Saturday, June 05, 2010

Mother Muddlings

There could well be some contradictions below. I spoke to Mother this week and chickened out on mentioning her lack of money, more money from Bone Doctor and primarily, that she can't afford to continue to live in the house.

Mother's last letter told me about her 'friend', I know not who, who owned the cow that it is a tv advert which I have only half seen. Something about a cow playing Putting on the Ritz on a keyboard with its hooves. During the transport to film the commercial, the transport vehicle was involved in an accident and the float was smashed up. The cow emerged unscathed and unworried and after alternate transport was arranged, went on to make the commercial.

Part one, written early March.

It is clear to all, including Mother, that her living situation is not sustainable, mainly for financial reasons. Bone Doctor gave her $5000 for emergencies and peace of mind that will have to repaid at some point, but she has been making a dent on on it.

Various solutions have been suggested. She is dead against some sort of retirement village. She is dead against 'a poky little unit'. Beggars can't be choosers, you may think, but we children cannot challenge her. She is fine mentally and can physically manage ok, so long as we prop her up with help for doctor's and shopping and friends help out. She plays the helpless widow very well.

Her only luxuries are smoking and feeding the cats, a total of maybe $50 a week. Otherwise, she is quite frugal now, unlike in the past.

Her block of land could be dual occupancy done, with a new unit for her at the rear and knocking down the present house and building another. We have talked about this a little, but Tradie Brother has never run with idea.

She could sell her house and build a self contained unit or granny flat at ABI Brother's place.

We treat all such ideas with great levity. Sister says, well Andrew, you have a spare room. I say, Sister, it is the daughter's duty to look after her mother. After visiting the caravan and camping show, I am saying to ABI Brother, she could buy a Winnebago and park it in your driveway and live there. ABI brother rarely flushes his toilet in the interests of water conservation and leaves dirty greasy water in his sink and basin. They just could not live so close by.

Sister, I say, once Bone Doctor is permanent somewhere, you must buy a house with a bedroom for Mother. It goes on and on with much joking. None of us even seriously consider having her live with any of us.

She has said that she will stay in her house until she feels it is right to move. While we and friends continue to prop her up, the situation is prolonged. But what else can we do but look after Mother.

About a year ago we kiddies started to pay for Mother's private health insurance. She hadn't had it for years. She couldn't afford it but she was very concerned about being at the mercy of the public system. I believe in the public health system, but you do get to an age when you start to worry, so a few years ago we joined my work based health insurance. We haven't made a claim yet, but I expect we will. I also expect once the waiting period for Mother's cover is over, she will get serious benefit from it.

Eventually Bone Doctor's money will be so depleted, that Mother will realise that she just cannot continue to live in a three bedroom house and pay the bills. This must be the crunch time.

Part 2, written this week.

Mother is the biggest problem in our lives at the moment. Sister told me tonight that Mother has asked Bone Doctor for the rest of the promised $10,000. Mother has received $5000 already and has spent it in a bit over six months. Some people can survive on a pension. Clearly Mother cannot. She is not spending money on luxuries, except for cigarettes, maybe $50 a week, maybe more. She is smoking more since Step Father died and he has stopped yelling at her for lighting up. I will remind her the next time she wants me to take the curtains down for washing because they are looking grubby. Why might that be Mother? The cat food for the strays cost a bit. They evidently need special cat milk too. The only heating or cooling Mother has is an old air con unit. The gas heater irreparably failed a couple of years ago. Her last electric bill, over Autumn, the time we have a minimal heating/cooling bill, was $500. It does include cooking and hot water, but even so. She spends a lot at the chemist on attempts to cure her ills. Mostly fruitless.

The already supplied $5000 was supposed to be emergency money, some of which might go to efficient heating and cooling. Fat chance.

Her council rates had to be paid, $900. Perhaps I need to tell her about budgeting?

Clearly she can't stay in a three bedroom house on a large block and financially survive. She has no great attachment to Pakenham, apart from ABI brother living there now. I did ask her.


1/ Tradie Brother steps up and builds five units on the block. Mother will have one. This needs to be financed and is very complicated financially. I will directly ask Tradie Brother and see if it can be struck off the list or he likes the idea. (I did ask and he doesn't like it)

2/ Granny flat in ABI brother's back yard. He has a corner block and it is feasible. It is a bit out of town and Mother likes to observe the street life. She would feel locked away.

3/ An existing unit, almost a direct change over. Easiest, but she says, oh, neighbours would know my comings and goings and my business. Hello? They do already.

