pass away and I have always counted myself lucky that I had all of them with me for so long.

There is much more to write about Merlynston and that will come shortly.  I have asked my sisters and cousins to make a contribution as well and will post them as they come.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Summer Daze

Sitting here with the wind rising and facing another day of record rainfall across the state tomorrow after two decades of drought, got,me thinking about summers past.   I'm facing my first Christmas as an orphan, if a 53 year old man can be an orphan and the excitement of Christmas approaching is tempered with the knowledge that both Mum and Dad are gone now and this is my first summer without them.

I remember the long summer days at Richardson Street, the smell of cut grass, of apples fermenting on the ground beneath the two trees in the front yard, of the wonderful scent of petrichor as the summer thunder storms rolled in.   There was no daylight saving in those days, but we stayed outside late anyway.  No air conditioning, in the house, or at school, and in the cars we rolled the windows down, didn't press a button to keep them up and turn on the refrigeration.

Summer meant a crate of Loys softdrinks home delivered once a week, the weekend visits of Mr Whippy and chocolate coated ice cream cones.   It meant some beach visits where we'd tie meat to a string to catch crabs in rock pools at Ricketts Point.

It was hours spent in the Clark above ground pool, dragging ourselves in circles to create a whirlpool.  Dad shifted that pool to half a dozen different places in the yard.  We had no filter so he'd spend hours out there himself scooping leaves out and dosing it with chlorine that stung our eyes.

And on weekends were Dad's BBQ's, burnt sausages and the best hot chips you've ever tasted smothered in salt.

Summer meant a race with my sister Karen to see who could get the best tan.  There was no slip, slop, slap campaign in those days.  Instead we'd coat oursleves in coconut oil and lie on our towels on the footpath slowly basting in the heat.  I generally won, and have had a couple of skin cancers cut out since to prove it.

The days were long and hot, the nights cool with the chirping of crickets.  The days were simpler then before the times that meant there were too many summers to remember.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

A Bleary Road Revisited - Weekend Rewind

Over at Life in a Pink Fibro there is a Saturday tradition building of weekend called Weekend Rewind where old blog posts are dusted off and re-read.

This week I have dusted off one I called A Bleary Road.    It was written at a time when I was reflecting much on my childhood and the things that impacted upon the person I grew to be.   One of the interesting things about re-visiting the old posts for me is the comments and in particular the number of people who commeted at the time who now no longer seem to be blogging.  Makes me realise that for many, blogging is something that happens for a reason and once that no longer exists we can move onto other things.

Now for an update on the week.   Check out Destination 3977 and you'll see that our block now has taps installed.  But we still don't have finance confirmed although we do have provisional approval, and we now have to get a Town Planning permit because of an old scoop drain that used to run through the block.   We should have the loan sorted out in the next few days and the permit sometime in the next few weeks. That means that the chance of started the buiild pre-Christmas is diminshing rapidly.

Work continues to be busy, not a bad thing, with lots of documents to be written and certifiaction audits to be planned.   We should have the lease on our building finalised soon and then construction of the data centre can continue.  Looks like I have a bit of an evolving sales role occuring as well which will be a relatively new experience for me.

We may have a buyer for our current house, at least there is someone interested in having a look.  I spent the day today cleaning spouting, karchering paving and staining the front deck.   If the rain holds off again tomorrow I'll get a second coat on.

And we put up the Christmas tree on Thursday night with the help of the 3 daughters and one of the sons.   Feels good to have it up this year after having Christmas come on us with way too much of a rush last year.

And that folks is a quick update of the week that was.  Visit Life in a Pink Fibro and check out some of the other rewind articles.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

One of those Days

I should have stayed home yesterday.  I'd been on and off the throne for around 12 hours and given things had slowed down a bit overnight I decided that I'd attempt to get to work because I'd set up a few meetings that I didn't want to postpone.   Let me just say that sharting isn't fun and I thought that it would be safer to drive in than catch the train so that in the event that the urge to purge hit me mid way I'd have the chance to make a quick stop and dash for the dunny [yes that word again].

Not only had I been on the crapper more than I care to, but my lady was also crook and expelling stuff from the opposite end to me.

After an hour and a half of battling traffic, proving that I generally make the right decision catching a train and tram and reading a book, I arrived at work.  Now we are currently still negotiating our lease of these premises so we are at the mercy of the people who share the building with us because they are the ones with the keys.  Normally someone is there at around 8:15 am but yesterday they didn't arrive until 9.   I walked...taking my mind off the churning of the gut and wishing to hell that they would hurry up before it became very embarrasing.

We got inside and on hooking up our laptops found our network down and we were without access to the internet and emails, which these days is a big deal.    Then as we sat down to work one of my colleagues received a phone call telling him that a mate had dropped dead.  But the day got better after that, as did my gut, thankfully.

