Saturday, April 06, 2013

Inbox stress

'95 or '96 a computer connected to the internet first arrived at the Highrise. Nay, we weren't here then. We were in Balaclava. For those who have grown up with computers, that is quite meaningless, but the arrival of the internet was life changing. It pleases me to say that computers and the internet work an awfully lot better now than they did back then. We are not quite to plug and play, but very close.

Most people who know me would agree that I am control freak. I am quite happy to let other people do things if they can do them better than I can, but so few can. (I told this to our dyke friend, who is really a control freak, and she laughed and agreed she thought the same)

I have always kept tight control of our computer, backing up, sorting, not letting it get out of control..........but yet it has. I have the longest list of unsorted bookmarks I have ever had. I had many many pictures that need filing in their correct places. My personal email inbox is out of control. 'Movies' are sprinkled all over the place.

The external hard drive does some sort of back up every Sunday night, but I don't trust it and I have always backed up things myself. I am way behind in that.

This has only happened in the last six months. I need holidays, where I am home alone and no-one bothers me. I feel somewhat overwhelmed by the task.

But at the end of the day, in the fullness of time, what does it matter? Who will care what is on my hard drive and what I have saved once I have gone.

There must now be quite a number of people who have died who were computer users. I wonder what happens to their hard drives?

Don't lose it

I am astonished to learn that Transport for London and the private train companies have outsourced lost property found on their vehicles and at stations to private companies.

This will cost you £1 to retrieve from the lost property office. I suppose it would be worth retrieving if it was a decent umbrella. I doubt I would have paid more than that for any of mine.

This will cost you £5


and this a whopping £20, the laptop that is. I believe children are returned for free, at the moment.

I can see it happening here soon. It will begin as a token administration fee. I learnt about the fee from the latest series about England's public transport system. There have been a few. I still have a couple of episodes of the latest to watch. I am up to the part where the staff of Virgin are nervously awaiting the news whether Virgin's contract to run West Coast Rail will be renewed. I recall Pants having some very spiteful words about Richard Branson and his train operations.

Links to the first of each series, uploaded to You Tube. They are handy to watch when you have to do the ironing, cooking or CLEANING THE BLOODY OVEN.

The Tube (ITV/Sky 2003)

The Tube (BBC 2012)

The Railway - Keeping Britain on Track (BBC 2013)

Friday, April 05, 2013

Buildings and a meeting

I was waiting to meet a blog mate, one from overseas no less. While I waited I noticed an apartment in Summerland in Fitzroy Street up for sale. Very nice.

New people have moved in across the road. I bet R that by evening, all the outdoor lighting would be switched on. It was.

 Not sure about the lions and the large pots. Have they moved here from Bulleen? Oh, they are only renting.

Oh yes, the blog mate meeting went just fine. You can't know someone over the internet and read their blog for years and like them and then not like them once you meet them. Or maybe you can, but it hasn't happened to me.

Bloody Asian Drivers

Visit other countries, we are told, and your eyes will be opened to other cultures. We visited Malaysia last year and I keenly observed their driving habits. I assume the same driving habits are in Singapore, although I did not take much notice when we were there a few years ago.

Each country has its own driving style.

Much to the frustration of old time Aussie drivers, like me, Asian people used to driving in their own country drive the same way in Australia. It is a less hurried and more tolerant manner of driving and if there is the slightest chance of something going wrong, brake and brake early.

Maybe it would better and quicker if we had more Vietnamese drivers in Australia. They seem to have picked up their old colonial masters' manner of driving and road construction. No, it is not the Arc de Triomphe roundabout featured in the clip, but one in Ho Chi Min City, better known as Saigon.

When we were in Hanoi, we were overwhelmed by bicycles. When were in Saigon, we were overwhelmed by motor bikes. Now it seems to be very much about cars in Saigon.

PS We stayed opposite the building (High Court?) at about 4 seconds.

(Now with the correct video)

Thursday, April 04, 2013

Potato Potato, Tomato Tomato

It was a curious thing when I heard someone on a podcast, who is Australian and grew up here, pronounce buoy as Americans would, bu ee, and not boy as we would say it.

The  person seemed educated but then I have heard him say in the past, pronounciation, rather than pronunciation.

