Saturday, November 26, 2016

Who reads me

Blogger has made some changes to its site. I was drawn to look at my blog stats. These figures are page views, that may just come up in a google search and the person could click away within a second, so they are not readership. I find it very interesting and at times puzzling as to why I am read so much in some countries. Australia and the US are as I would expect.

But next is Germany with an unexpected high figure! Why? Two people on my blog list speak German, that I know of, but not not normally at home. A couple more have German heritage. Does not make any sense to me. Could it be that I picked up readers when we were in Germany or Germans google German things and I might have mentioned a place or item in a post. Gee, we were only in Germany for a few days.

France is also an oddity. Could the high readership there be because I at times comment on the blogs of two Americans who live in France? How many French readers do they have? I wouldn't have thought that many.

The UK, disappointedly low, as is Canada.

Russia and the Ukraine? Again, why? China is on the high side too. With one dedicated reader in Poland, even that figure seems high.  Ah well, such is the information superhighway. Take a look at your own blog stats and wonder.

Australia               401,536

United States        360,490

Germany               205,140

France                     67,345

United Kingdom     54,000

Russia                      49,515

Ukraine                    12,399

China                        10,720

Canada                        6,935

Poland                         6,442

Friday, November 25, 2016

Mother shot herself in the foot

It is not often I put my foot down with a firm hand but on one occasion I did with R. Do not talk about Mother in front of the grandchildren the way we, her children, talk about her. They have great memories of their grandmother and the outings they went on every weekend with Mother and Stepfather.  They love their their Nan, and I don't want idle critical chitter chatter to spoil their memories. Of course they are not stupid and they see her decline, but I don't think they realise her manipulative qualities. They as kids would have seen plenty of friction between Mother and Stepfather, but they saw that with their grandparents on both sides.

This Sunday is ABI's birthday celebration. Mine at the Frankston RSL was great, with around a dozen blood relatives and a couple of non blood rels. Most of us were happy with the food, except for Tradie Brother. He is not the complaining type, so take it from me, his meal was not good. His platonic female friend complained and he was refunded the cost and given another meal for free.

Mother has been there three times, I think, and says the food is oily and so ABI's birthday was not to be there. Perhaps the Dick Whittington in St Kilda, she suggested, or the Lee Oak in Oakleigh, that has a good play area for the littleuns. Mother's manipulation failed. The Frankston RSL is such a convenient place for Tradie Brother and his children and two grandchildren. Easy for us, less than an hour's drive on the freeway. Not so bad bad for Sister, who can come across on the ferry from the Bellarine.

The venue is to be The Rosstown, in Carnegie. Many years ago ABI Brother used to work nearby and they had many work celebrations there and when Tradie Brother said to him, it is your birthday, you choose where, that is where he chose. It is a long way from the Frankston RSL. Sadly I am working, Sister is very busy marking exam papers, and everyone is busy. It is going to be R, Mother, birthday boy ABI Brother and Tradie Brother. I expect if it was in the convenient location of the Frankston RSL, many family would find it easy to attend.

Nice work Mother. Shot yourself in the foot and caused collateral damage. Oily food? Choose something else to eat, or eat the banana, Minties and Barley Sugar that are always in your handbag, or just suffer in silence for the pleasure of having your children, grandchildren and great grandchildren around you.

Feeling a little guilt that I cannot go, I was prepared to spend a bit extra on ABI Brother's birthday present. No shirts on sale in Myer, aside from winter stock. What about a book? How about musician Jimmy Barnes' autobiography. Sick of buying him sports biographies. Here is a smart new bookshop in Emporium. Oh, it is a very nice bookshop. Classy, you know. And there is the book. Oh, $45. He is a dear brother, but I did not want to spend that much. R was prepared to buy it but said first, maybe we can find him a nice shirt at Target and come back here if we can't. We had to go to Woolworths in QV and entered via Big W. There was the same book, for $28, $17 less than in the nice bookshop. I doubt the nice bookshop will see the year out.

