Saturday, October 12, 2013

The electric and the tractor

As a child who grew up on a diary farm I know the importance of a reliable supply of electricity. It seems extraordinary to me that on the farm when there was storm and tempest that our electricity supply was more reliable than it is now in many suburban areas. Cows suffer badly if they are used to being milked twice a day and then don't get milked, so every dairy farmer has a plan B in case of power failure.  As far as I can recall, on our farm plan B only came into action twice, once mid milking when all the cups fell off the cows' teats.

I recall the first time that the power went off Father backed the tractor, the Fordson Major, into near the vacuum pump and the tractor had a spinning wheel at the side of it. A belt about 15cm wide was put onto the spinning wheel to the vacuum pump. Yes, no Occupational Health and Safety back then. The cows were milked. It was very brief period in my memory when the milk was put into large and battered cans. Not long after taking over the farm Father bought a large refrigerated vat with the most interesting to me stirring mechanism. I remember the truck collection parking place was higher than the vat, so the milk must have been pumped by the truck into its vat, rather than it being a gravity feed.

The second time power was off at milking time was when we had a new John Deere tractor. It did not have an exposed spinning wheel, only a power take off. I don't know how it worked but the power take off was rigged to run the milking vacuum pump.

That the electricity supply in the bush was so reliable is remarkable and a credit to the government owned State Electricity Commission. If the supply did fail, it was repaired very quickly. Now with privatised power delivery, people in Melbourne suburbs can wait for a day for power to be reinstated after bad weather has caused the system to fail. God knows what dairy farmers do.

These memories all flooded back as I was staring at the live time power price graphs being displayed in the Hydro Discovery Centre in Cooma.  The government owned New South Wales power supply was paying heaps for power back to the private generation companies of Victoria and Queensland. In the days of the aforementioned SEC, it was the role of the government owned authority to generate sufficient power at a reasonable cost and keep the electricity system reliable. How the world has changed.

Anyways, as my grandpop used to say, back to the Fordson tractor. I have ascertained that it was a Fordson E27N Major and it was a curious beast. It did not have as starter motor and had to be crank started. It was started on petrol and then switched over to more economical power kerosene. 

Here is a photo by Hugh McCall. You can see the wheel that would spin and power things by a belt. My memory tells me it was on the other side of the tractor, but I think this is an English model, so maybe it is different, or it could be that childhood memories are not reliable and perhaps the SEC was not as good as I remember it to be either. Ours did not have headlights or tailights. I expect they were snapped off.

Looks like an inconic grey Massey Ferguson  in the corner of the shot. I don't think the plentiful Fordson was iconic to Australians.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Hopeless foreigners

Some sort of stupid dago in this clip. Every one knows Capitan Cook discovered Australia in 1770. I learned it in me ejucation at skool years ago.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

The News in Brief

ABC Local Radio used to have news in brief on the hour when there wasn't a major bulletin due. It was called the News in Brief and went for maybe three minutes. It had a very different musical theme to the Majestic Fanfare or the briefer version of MF that is used for minor news bulletins. It was known in house as Tarzan's Theme.

News in brief from home. R mostly works three days a week but this is his four day week, that is the Thursday Mother Day when he takes her out. It did not go so badly. Her complaining was minimal and she dissed Sister at every opportunity, which made R happy.

How very dare our neighbours move? They are rich people of Hong Kong origin. The bought and moved into the building even before the hot water was working and slept on the floor for the first couple of nights. We don't know their names but we always have nice chats with them when we meet. We have seen the son change from a gangly 11 year old kid into a handsome 22 year old man. Of course they don't owe us an explanation, but we are surprised and unreasonably feel annoyed. R has searched the net hard and there is no sign of them renting their place out or it being sold.

A friend was in Cambodia last month. He sent us a post card from Siem Reap where the Angkor Wat temples are. Last week when we saw him, he said a post card he sent had just arrived in the US. Ours and other ones he sent to Australia arrived today, 10/10, sent 05/09. Even re-routed via Austria, as our overseas mail often is, it is a long time for a mail delivery.

You may remember I renewed my driving licence. Today the new one arrived in the post. I compared my old photo to my new photo. I don't think I have aged that much but I seem to have gone from having a long face to a round face. Matches your guts, as R ever so kindly put.

The Mothers

Mother is 79, Step Mother is 73.

Mother, lousy cook Step Mother excellent cook.

Mother won't use public transport, Step Mother uses country trains.

Mother doesn't drive. Step Mother drives and has her own car and has speeding fines to prove it.

Mother does not have a mobile phone and would not have clue how to text. Step mother has a non smart mobile phone and uses it to call people and text.