I suppose if you you learn pronunciation from American tv shows in Australia, you may well say bu ee for buoy.  I am ready to pounce on Little Jo if she ever says zee instead of zed, but it probably won't be necessary as she watches more Australian and English, along with Euro translated tv, than American. Her school teaches Spanish and she ahead of any of her family with the Spanish language. It may only be a few phrases she speaks, but that is better than us. She will be able to watch Dora the Explorer in the original. Anyway, if she does say zee, it will be in context. She knows the difference.

Then there are spell checkers. The one that checks my spelling here is hopelessly Americanised, and why should it not be. It comes from America. At times I give over to the spell checker, even when I am suspicious. You will find examples of me writing words with American spellings, rather than Australian spelling.

While I am not having a shot at America, its culture via tv and movies dominates. Australia has a unique English language, as does New Zealand and Canada and possibly many other countries with an English colonial connection. Even the governments of Singapore and Malaysia are moderating the battle against Singlish, a mix of local language and English.

In England, slowly but surely, a generic English accent is forming with a loss of regional accents. I don't opine whether this is good or bad. I think it is a bit of both. It is nice to be able to understand Geordies, but it was also nice to not understand them and ask for an explanation. And goodness, anything that can make Lancastrians understandable must be good. Of course in London, Eastern European English dominates.

I suppose there are those who think, what does it matter, as long as we can understand each other. You may think I am purist about Australian language, but I am not. I see people at work from other countries with fairly poor English skills communicating with others from another country with poor English skills and they manage perfectly well, with lots of repetition. I don't suppose they are talking about the meaning of life, but they really can communicate, sometimes better than I can with them. I have learnt how to talk to non native English speakers over many years. Don't use really big words, leave out most colloquialisms, speak slowly and clearly and at a reasonable volume. It is not hard.

I recall my Polish English students, a married couple who I voluntarily taught English to. Now Lee Lin Chin is a fine newsreader and speaks impeccable English (wears great clothes and is somewhat the life of the party. Psst, she likes a drink) but my students found her incomprehensible. Blub blub blub, they said.

But then there is the eloquence of Americans. Even those who would not know Egypt from  Ecuador seem to be able to speak coherently and very clearly , if the latter is not a qualification of the former. Or do many end up on the cutting room floor?

Why do I care? I would like us to keep our Australianisms, our own speech peculiarities. I will try to use 'blokes' where I can, but sometimes only guys will do.

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Letter to my daughter

Who did a double take at that subject line? It is a letter I would like to write to my daughter, if I had one. I adore many women, more women than men, and one who is very high on my list is Wendy Harmer, who wrote this letter to her daughter.

I think it is worth your while to read it. It is in response to a US woman suggesting to her daughter that while she was attending Harvard, it was a good place to find a husband. The letter below was published at The Hoopla. I am sure something similar could be written for sons.