So some days are better than others and I've learnt that it is all about context, an upset tummy isn't as bad as carking, and a delay in connecting on line isn't the end of the world.  And here's a clip from Louis C K that does talk about context.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010


Here's another Dad joke sent to me by a mate of mine - don't read if you're offended by political incorrectness :)

I took my dad to the mall the other day to buy some new shoes (he is 84).
We decided to grab a bite at the food court.

I noticed he was watching a teenager sitting next to him.

The teenager had spiked hair in all different colours: green, red, orange, and blue.

My dad kept staring at him.

The teenager would look and find him staring every time.

When the teenager had enough, he sarcastically asked:

'What's the matter old man, never done anything wild in your life?'

Knowing my Dad, I quickly swallowed my food so that I would not choke on his response; knowing he would have a good one.

And in classic style he did not bat an eye in his response:

Got stoned once and fucked a peacock. I was just wondering if you were my son.'

Monday, November 29, 2010

Young Monks

I should say that our Thailand trip was with Intrepid Travel and that we would gladly go with them again.  We had a terrific time spent travelling with locals and enjoying the local hospitality.  This set of photos are of some young Burmese Monks who were staying in a temple in a village near Chiang Mai where we enjoyed a homestay.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

What was he thinking????

Most people would know that men's toilets aren't the most hygenic of places.  Today whilst doing some shopping for the new house and printing off some of the photos you folks have chosen over the past couple of weeks, I decided that I needed a leak.

The gents is down at the end of a long corridor, past the parents room and the ladies, outside of which is a couch, on which a bloke was perched obviously waiting for his missus.   On the floor immediately outside the entrance to the mens was a kid about three years old.

"I'm gonna roll down to you Dad." he said, and proceeded to roll down the floor to the bloke sitting on the chair. 

Now inside the dunny on the floor beneath the urinals were puddles of piss.  There was no way anyone, who'd been in the toilet could miss getting his shoes wet, and in getting them wet, trailing wet footprints out and into the corridor where this kid was rolling towards his old man.  And what did the Dad say -
"Are you going to roll all the way down to me?"

Now even if he hadn't been in there and seen the state of the floor, what type of bloke would let his kid roll around on a floor anywhere near a water closet????

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Land is settled

Well we are now the owners of a new plot of land in Cranbourne North.   Actually we fully own a bit and the bank through a mortgage owns the rest but not forever.

We are still waiting on the construction loan to be approved and whilst our builder has scheduled us to start on Tuesday that will now have to be postponed.  The bank valuer is still refusing to budge on the grounds that houses the value of ours haven't been sold in the area and therefore he won't put the right value on either the land or on the construction.    Our broker has been busily tracking down sales in the area and has now gone back to the valuer with evidence of similar sized houses in the area having been sold for between $50k and $100k more than what he has valued ours at.

The other option we are pursuing is discharging the mortgage on our current house and taking that to the CBA as well, thus including the equity we have in this one in the overall formula.  Even if this one is valued at the lower end of the range we will still save $10k in mortgage insurance.  The only problem is this will all take time which will mean delays in building and possibly in our place in the queue.   In any event I am hoping it will be sorted out in the next fortnight.

Friday, November 26, 2010

It's not 80-30

And in visiting yet another on my blogroll Pearl over at "Pearl, Why you little..." wrote a post about carrying a notebook everwhere and writing down things that become fodder for her posts and I remembered I overheard something on the train the other day that I was going to mention but had forgotten about.

A young girl talking loudly on her iPhone said "It's a 50-50 proposition you know, it's not like it's 80-30..."

Now there's a budding economist.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Doi Sutep Magic

This was a magical night and I would urge anyone visiting Chiang Mai to make the treck up the mountain to the temple at Doi Sutep for the evening prayers.  As the sun goes down the gold leaf of the temple comes to life.    Again please indulge me with your opinions of which photos I should print off and hang on the wall.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Will Congress Repeal Health Care Reform?

Today I am putting up a guest post from Barbara O'Brien whose main blog is The Mahablog.  A little while back Barbara contacted me and asked if I would allow her to guest post on this blog and after  bit of toing and froing, mainly because I didn't really see what benefit there was to her in publishing an American Health story on an Aussie Blog, she sent through the article below for me.

Here is what she wrote to me -

My name is Barbara O’ Brien and my blogging at The Mahablog, Crooks and Liars, AlterNet, and elsewhere on the progressive political and health blogophere has earned me the notoriety of being a panelist at the Yearly Kos Convention and a featured guest blogger at the Take Back America Conference in Washington, DC.
I’m contacting you because I found your blog in a health care site search and wanted to reach out to you to tell you about my newest blogging platform —the public concern of healthcare and its relationto the baby boomer and those over the age of 40.
My main goal is to increase awareness on these important issues, and Iwas hoping you could help me. I am interested in providing you a guest post to be placed, but I realize this may not be a viable option. I am also willing to inquire about link opportunities. I hope to hear back from you soon.