Mother asks people to look at stuff on the net for her and print it out. Step Mother's first computer had Windows 3.1 operating system back in the 90s.

Mother uses disposable film cameras. Step Mother uses a digital camera and a digital camcorder.

Mother has a pretty garden. Step Mother has a functional garden that includes vegetables and fruit trees.

Mother can sew on a button. Step Mother has a sewing machine, a knitting machine and an overlocker and is competent in the use of them.

Mother never has enough money and says she does not receive enough money to budget. Step Mother has budgeted her whole life and lives very comfortably. Wedding reception in Rose Bay, Sydney and a holiday in Cairns this year.

Mother has never really worked a paid job. Step Mother worked most of her life, still working part time in her late sixties.

Mother moans about the costs of utilities, especially electricity. Step Mother has solar panels that generate income.

Mother doesn't read books or newspapers. Step Mother reads both.

Mother reads trash mags. Step Mother does not.

Mother is educated, Step Mother is not.

What can I say positive about Mother who is a such a hard work person along with all those underachievements?  Mother is friendly, charming, outgoing, vivacious and when Mother enters a room, people notice. She has great presence. Step Mother after meeting you might retire to her bedroom to read a book.

R loved Mother upon meeting her, as did she R. R was convinced Step Mother hated him when they met.

They are chalk and cheese yet I love them both dearly. Remarkably they share the same old fashioned first name.

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Easey Street

It is always good to hear someone convicted of a heinous crime committed many years ago. No one has been convicted of the murder of ex Sis in Law's and Tradie Brother's foster daughter and her boyfriend but the word from the police is that he is already in gaol and won't talk. Unsolved.

I have written about three posts over the years about the murder of Sydney activist and heiress Juanita Neilsen and the posts received some really interesting and insightful comments. While it wasn't under his watch, I expect more may come out once a certain ex NSW Premier dies. Unsolved. Will Sydney ever move on from rum and rebellion?

Police want us to believe the killer of Adelaide's Beaumont children and schoolgirl Linda Stilwell at Melbourne's St Kilda Beach is now dead and died in custody while being punished for another crime. Maybe. Unsolved.

If you are a person of around my age and lived most of your life in Melbourne, Easey Street in Collingwood will have a great meaning to you. In 1977 it was the street where two women were murdered in their house and after a couple of days, neighbours heard the whimpering of one of women's hungry 16 month old son and called police. I have often wondered if the two women were in a same sex relationship, but no matter. Well, I hope it is not a matter that if they were, police did not investigate as well as they might have. Given the publicity at the time, I think it was probably a thorough investigation. Nevertheless, I think it is a crime that should have some serious modern resources thrown at. Unsolved.

I had to renew my car driving license in Carlton. After what was a much less painful experience that I thought it would be, we caught a bus from Lygon Street to Smith Street and walked down to Easey Street. It was not see the house of dead people, but to see a rather odd thing, train motor carriages atop an office building. Don't ask me why, as I don't know. It's a queer thing.

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Travel Expenses

It is outrageous that business people can claim and rort expenses and claim tax credits and deductions for very dubious reasons. The notarised car hire lurk was a prime example.

But what would you expect when our politicians rort expenses, no less than our Prime Minister, the Abbott. I do believe that at times expenses could be a grey area, but in my mind and I think most peoples' minds, there is nothing grey about attending a wedding with tax payers picking up the cost. There is nothing grey about a politician attending a sporting event where he is a participant in the event. That relatively rich people charge the taxpayer down to 10 cents and they clearly aren't entitled for the expense redemption, is a disgrace.

I have no love for the sleazy Peter Slipper, but the duplicitous Abbott attended his wedding and charged it to the tax payer. No penalty for Abbott but Slipper is before the courts for misuse of taxi vouchers.

No Abbott. I will wear there are grey areas. but attending weddings or sports event as a competitor is not grey at all.

I struggle to remember John Cain as Premier of Victoria, but I was pleased to hear that in his desk he kept a book of postage stamps, paid for by him and for use for his personal mail.

Fed up with tech stuffs

Last week R managed to delete my and his work phone numbers from the home screen on his phone. I had a quick look and while I have shortcuts to phone numbers on my home screen, I could not remember how to do it. When we went out shopping on Saturday, R drove while I worked it out. Fixed.

At yesterday's party my step mother, who is in her seventies and does use the net and has a digital camera, handed me her camcorder that she had bought for Aldi. 'Can you work it out?', she asked. I could not. When record was pressed it said "card locked". The storage card is locked and I couldn't work it out, in spite of looking at the manual and googling on my phone. Fail.