If you ever do find yourself at University (er…could you put down that copy of “Pretty Little Liars” and listen to me?) I hope that looking for a husband is waaaay down on your priorities.
Right down there somewhere below gathering signatures to kick Lord Monckton off campus because I imagine that, by then, Gina Rinehart will have bought your uni and installed her resident climate change denier nutter as Vice-Chancellor.
This “Princeton Mom”, Susan Patton, reckons it’s not a bad idea to scope out the talent and look for a future husband in between lectures.
She figures you will be surrounded by men with prospects more than any other time in your life. Men who are intelligent, even smarter than you and wealthy, to boot.
I think it comes down to that old adage: “It’s just as easy to fall in love with a rich man as a poor one”.
It’s not a new idea. In fact William Makepeace Thackeray (1811-1863) wrote in the novel The History of Pendennis (1848-1850): “Remember, it is as easy to marry a rich woman as a poor woman.”
I’m not that clever. I Googled it.
I got married when I was at Uni. Remember I told you?
Funnily enough, it was also for economic reasons. I married my then boyfriend, Michael Harmer, because the infamous “Razor Gang” of the 70s was cutting living away from home allowances for uni students.
The only way I could fund my education, (because your Grandpa Brown didn’t have the money) was to accede to Michael’s fervent wish that we marry.
That way he’d support me and I’d get an education. So I did marry him one morning after Uni, at the Registry Office. I didn’t even tell Grandpa.
God forbid you ever have to strike that bargain, but millions of young women around the world do it, every day.
That’s why I hope you always think about women worse off than yourself. Fight for them so they have the same privileges you do. It’s important.
It’s not just luck that my first husband was a wonderful young man who believed in me. Even though he was working as a fitter and turner in a factory and would come home covered in burns from molten metal, he did support me… until I could support myself. I knew, even as a teenager, that he was a fine person. Whether he was “worthy” of me never crossed my mind.
But things changed. Like they do in marriages. All the time. We parted. We both have now made good, long, loving partnerships and have children we are proud of.
The one thing I hope you learn from your father and me is that judging people on how “intelligent” you perceive them to be is not going to get you anywhere in this life. 
Nor is trying to find someone who you imagine is your “equal” or someone who is “worthy” of your affection.
You see, Maeve, despite what the Princeton Mom imagines, “smart” is not a “soaring intellect”.
The two are not to be equated – in any way. At all.
If you think bringing home Albert Einstein the Younger will impress your father and me, think again.
Old Albert made a terrible husband – he was unfaithful, a bad speller, smoked like a chimney, was crap at the violin, dressed like a slob and said: “All marriages are dangerous”.
Likewise, bringing home a member of the Packer or Waterhouse dynasty.  They maybe “smart operators”, but your father loathes gambling and the fortunes built on others’ suffering.
Marriage to a billionaire won’t impress us. Nor will becoming a billionairess yourself.
So, you may ask, what’s “smart”? What’s “clever”?  What’s “erudition” mean?
Especially when we all have Google.
And who’s worthy of an intelligent young woman like you?
I’ll tell you.
A person who is worthy of you is one who recognises and honours your own good heart. Supports you in your determination to make your own way in the world and to leave it a better place than you found it, come what may.
That takes courage, sacrifice and loyalty, Maeve. Look out for these qualities that will make life sweeter in tough times. The price of admission to a fancy college won’t be your guide.
Men (or women) with “prospects”, or no prospects at all, can just as easily leave you, or you can just as easily leave them. Our fortunes change. That’s a given.
I imagine, Maeve, that you will fall in (and out of) love with a lock of hair that falls fetchingly across a forehead, an intricate tattoo on a forearm, a fine turn of phrase or a violin, expertly handled.
Fall in love with all that. I did.
Then, when you’re older and wiser, fall in love with a man like your father who has supported me, your mother, in all my endeavours.
Most of all, by leaving me love notes on the kitchen bench to discover in that time before the sun came up when I, reluctantly, left you and your baby bother sleeping while I went off to work. Thousands of notes that sought to address all the frustrations and regrets of a person pursuing “a career” for what often seemed no good reason.
Don’t try to predict life’s meandering path, Maeve.
And don’t try to imagine how you’ll travel it – in first class style or trudging along at the back. Despite what they say, the view’s not that different. The triumphs and heartaches don’t spare any of us.
Don’t bank on a thing called a “career” and hope it will save you from life’s vicissitudes. It won’t. (Sorry, “vicissitudes”. Google it.)
Your great-grandmother, Nanna Brown always said to me: “Love many, trust a few, always paddle your own canoe.” 
Maeve, you come from a long line of spud farmers, horse trainers, nurses, school teachers, union officials, house painters, publicans, priests and farmers.
All good people.
Do us proud.  That’s enough for us.
We don’t need “better”. Because in our family, you have already exceeded our expectations.
Your Mum. Mumma.  xxxx

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Living in an igloo

The suburb of Ashwood is about 13 kilometres from the City of Melbourne. I recall there being Nissen Huts somewhere in Ashwood, but I can't quite recall where. I'll check. Ok, Holmesglen Migrant Hostel was at the corner of Power Avenue and Warrigal Road, now parkland. I am unsure when they were removed and while I know Power Avenue, I am not sure I ever saw Nissen Huts there.

If you are unsure what a Nissen Hut is, they were originally used to house army troops but were adapted to house new migrants to Australia until they found permanent housing. They were corrugated iron in the shape of an arch. The Nissen Huts would have been boiling hot in summer and freezing in winter.

They were even used for public buildings, such as Ashwood High School.

What I thought were Nissen Huts were Robin Boyd designed 'igloos' and they are in High Street Road near Cleveland Road. I certainly remember this igloo looking very much as it is below. They date back to 1954 and I expect the inspiration came from the not too far away Nissen Huts.

These more recent photos were taken by Muzza from McCrae.

This one is being used as a private residence. While it may be nice inside, I find the igloos extraordinarily ugly. The former supermarket and residence is registered as a Heritage Place on the Victorian Heritage Register. Do you see them as having great merit?