4/ Retirement village. My mother is just so not the retirement village type. They are generally quite expensive too. She needs to free up some capital.

5/ Not sure if sister's new house is capable of hosting a granny flat. Everytime I tell Sister that it is the duty of a daughter to look after elderly parents, Sister points out that we have a spare bedroom. Cow.

I think Bone Doctor will give Mother the rest of the money, but gee, she and Sister need the money themselves for their new house. And Mother needs to realise that her situation is not sustainable and that she is living beyond her income.

Friday, June 04, 2010

An Era Ends and a Puzzlement

For around three years we have been going to Brunswick Street in Fitzroy to get our hair cuts. GI Joes opened in Prahran some time before then and we went their for a short time but we weren't keen on the staff. The hair cuts were good though, and cheap, at $15 for me. There was a branch in Richmond, where we have also been, but the Fitzroy branch was our preference. We liked the staff, especially the Kiwi born Di, who left not long ago, and Meng, the Asian guy.

The business is closing for the cafe Madame Sousou next door to expand. If I have been waiting for R to have his haircut, I walk the side streets. I have walked the side streets regardless when I get my hair cut. It is a very old and interesting area. If you need a fix of info, news and photos of Fitzroy, you would not find a better site to visit than Fitzroyalty.

I will leave Fitzroy with a puzzlement. Over the top of the windows to the side you can see the original brick arch lintels. They don't stand out at all. Why does the central window have a different arch lintel? It does not look as if it was recently added and the brickwork under it is original. I suspect something has been removed that protected the brickwork from weather. The bricks not laid with the same care or cleaning as the rest, because they wouldn't be seen. I think I was in Kent Street. Anyway, odd. Suggestions welcome.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Live post. Two boys dead

I am not trying to play the clever person or the holier than thou role, but when I heard about the two boys dying in their Mooroopna home with their mother nearby, immediately something did not gel. Everyone seemed to be drawing fast conclusions that the mother had done them in, but it was not the case, well not with any intent. She may have done so by not having her gas heater serviced every two years, but who does that?

Nah, it seemed a bit to odd to me. Nothing made sense until I heard about the carbon monoxide spewing heater.

Kids are dead and past caring, but sheesh, don't you feel for their for parents and families. What a horrible thing.

Open up

We designed our own kitchens for three different houses, successfully. After knocking a wall out at our Glen Iris house, we had a huge space and we filled it with cupboards and pantries, which in turn filled themselves with STUFF.

I like our kitchen here. It is good to work in except for awful corner cupboards and some cupboards being to high. But it is not blessed with a lot of storage space and as we mostly cook meals at home, we need a certain amount of goodies in storage. So we us a couple of shelves in the linen press for the overflow.

Top shelf is the sewing box, various platters, a tea pot, a large stainless steel pot, a blender and a seldom used electric griller.

The next shelf down is mostly spare foodstuffs. Some because the opened product is running out, some things bought because they were on special, such as the coffee and the cereal because the large boxes won't fit into the kitchen cupboard they are supposed to go in. Behind the cereal are all sorts of small bits and pieces in a basket such as yeast, various exoctic teas, small jars of jam etc. We clean it out every so often.

Next down is a mixture of reusable bags, spare linen, table cloths, spare paper towel, more gifted foodstuffs in the box, spare tissues, Coke, soda water and juice for Little Jo. There is often a good bit more on this shelf.

The shelf under that has two sets of towels, that is two towels, two bath mats and one hand towel and of course there is a third set which is in use. The rest are a mix of towels for visitors or whatever and a couple of beach towels. Tea towels are at the front and old tea towels, now used as dusters, at the rear.

Bottom is spare vac bags, two tool boxes full of tools, the revolta vacuum cleaner and extension lead. In behind the vac is a steel box with the drill and jigsaw in it and a spirit level.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

The Reading Guilt

I should not feel guilty. I am doing what I want to, that is reading a daily newspaper during the week, the local newspapers and occasionally the gay weeklies, although the latter has decreasing relevance to me. Of course I read an awful lot on this screen but I don't like long reads on the net. One page is usually enough for me.

What I am not reading is books. The same one has been on my bedside table for more than a month, maybe two even. It is a book full of anecdotes from outback Australia. It was a gift at christmas, so I feel obliged to read it. It is ok, but not what I would call gripping. It is just easy to pick up and put down. Perhaps I should read a good novel.

What troubles me is that in pre internet days, I used to devour books at the rate of two or three a week, as well as reading more newspapers. Aren't we to believe that books are good and educational and the internet is bad and addictive?