Late Friday night. Oops. Why is the Windows Live Mail saying 'Do you wish to go online?' I have never been asked such a question in my life. I'll sleep on it. I am sure all will be well in the morning. It wasn't.

Email would not work the next morning. I called the Telstra chick in the Philippines. For good or bad, we have people in Australia with foreign accents, so you can't be too sure where they are until you get a giveaway line like, so how has your day been, at 7.30 in the morning. She was very helpful as she took control of our computer and looked about. She showed no horror at my entries into Firefox's address bar that pop up and when she was fishing in our webmail, she ignored subject line on dubious emails.

I think at some point she concluded that the bloke she was talking to knew a bit about being online and she kind of gave up, with the suggestion that nothing was amiss at their end and there was nothing left to do except I uninstall Windows Live Email and reinstall.

Yes, that may well fix it. I backed up emails and addresses. R, do you really need to keep 500 sent items in you email sent folder!

I did a little online research and then uninstalled the email programme. I downloaded the new version and opened it and there were all our emails. Back up was un-necessary but I wanted a clean install.

I clicked the button 'send/receive' and up popped 'Do you want to go online'. Slightly above mild panic sets in.

I have the disk for a complete Windows  reinstall. That means I start with a fresh computer, which is good in some ways, but so much work. I noticed earlier something else at the Microsoft website, a Windows Essentials repair button, which includes Windows Live Mail. No one more than me was more astonished when it fixed the problem. Do you want to go online disappeared and the email sent and received as usual. What a relief.

The importance of this is our isp email address. We have had it for years and that is where the day to day to stuff comes into and it is much faster to use than webmail.

Our cordless landline went wrong today. It always does that after its batteries have been flattened. When talking  to lass in the Phillipines for 40 minutes, the batteries were going flat and the phone was alerting me.

R's answer was a new phone. I said no, we will replace the batteries. We like our phone. It is neat. We called into Officeworks on the way to a friend's for a late lunch and bought six lithium batteries to replace the worn out rechargeable batteries. I should have googled before we bought them. They aren't suitable as a replacement for NIMH batteries. I had to take them back today and I bought the correct ones. $38 for six AAA batteries for two handsets. Still, cheaper than a new phone.

But I really do love that technology saves me so much time. Ahem.

Monday, October 07, 2013

Our country trains are a disgrace

When a friend moved to East Gippsland, having lived in London for many years, she looked at the train service and thought, ok, less than a two hour train trip from Bairnsdale to Melbourne. No, it is at best a four hour plus train journey, as against three hours by car. It is credit to our road system, I guess, but certainly not to our country train system which should be much faster than travelling by car.

Never mind that she has suffered months of having to catch a bus onwards between Bairnsdale and Traralgon because the tracks have rusted and trains weren't triggering level crossing boom gates. It has taken VLine a long time to fix this problem. I might suggest that more trains should run on the tracks to prevent rails rusting. It really is hard to imagine how such a thing happened and led to, I think, more than six months of no trains running from Traralgon and Bairnsdale.

I don't think VLine ever had a cunning plan to attract people from there to come to Melbourne by train rather than drive.

Tradie Brother came for lunch with Step Mother this day, before she caught the Echuca train home. R was not here to make lunch, so I got everything out for Step Mother to make a left over meat loaf sandwhich. SM queried where the meat loaf came from. R cooked it. A leg of lamb is quite expensive at the moment.  Unlike Mother, SM is a good cook and noticed that R is too.

Tradie Brother dropped us at Spencer Street Station coach area as SM had to initially catch a bus to Sunbury and then transfer to her train because of train track works. I went along to make sure she was in the right place. She could have found it herself, but it was my day off and I had go into town anyway.

There is only one train a day in each direction to Echuca. There are more services made up of coaches or train and coach combinations. SM was supposed to catch the single train, depart Spencer Street 3.15, arrive Echuca 6.36. Again, that does compare well with driving.

But the really odd thing is that the normal train is an express, stopping only a few times before reaching Echuca. With the bus substitute, the train stopped all stations and there was a fifteen minute allowance for the change from bus to train at Sunbury. SM will have to cart her luggage over a footbridge.  With all that, the train was only twenty minutes later into Echuca than normal.

I don't know where I got this thought from, but our country trains should be travelling at least at 160 km/h and beating car traffic on the best of our roads. Don't even let me start on the Melbourne to Sydney train.

Hashtag: Third World Trains

It broke

Off and on we have been looking for over a year for new balcony furniture. It came to breaking point when a chair broke. The setting was very cheap and that it has lasted eleven years is remarkable. We just could not find something right for the restricted area, so we settled on just buying two new 'temporary' chairs for $100 and kept the old table.