Breaking down

Not us, well not quite yet. We bought quite a number of new things when we moved into The Highrise some fourteen years ago. The small barbeque, for one. Another was a clothes hoist or drying rack if you like. Without a clothes line, we did not want to dry everything in the clothes dryer. Some things are starting to wear out.

Perhaps three times a year I would throw the cover of the barbeque into the washing machine. A couple of years ago it started to break up. We bought a new cover, still branded the same as the barbeque and after two years, it is starting to break up. Clearly not the quality of the old.

The ignition for the barbeque is playing up. Sometimes I have to use a battery operated stove lighter. I believe these ignitions are cheap to replace but can I be bothered? An acquaintance recently bought the same barbeque as we have, and I picked it up and it weighs much less than ours, allowing for the weight of fat in the tray and char on the grill. Again, not the quality it once was.

The barbeque drip tray suffered badly from dishwasheritis after about 12 years and began leaking fat. It stopped going in the dishwasher and I now line it with tin foil and very gently handwash it when  I change the foil. I must have left the foil changing a bit too long and it disintegrated  a little on a very hot day recently, out oozed the fat, in a fairly liquid state because of the heat. What a mess. It went on the tiles and into the evaporation tray too. I won't let that happen again.

Now, as you can see, the plastic coating on the clothes horse is breaking down and we need a new one and I want one exactly the same. I can find similar, but smaller. Everything else we have looked is not right for one reason or t'other. It is drawing a very long bow, but anyone seen one the same as this locally or in a large chain store? We have looked pretty hard.

Thursday, November 24, 2016


As I commented on her post, I really like gilt and fountains, and wow, did Jackie in Toronto show some gilt and fountains of Peterhof Palace in St Petersburg. I had not heard of the palace. It is fantastic. 

Here is a teaser photo and take a look at more photos of the palace at Jackie's post. They, the photos and the objects are wonderfully lavish. There are some good things about Australia, but we have nothing like this and nor does the US or Canada.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Health care in Australia #101

Firstly, we pay a tax levy for our health care. It does not cover the cost of health care but it does significantly contribute towards the cost of Australia's health care costs. It is around 2% or 2.5% of taxpayers income. I've never heard of anyone objecting to pay the levy.

Should you have a heart attack, a stroke, cancer or childhood meningitis, you will get the best of care in our public hospitals and there will be minimal, if any, out of pocket expenses. You can expect to wait a long time in Emergency at public hospitals with a minor complaint as you are triaged into the most serious are dealt with first. A splinter in your finger to be removed will have you at the end of the list and you could wait many many hours in the waiting room, as you see drug addict overdoses treated before you and even drunk people who behaved badly and hurt themselves. You can go to Emergency for any health reason but I expect you are advised if it is minor, to go elsewhere. Nevertheless, you have a right to be seen.

There are many ailments that you will have to wait for in the public system. Allergies? Hip replacement? Dietician. The list is long. These items are wrongly called Elective Surgery, although often they are anything but elective, but generally they are not life threatening. What you can do is shop around public hospitals, including in the country and may get on a shorter waiting list, but note, generally the best surgeons work at what are known as our major teaching hospitals.

There are in capital cities and some smaller cities, hospitals dedicated to an area of health, such as the Women's Hospital, Children's Hospital and cancer hospitals.

Using tax rebates and penalties, typical carrot and stick approach, the government strongly encourages those who could afford it to take out private health insurance.

Mother has top hospital private health cover that her children pay for. Her recent hospital stay cost her nothing, aside from about $250 excess when she was admitted to the first hospital. That is a one off annual cost, so you never pay it again in the same year.

When I had surgery several years ago, I paid the $250 too, but as I was not an old age pensioner, I was charged more by the surgeon than health insurance or the government would pay and I had to make up the difference, which added to the $250 brought the bill up to around $1000. It wasn't urgent surgery and I should have used the public system.

But what I have since learnt is that you can use the public hospital system as a private patient. You have to do a bit bargaining. Tell them that you will attend as a private patient but tell them you don't want out of pocket costs. They win and so do you. Private patients are quite profitable for public hospitals.