Some of you might think, well if High Riser spent a bit less time writing posts for his blog and a bit more time reading books, the world would be a better place.

Maybe, but I tell myself if I wanted to read books so much, I would.

I work a 40 hour week. Often my travel time to and from work is 80 minutes if I come home for lunch. Personal relationship to attend to, family matters, friends, house work, blogging, taking snaps when out and about. I do like being out and about looking at various things. I have seen a stunning single storey house with a beautiful garden. To take some snaps of it is the next expedition.

So, while I am the poorer for it, reading books just does not get much of a look in now. If you want a reader, take a look at The Resident Judge of Port Phillip blog. She churns through them writes about them too.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Outback environment

You can read about how clever crows deal with cane toads back here.

I also wrote about Australia's imported pests here. I wonder if I should have included non Aboriginal people too? Speaking of which, what an exciting find the recent Aboriginal rock art is. It possibly dates back to when Australia had mega fauna. See what your bible bashers have to say about creation now.

Cane toads are marching on and it is depressing that neither crows or humans with golf clubs can stop them.

It seems we will never win against the little pests, but there are larger pests we can eliminate.

Buffalo. We have made a good effort against buffalo, but I believe there are still wild ones. They are not hard to get rid of if a concentrated effort is made. Sympathy factor for buffalo, maybe 3/10.

Camels. Not as bad as buffalo perhaps, but there are so many of them and they are a serious pest. Sympathy factor, 5/10

Goats. They could come back even if all wild goats are killed. Some idiots will let domestic goats go wild again. Sympathy factor 2/10

Pigs. Nearly impossible to eliminate, but that is no reason to not try. Pig hunters won't like the numbers reduced. Otherwise, sympathy factor 1/10.

Which brings me to the final one, where I am not going to win friends perhaps. The critter called a brumby has been around a long time, as has its name. Why was it given a softening name so early on and not named as what it really is, a wild horse? We don't need wild horses stomping their hooves all over our country but the problem is, sympathy factor 9/10.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Australian Public Transport: Fail

We can dream can't we? London, nay, even England, is constantly upgrading, extending and improving their rail systems. Why can't we? Train to the airport, high speed trains to regional cities, mega fast train to Sydney, suburban trains to Doncaster, Rowville, to the west and north west. This freeway building business is just not working at all. These are not a wish list, they are a must do list, and the time is right. We in Australia are just not getting it at all, whereas so many other places are.

East London Line - open for business

Doncaster Line - open for business

The East London Line is fully open for business this Sunday (23 May), following a month's preview of the Dalston Junction to New Cross Gate section. The full service takes in New Cross, West Croydon and Crystal Palace and will see trains run from around 5.40am to midnight on weekdays and Saturdays, and from around 7am on Sundays.

The Doncaster Line is fully open for business this Sunday (23 May), following a month's preview of the Victoria Park to Doncaster section. The full service takes in Kew, Far Kew East, Balwyn and North Balwyn and will see trains run from around 5.40am to midnight on weekdays and Saturdays, and from around 7am on Sundays.

The £1 billion upgrade includes new air-conditioned trains, four new and 14 refurbished stations, 3.5 km of new track and bridges (and renewal of older track and bridges), and a new maintenance depot. Around 100,000 commuters are expected to use the new London Overground route per day in 2011 (rising to 120,000 by 2016), compared to 30,000 per day on its Tube predecessor.

The $2 billion upgrade includes new air-conditioned trains, five new stations, several km of new track and bridges , and a new maintenance depot. Around 100,000 commuters are expected to use the new Doncaster line per day in 2011 (rising to 120,000 by 2016), compared to 3,000 per day on its bus predecessor.

Keen to publicise the opening, TfL are giving 10,000 free tickets away across the line on Sunday. Early birds can take in the new line from the following times:

Keen to publicise the opening, Metro are giving 10,000 free tickets away across the line on Sunday. Early birds can take in the new line from the following times:

Pants has a job

Well, it is not a paid job. If all goes well, she will be recording newspaper articles for the visually impaired.

The late Dame M (check the cast list if you are a newer reader) was rather visually impaired. She owned about three dozen pairs of glasses and she had two very bright reading lamps sitting on her kitchen table. She was a reader and found not being able to read quite distressing. I forget who, but one of us connected her to the Blind Institute Vision Australia for help. Not much could be done but she was supplied with a audio machine to read her books out loud.