Monday, April 01, 2013


Mother suggested she would like to spend time with Sister over Easter. The problem is that it is a two and a half hour trip and how would she get there and who would feed the stray cats their cat milk and Dine cat food? You would not believe the to-ing and fro-ing before hand, plans made and cancelled by all and sundry.

The short version is ABI Brother will feed the cats, and he delivered Mother to the Highrise. This was no easy task because of a massive tram reconstruction project and him not having a mobile phone. I gave him directions and I stood on the corner of the lane that accesses our carpark in a cold wind for fifteen minutes before he and Mother arrived. I had parked my car outside, no mean feat as I had to go out on foot to see what roads were closed and what was accessible. It is all very well for Yarra Trams to send us two notices to keep us informed, but YT did not tell us that in front of our place would be closed too.

Our original intention was a day visit to Sister's and be home by early evening.  'Son, I can't possibly be ready to leave home until 11. I have my jobs to do.' Well, she almost was ready by the time, in spite of her friend calling in and then a visit by Non Dreaded Nephew and Hippie Niece. Nevertheless, she did not arrive until 12.30 and then she had to have tea and something to eat.

We stopped at the usual M place in the outskirts of Geelong for a break and food for us, who had eaten nothing. We arrived at Sister's somewhat before 4pm. That is nearly a whole day out of my life!

Mother needed her nanny nap, so Sister, Bone Doctor, Little Jo, R and myself went for a beach walk. Sister remembered that R only eats fish on Good Friday, and so made a Thai fish curry. Lamb chops were cooked for Mother and Little Jo. We were back at the Highrise by 9.15, tired but relieved. We did more than our duty. You would not believe the luggage mother brought with her, that we had to transfer from ABI's car to ours. There was a suit case, two pillows, five tops loose, three carry bags and her handbag and the very conspicuous clear plastic bag with all her medications on display. 'Look how ill Mother is! Look at all her medicines'.

Bone Doctor: I am not getting the doctor on call for her tomorrow.
Me: You are the doctor on call tomorrow. Ok, you are not calling in a favour from a colleague to attend her.
Bone Doctor: Correct. She can fucking well go in an ambulance.
Me: You are expecting another stunt like last Easter?
Bone Doctor: Yes.

Referring back to the weekend before when it was Mother and R's birthday and R's sister and bro in law were here:

Mother: Bone Doctor gave my friends' Margaret and Nigel a kiss goodbye. She never gives me a kiss. Margaret delighted in pointing that out to me.
Me: Yes Mother.

Everyone in my extended family gets along well, except for Mother and Bone Doctor. I don't know why. Mother's children just ignore her nonsense. Perhaps she knows how to push R's and Bone Doctor's buttons.
R with sympathy, Bone Doctor with anger.

Sister was planning to go to the football by train on Monday. Instead she will drive and deliver Mother, and her luggage, to us, for us to take her home. If carefully planned, it could be just two hours out of our day.  But no, it will be a whole afternoon to get Mother home.

Who stole my public holiday?  Have you picked up that I moan and whinge?

On a nicer note, R's sister's daughter sent us a nice FB note thanking us for looking after her Mam while she was here. K has returned to England full of brim and enthusiasm.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Sunday Selections

River will have her Sunday Selections up by now. Here are mine.

The cost of cleaning our building's windows is over $2000 and it can be done in a day although usually takes two. I don't know what the cost of cleaning nearby Lucient's windows but the lads were there for a week.

Cloud Nine is apparently a King Street bar.


Friends have bought a monster new tv. It must be more than a metre wide. You can control it with your voice or by clapping your hands. It has so many options and things it can do, it is overwhelming and I suspect they will stick to the basic functions. S'cuse R's noggin.

A March sunset.

Money in the tin for ever senior's moment.

A key tag from England. How kind. It is nice, but heavy, so will stay in its box.

'Why are you taking a photo of the roof?' asked R's sister. 'Because I can.'

 Normally these sculptures are photographed full length, often with a ciggie jammed in their mouths. It is always hard to capture them as many people are attracted to them.

Mince meat and dumplings. Not an Australian dish, but quite edible.

Surfer boi.

Who stole my Domain Interchange?

The Spirit of Tasmania sails through Port Phillip Heads. Less than an hour later, she will moor at Station Pier.