I'd better mention doctors, general practitioners. I pay around $70 to my doctor. The government gives me back about $33. There are what are known as bulk billing clinics, where you can be treated for the cost of what the government pays. But there as not as many as there used to be as the $33 has been frozen and it is a pretty minimal return for a doctor. You will get good enough care, but it is not like having your own doctor.

Mother attends a clinic that is halfway in between,  and as a poor pensioner, she would probably not be charged at any doctor practice anyway. She sees her own doctor who works there and she has come to know and complains about endlessly.  R as a not so poor pensioner pays to see his doctor. His doctor knows his income in limited, and so at times does not charge R if it is quick visit. R pays for a necessary drug that for some reason is not subsidised by our government as many drugs are. It costs him  around $40 per month. As a pensioner, most drugs are for him are about $5. For me, I pay the full price up to around $30 and then a government subsidy kicks in.

In summary, you are entitled to free health care in Australia. You just may have to wait at times, a long time in some cases and there are some aspects about it that aren't very good. If you have the time, generally you can get your required medications from public hospitals as a public patient for free (not entirely sure about that). Our system is not too bad, but disincentives for overuse of the public system are in place.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Thieving and just another Sunday

The car wash in Altona was busy and we had to wait about ten minutes for a vacant bay. The Mazda needed and received a good clean. Rain on Tuesday will spoil its pristine look but it is clean on the inside too. Funnily the dirtiest floor area for the car the car that is used almost daily by a single driver was the passenger floor.........that would be where Mother sits. I found a $2 coin there as I was vacuuming the car. It must have been Mother's $2 coin. I slung it into housekeeping money once I was home. She won't get it back, not directly anyway.

As is our want, and is becoming a habit, we went on to Altona Village. It was a warm day and so Altona Beach was very busy, as was Altona Village with parking at a premium, but we parked in the Coles carpark without too much bother and bought something in Coles before we left, so our consciences are clear. Up near the station was a place we have lunched at before and it we chose it again and it was very nice. It was a bit less busy at this end of Pier Street. I could not believe how busy the beach was.

It is a rather crap train service on the Altona Loop, as Misguided Jenny informs me in Tweets. Trains are frequently diverted from the loop to the mainline meaning a gap of 44 minutes between trains. It shows on the live Metro Trains app as 'minor delays'. It is a single track, so you can't have trains going in both directions without a place for them to pass. However, trains seemed to be plentiful as we lunched, so I must check Marcus Wong's rail maps as to where there are passing places for trains on the Loop. Trains from the city were delivering lots of people from the city direction. There is also a Saturday and Sunday afternoon bus service from the city.

R had the breakfast bruschetta and I had the lunch bruschetta. Ok, I will give them a gig. It was quite good and is called Runkle Dell Rouge. Bruschetta is an Italian word and has a hard centre c, but it is usually pronounced in Australia with a soft ch. I never know what to do. Be correct or be as others do. At the end of the day my pronunciation was neither and quite an ugly word stumble. (Confirm about Italian pronunciation please Bunyip)

As we finished lunch, I let R know of my secret plan. We will journey on to Sanctuary Lakes to see what the housing developments there are like.

Oh my god. I was shocked. These are houses where the word McMansions applies. It was all very clean and neat, with lots of ground cover roses in public spaces in full bloom, nice green grass and immature trees. Yet, it felt kind of fake, like the houses were a movie facade and there was nothing behind the houses. Most of the development is two storey but there was an area of single storeys, the cheap seats I suppose. Did we like the development? No, not really, not for us. We took a full circuit of the development with a couple of diversions to housing islands. This is a typical house at Sanctuary Lakes.

What attracted me to have a look was the layout of the area on a map, and you can see all the little islands full of houses with bridges across to them. The area of blue to the right looks like it is water, but it is coastal swamp, swamp marshes?,  and not very attractive.