My bedroom has become a place to store stuff for the scheduled hard rubbish collection. Microwave and chairs and what else  might we add before then.


This one has not broken yet but it would not have been long before it broke like the other chair.

Sunday, October 06, 2013

Day 9 and 10 Canberra and Canberra to Melbourne 25/09 & 26/09

R, there is a petrol station nearby and while you fill up the car, I will take a photo of this old house. If you believe the developer, it will be restored. I rather like it as it is.

The War Memorial was the next place to visit. We had paid nothing to see the works in the National Gallery, nothing to see the Portrait Gallery, nothing for parking at either places, nothing to see Parliament House and park there, nothing to see the War Memorial and to park there.

The gardens and vistas were a delight.

Simpson and his Donkey is a bit like Mother Theresa. You need to read the fine print and they become a bit less enchanting once you are educated about them.

Looking down Anzac Parade to the Old Parliament, with the present Parliament also in view at the rear.

Gattina, there is some history to these guardians at our War Memorial. They came from the Menin Gates in the Belgian village of Ypres. The village was all but destroyed during World War I, but although damaged, the pair of lions at the gate to the mediaeval village were rescued and presented by the Mayor of Ypres to Australia in 1936. In return we gave the village a sculpture called Digger (Australian soldier) with the inscription "In assurance of a friendship that will not be forgotten even when the last digger has gone west and the last grave is crumbled".

This is an eternal flame, bubbling out or the water. You could barely see the flame in the bright sunlight.

There were many war planes in the museum.

It was all very interesting as I dispassionately viewed what was to be seen. That is until I got to this photo, an Aborigine at Gallipoli on Anzac Day in the early light and mist play a didgeridoo. Oops, I got a bit emo. R did not notice but I was a bit of a mess. I think maybe being the principal organiser of the trip and the responsibility had taken a bit of a toll. Luckily R is easy going about what we do and I always try to see things that he will find interesting too.

There was even a sound and light show re-enacting a bombing raid on Germany.

Austere? I like war memorials to be austere.

The Hall of Memory was very special.

In the centre of the room is the tomb of the unknown soldier. It was too dark for my camera to capture.

It all became too much when I saw this photo of a grieving mother and sister or wife. I had to leave. I did get a bit of look at the Vietnam War area, but I was mentally tired by then and could not absorb anything anymore.

It is a truly wonderful memorial to the victims of war. Lucky that we won and can have such a thing.

There was a separate cafe at the memorial so we had something to eat and coffee and guess what? Finally a cup of coffee as good as you would find in Melbourne!

Well, what better to lift the spirits than flowers, and there were a lot of flowers at Canberra's annual Floriade. For once we were rescued by the sat nav who found us a car park with just a short walk over a pedestrian bridge. Golly, another place without an admission fee. It makes Melbourne's Garden Show quite disgusting with something like a $25 entry fee just to see people exhibiting their stuff for sale.

Not quite the size of the duck that visited Sydney Harbour, but it attracted plenty of attention.

The kangaroo is a shiny metal sculpture.

It was quite hot in the sun. We sat for a bit on a bench in the shade. Look Victor, people!

I don't know if kids like stilt walkers or not, but I do.

Bloody heck, not Belgium again. I have seen this before in Cairns, I think. It is made in Belgium and is called 73 key Verbeek Concert Street Organ. Click here to see it playing and here to see the workings at the rear.

Next stop was the cafe area of Kingston and what a civilised place it was. The cafes are spread around an outward facing block and very trendy some of them were too. After a refreshing iced coffee we went back to the motel after a tiring but great day. In the evening we dined at the Royal Hotel in Queanbeyan and it was a very nice meal. It's worth clicking here to see the impressive and huge hotel.

I stood on the walkway at out motel and noticed to the right, a funeral parlour.

And to the left a funeral parlour. I hope they aren't omens.

On the left of the sign is a neon wallaby, unfortunately not working. Although it was a twenty minute drive from the centre of Canberra, I would recommend the motel. It has great security, with the friendly owner often walking around the car parking area below the rooms with coffee and a cigarette in his hand.

Tradies were staying in the motel. Now I am sure it means something if you leave your shoes outside your door??? No? I just remembered. It means you want staff to clean them.

It was a seven hour drive home, so the next morning we set off at 6.45. We called in to see a friend in Wangaratta who had made us an early lunch and with a couple more leg stretches, we were home by 3.30. The most stressful driving for the whole time away was on Melbourne's Western Ring Road. However, it is pretty amazing that we could drive from Yass, outside Canberra, to within five minutes of home at high speed and there not be a traffic light.

So there you go. I hope you enjoyed my recount of our short holiday as much as we enjoyed the trip.