Barbara O’ Brien
Barbaraobrien (at)

Now in my lifetime I have voted for all main political parties in this country, except the Greens [and don't get me started on that bunch of fairies at the bottom of the garden], but as I've gotten older I've probably tended more towards the slight right of centre, mainly because I believe that they are better economic managers.  However, there are two areas where I am probably a bit more of a socialist and that is in the areas of Education and Health Care.   People, in our society have fundamentals rights to a good education, good health care and I'll throw in the right to feel safe and secure as well.

I believe that we in Australia are generally in pretty good shape from a health care viewpoint when compared to others.   Sure we have problems with waiting lists, and ambulance delays and shortages of beds, but most times, people who get sick and need help can get it.   And that is why I've agreed to put up this post by Barbara - from what I know of the American system, it sucks, and whilst we have political interference in health care reform in my country, it pales into insignificance, compared to what appears to be happening in the States.  I make no judgement on whether Barbara is right or wrong here and would be really interested in any comments, you as readers care to make.

So here is Barbara's post.

Will Congress Repeal Health Care Reform?

As soon as Republicans knew they had won a majority of House seats in the midterm elections, GOP leaders vowed to repeal health care reform. Can they do this? And should they?

Frankly, chances that the health care reform bill could be repealed completely are remote, especially since such repeal would have to override President Obama's veto, and the Senate still has a Democratic majority.

House Republicans say they have some tricks up their sleeves, such as refusing to provide funds in the budget to implement health care reform. However, provisions of the law that will expand Medicaid and help subsidize private insurance won't kick in until 2014. Until then, there's not much the House can do to the budget to stop health care reform from going forward, short of defunding the entire Health and Human Services department.

Another "trick" might be to dismantle the bill piece by piece. One provision that many people want to remove is the individual mandate, which will require most Americans to obtain health insurance or pay a tax penalty. This provision also kicks in in 2014, and it's one that Baby Boomers in particular will want to fight to keep.

Here's why: Beginning in 2014, private insurance companies will no longer be able to refuse to insure someone because of a pre-existing condition. But without an individual mandate, there will be no incentive for younger and healthier people to purchase health insurance until the time comes when they need it. This means those left in the insurance "risk pool" will be older, and that drives up the cost of insurance.

By the time we reach 50, nearly all of us have "pre-existing conditions." Some of our conditions are common, and some are not -- mesothelioma, for example, is rarely diagnosed in patients younger than 50. And without Medicare or other good insurance, mesothelioma treatment would be financially devastating.

But without the individual mandate requiring that healthier people share in the cost of insuring all of us, the health insurance premium bills for people aged 50 to 65 will be ruinous. We can scrap health care reform entirely, of course, but keep in mind that if you lose your insurance before you reach Medicare age you may not be able to purchase insurance at all, at any price, if you have a pre-existing condition.

Monday, November 22, 2010


Funny how sometimes memories are triggered by unexpected things.  I was browsing some of the blogs I follow the other night when I came across a post on Gaelikaa's diary about kites and how her son loves them and it brought me back to a time when my Dad made me a kite.

Dad was a commercial taveller - a salesman these days - for a paper merchant company and we were never short of stuff for school, pens, pencils, paper, lunch bags.  You name it and Dad would bring it home. 

I must have been around five or six and Dad decided that he would build me a kite.  He got two bits of one inch square timber, somehow fastened them together with string and no matter how tight he tied them they still moved around.    

He then got some heavy thick brown paper which he drew a face on with the Derwent pencils he'd appropriated and glued it to the timber cricifix.   After punching a hole through the nose on the face he then tied on heavy twine and finally a tail made out of ripped up material.   I don't remember what it was he ripped up but knowing Dad, it was probably a dozen pair of old y-front undies.

I swear when it was finished it must have weighed about 10 kilos.   Still, we ran up and down the street for hours and every time we launched it into the air, it crashed straight back down to the ground.     The paper tore, the frame loosened and splintered and the only time it got more than 6 inches off the ground was when we threw it as high as we could.     It was completely devoid of any aero dynamic properties and proved that a kite didn't have to fly to be fun because it didn't matter, he made it for me.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Settlement is coming

After buying our block of land in January we will finally own it on Friday. We've been talking over the last week about whether or not we should delay the build until after we sell our curent house because we have to borrow more than 80% of the cost and the bank wants to charge us around $19,000 in mortgage insurance.

The bank will only value our land at what we paid for it back in January despite the fact that you try and buy a block of similar size to ours on the estate now, you'd be paying at least $50k more. And to add insult to injury they are only valuing our build at $30k less than what it is costing us. The problem is they don't look at the plans they base the entire assessment on the price per square meter for a built house in the same suburb have been going for recently. That's despite the fact that there are many houses bigger and more expensive than ours being built in the same estate now. No wonder these pricks made $5 billion profit this year.