If you want to go anywhere else from the area, it seems you use Point Cook Road, which has a very convoluted path to the city to Geelong freeway, or Sneydes Road. I don't know about Sneydes Road, but Point Cook Road is narrow and very congested and I can't imagine what it must be like in peak travel times. Both roads are often mentioned in radio traffic reports. There was a minor accident on the freeway on the way home, so we crawled over the West Gate Bridge, adding about 15 minutes to our journey home. Melbourne is a miserable place to try to get anywhere by car. The horrendous traffic is relentless and spoils your outing before you are anywhere, even when going out in the earlyish morning. Our journey was to principally to wash the car at a very good and cheap car wash. If we were just going to Altona for lunch, we would have caught the train, and aside from a change of trains on the way, it a pleasant journey.

One of R's very elderly clients, who as a volunteer he takes her somewhere quite often, told him of one of her outings. She lives in  a Beaconsfield Parade apartment in St Kilda, so I would guess she was not short of a quid.  She goes down to Station Pier at times to watch cruise ships depart. I said to R, that sounds like the nerdy sort of thing I would do. R replied, well we should. So, we went to Station Pier to see the Golden Princess depart at 16:00. She had visited Phillip Island the previous day, which I think is a first for a cruise ship. We arrived at quarter to four, and mein gott, was it busy. It was a warm day and so many people were at the beach, as well as Spirit of Tasmania passengers and those seeing off people on the Golden Princess. The traffic was very heavy but we easily parked in our secret spot and no, it is a secret spot, for one hour's parking. Fork lifts were busy loading the ship at 3:50. Fork lifts were busy loading at 4:00. Fork lifts were busy loading at 4:10 when we left, a little disappointed. A woman had suggested to us that she did not think it would sail until 5:00. I was lying on my bed at home when she came into view at 5:45. The ships usually depart on time, so we were just unlucky. Another time.

I believe the wide part at the top at the arse end stern is a restaurant, with good views.

I can't remember where I first saw this mode of having fun. I did not capture it but I was grinning ear to ear and I caught his eye and he smiled back at me (or maybe his girlfriend or a pretty girl was standing in front of me).

When the Spirit of Tasmania is alone at Station Pier, she looks to be of an impressive size, a decent sized ship. But when a cruise liner is at the pier, the Spirit looks like a little boat.

As you can see, a chap was was fishing and you can see his rods.

Later: This morning, Monday, I was working out what was owed to who for yesterday's outing. I thought, who payed for lunch? It wasn't me and I don't remember R paying. I asked him and apparently neither of us paid. We just stood up and walked off down the street. I rang the business and they had noticed that we hadn't paid. I offered to pay by card over the phone, but they didn't have the facility. He asked if we lived nearby and of course we don't and we are on the other side of town. He then said, don't worry about it. I told him that we are over that way about every three to four months, so we will pay then. Oh, the shame, but honestly, we are not fully to blame. When we were asked if we were finished and the plates were cleared, and asked if we wanted more coffee and said no, we should have been brought the bill. We have come close to walking off without paying elsewhere too. The cafe will get its money eventually, non adjusted for inflation.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Gardens and a renovation

We took a tram to Elwood and walked along a residential street. This is a very nice block of apartments.

The other side of the street is not so grand. I guess the family in this home are Footscray Football Club supporters.

One of the gates to the Blessington Street Gardens, also known as the St Kilda Botanical Gardens.

As I commented on a post by Cathy, the roses in Melbourne seem extraordinarily good this year. To see the roses was the main reason we visited.

We saw Blue Moon roses, which we used to grow and they were great.

Weddings here, I should think.

The green house, fountain and Rain Man.

Rain Man is solar powered, so the water flow depends on the strength of the sun.

Much work has been going on in Acland Street. Tram tracks replaced, platform stops installed and half the street now closed to cars. It was far from finished when we were there, but I liked the way it was shaping up. Big Mouth is somewhat of a St Kilda institution.

I am not so keen on these retro futuristic tram shelters and nor do they look very good as weather protection.

The area has been officially opened now, but I am not sure if it is finished. Of course now the rest of shopping street looks shabby.

Fly me to the moon........

I could have/should have stood up from the temporary seating where we brunched to take a better photo, but I didn't.

Route 96 is mostly run by E class trams, but here is a C2 class about to depart the terminus on the shiny new tracks.