As she lay dying in her bed for the last couple of months, audio books would arrive from Vision Australia and although she was well educated and well read, she exclaimed to me one day about how much she was learning. As she would not seek medical help, we did not know she was dying except I do now recall that she told me she was. I just said something like, don't be silly. If there is a chance I can bury my head in sand, I always do. I recall the late Leonard Teale and Bud Tingwell both recorded books and I expect they weren't paid for this. If I am dying, can someone supply me with podcasts please? Anyway, the talking books were a great comfort to her in her final months, so good on Pants for doing this.

This was only going to be about recordings for the blind, but now I am remembering back to when Dame M died. When she said she was dying and I told her not to be silly, I was very very wrong. I did everyone a disservice because none of us knew what was happening. I it erased from my short term memory. She was clearly very unwell, yet she would not see a doctor in spite of everyone trying to get her to see one.

What I should have done after informing others, was say, ok, you clearly want to spend your last days at home. We will help and do what we can for you. Once she was in tears by our constant pressure to seek medical help. She knew medical help was futile. I have no idea why she told me, someone who buries their head in the sand, she was dying, and not someone a little more sensible.

I don't actually know what she died from. Lung cancer? When I and her boarder admitted her to hospital, that is when she could still stand and yet two days later she died after all her family had visited her, the nurse at reception put a peg like thing on her finger or thumb and then said, oh, you've slipped through the cracks my dear. Jayne or Cazzie, what would that peg like thing be? Just pulse? Surely you can't measure oxygen in the blood with something like that?

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Email from Secretary of the United Nations

Well, what fun. An email from Ban Ki-Moon. I don't normally read such emails, but as it was from the Secretary of the United Nations, then I thought I better pay it due attention.

Attention: Beneficiary

How are you today? Hope all is well with you and family?, You may not understand why this mail came to you. We have been having a meeting for the passed 7 months which ended 2days ago with the then secretary to the UNITED NATION. This email is to all the people that have been scammed in any part of the world, the UNITED NATIONS IN Affiliation with WORLD BANK have agreed to compensate them with the sum of US$500,000.00.

This includes every foreign contractors that may have not received their contract sum, and people that have had an unfinished transaction or international businesses that failed due to Government problems etc. We found your name in our list and that is why we are contacting you,this have been agreed upon and have been signed.

You are advised to contact Mr Jim Ovia of our paying center in Africa,as he is our representative in Nigeria, contact him immediately for your Cheque/ International Bank Draft of USD$500,000.00. This funds are in a Bank Draft for security purpose ok? so he will send it to you and you can clear it in any bank of your choice. Therefore,you should send him your full Name and telephone number your correct mailing address where you want him to send the Draft to you.

Person to Contact: Mr Jim Ovia
Phone: +234 809 832 3447

Thanks and God bless you and your family. Hoping to hear from you as soon as you cash your Bank Draft. Making the world a better place.

Official portrait of  Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. Click photo to enlarge.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon.

A Movie

I just clicked the Movie label on my blog and it seems the last movie I saw was Australia, in January 2009. There hasn't been a lot of movies that have appealed to me. Sometimes one I like the look of, I know R won't like and vice versa. He has seen a couple on his own and one with friends.

For his birthday in March, I gave him two Gold Class cinema tickets. Well I gave him one and the other one would be for me, wouldn't it. It better be. He wanted to see Robin Hood, even though neither of us like Russell Crowe but we do like Miss Blanchett, so we went online to book seats at Crown. I have been using the net since the mid nineties and booked many tickets online, so you would think I would be able to reserve Gold Class seats with confidence. What a shocker the Village Cinema website is to try to do such a thing. R tried and got a bit further, to the point of having to give his credit card number for the booking fee, but there was no surety that he wasn't going to get charged for tickets as well.

We decided to call up and book then. The auto voice told us that they can no longer take seat reservations for Gold Class over the phone and suggested to do so on the website. What? Does everyone now have the internet? I questioned R over the exact wording of the message and he retorted that should I try myself. I tried. Definitely what was said. He tried again and just waited for 'a consultant'. Magically the consultant could take the booking and there was no booking fee. Wasn't hard was it?

As usual, we arrived early for the 6.30 movie. We had a drink and ordered two more each to be delivered during the movie. We also ordered a plate of dips, bread and olives and a single serve of fish and chips. We were hungry again by the time we left.

The movie was ok, the chairs and the service excellent, and so it should be. During the week I added up how much we spent that night.

Two already bought tickets, $72.
Drinks, $42.
Food, $40.
Grand total, $154.

I should have bought him a rent boi for an hour for his birthday. It might have even been cheaper.