So the bank wants me to pay insurance for them in the event that I renege on the loan and the house is worth less than what is owed on it they can claim on that insurance.  Not me - I can't claim, even though I'm paying for it.  How does that work?  Never mind that since I bought my first home in 1982 I have never been late on a payment, not once.

What a rort. I understand why the bank needs to protect themselves but why do I have to pay a premium for insurance when in three months time I'd be under the limit anyway? Any bankers out there please explain.

Anyway - delaying the build would mean we'll have to rent somewhere, which means moving twice and probably also having to put stuff in storage. We'd have to find a place that would let us bring our dogs and it's just too much of a friggin pain in the arse to go that way. So we'll pay the bloody insurance and get the place built so we can move in and enjoy it.

On a much more pleasant note, thanks to the wonders of the internet, we have met a number of our new neighbours already and we're both really looking forward to moving into the area and putting down new roots.

My lady is keeping the entire house building saga up to date on her blog Destination 3977 so please feel free to pop in and say hello.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Doi Sutep

Post three of my Thailand photos - this time of a little Hill Tribe girl we saw at Doi Sutep overlooking Chiang Mai. Let's have your votes folks.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Fantastic 4

It's been a long time since I started or took part in a meme, and on returning to blogging over the past few months after a period of time when I wrote little it would seem that maybe they aren't as popular as they once were.    So I'm gonna try another one and invite each of you to take part.

We all write our blogs for different reasons, for me, it began as a place to explore my feelings and has changed a fair bit over time depending on what is happening in my life.   So just like ourselves our readers also come and go so there's a good chance that most of you who visit this blog now have not dipped much, if at all, into my past posts.

I'm calling this meme the Fantastic 4 and the challenge is to choose 4 old posts that will tell us something about each other that we may not know if we are new readers.  So here are my 4 -

Blink of an eye revisited from 18 October 2008

The Heart of the Onion from 3 November 2007

Musical Memories from 21 June 2007

Remember when Mum said if you ate an apple core from 16 April 2009

This one is a Blog Hop so write your own Fantastic 4 post and leave the link below where it says "Click here to enter".  And remember to leave some comments as you move around the blogs.

Monday, November 15, 2010


The second in my series of posts asking you which ones I should print off frame and hang on the wall.   These are of the Buddha statues found in the ancient ruins of Sukothai.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

With great age comes...

I am about to start the third week of my new job.  This is a new start up company and we are building a new data centre in an inner city suburb, so at this stage we have a total of 17 people on board, mainly project managers and network architects.  My role, at least initially, is to commence the process towards achieving certification in a number of ISO standards - ISO 9001 Quality Management, ISO27001 Information Security Management, ISO 14001 Enviroment Mangement, ISO 20001 ICT Service Mangement, and ISO 30001 Risk Mangement, to name a few.  There are a few of those I have a fair bit of experience with and others I'll be learning but that's part of the fun and not really the purpose of this post.

I have just realised that for the first time in my life I am actually the oldest person in my work place and that scares me a bit. Not sure I'm ready to don the mantle of the wise old sage no matter how white my beard is.  To paraphrase Spiderman I am aware that with great age comes great responsibility and being a bit of a tosser I feel the weight of responsibility.  At least the Dad jokes are still getting laughs.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Vicroads - WTF????

Thursday was Remembrance Day marked to remember the end of World War 1.   It is traditional in my country to wear a Red Poppy and as a mark of respect to observe a minutes silence at 11 am.    I have attended the funerals of many relatives of mine who have served our country and have placed red poppies on their coffins or in their graves.    It was great to see the number of young people this week wearing poppies, pinned on suits and t-shirts, dresses and blouses.    That for me is a wonderful sign for our future.

In my home town of Melbourne the Shrine of Remembrance was designed so that at precisely the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month a sunbeam would shine through the roof of the cenotaph and illuminate a memorial in the base of the building.  When daylight saving was introduced a mirror was set up to intercept the beam and ensure that it still passed at the correct time.

This week we got the news that Vicroads, our vehicle registration, licensing and road construction and maintenance authority had decided that they would no longer observe the minutes silence.  In fact what they said was -
"VicRoads have not observed a minute's silence for a number of years as they are conscious of possible different cultural issues and don't wish to cause offence."

And in saying that, they have offended my culture and those of any person who believes that we should remember the sacrifices made and the fact that the end of wars is far more important to remember than the start of them.   This is Political Correctness gone mad once again.   The idiot that thought this was a good idea ought to be sacked.   The goose who wrote the press release ought to go back to school and learn a bit more about the difference between being culturally sensitive and understanding the reason for marking a day like this goes way beyond any cultural differences any of us may have.