Monday 9 June 2014

Oh, now f%^-king what, a week of two halves.

To start with my week was Byron Bay perfect.
For those surfers among you, these are
the fins I invented, they work like flippers for your board.
I consider my week these days blog to blog, mostly Tuesday to Tuesday.
However as I write this on the Monday of the long weekend, I realised that this week for once I was actually saying, "Thank Christ  it's Monday", signifying the end of the week.
Not an expression that you hear often, like 'pretty as toxic waste dump', or 'gee I wish those Christians were less logical'.
So here's the story of my week in this sub-tropical paradise, and at last I hear you cry, we are back to non-stop f%^-king moaning.
And damn right an' all.
So back to last Tuesday.
My phone rang and it was my friend Ivan, he works Wednesday to Sunday driving a drug bus.
Those hopelessly clapped-out diesel conveyances that drive up from Byron Bay to Nimbin, ostensibly to see the sights, but really to get off the damn bus and buy drugs as quickly as possible.
And already we're onto a digression, but stick with me as usual and we'll return to the main theme.
When I first moved to the Rainbow Region, centred on Byron Bay, I was still a walking mass of drug-soaked confusion.
In need of some pot, I took one of the buses up to Nimbin and went down to the alley next to the coffee shop that was the centre of dealing.
I middle-aged man came up to me and asked if I wanted to buy some dope.
I assented, and he asked what I wanted.
I replied, "could I have a fifty of indoor-outdoor, please?"
Indoor-outdoor marijuana is germinated inside and then taken outside to ripen under the natural elements.
It's the middle of the scale for pot strength.
Outdoor, or bush weed is the weakest, and hyge (from hydroponic) is the strongest.
Hyge would later lead me to understand that I had to give it up, as I had a psychotic episode after smoking some one night.
Ivan is one man who knows how to relax.
Anyway, my drug selling friend nodded to me, then turned and addressed a thirteen-year-old boy sitting nearby on his bicycle.
"Damian," he said, "Could you ride home and get me a fifty bag of indoor-outdoor?"
The boy nodded, then cycled off.
He returned ten minutes later with the bag, entered the coffee shop where I was enjoying a latte, handed me the bag and then left without a word.
Now that's what I call a family business.
So Ivan drives these buses full of tourists up there five days a week, and on his days off we surf when we can.
I mention this because on the second day, Wednesday, the surf was too flat for words and Ivan decided to just relax on the beach.
I spoke with him on the phone before I set out, found out where he was, and we took these pics as I went past.
I had quite a good surf, despite the a) nearly flat ocean, and b) the unholy numbers of splattercakes (learner surfers), and  that got in my way, and then returned to my desk for a bit of writing to wind Wednesday down.
But then Thursday came, and things began a rapid descent in the nethermost pits.
To start with, and I should have realised what this portended, I broke my favourite red coffee cup while having my breakfast.
And I might add, I did it while cleaning my place in preparation for my landlord, Scott's visit that was upcoming.
AKA: Never clean up, it only causes trouble.
So Thursday began badly, in The Hitchhikers' Guide to the Galaxy, Doug Adams writes of Arthur Dent, "Arthur never could get the hang of Thursday", and it was no coincidence that he chose a Thursday for the Vogon Destructor fleet to bring about the end of the world.
So, I had two lawns to mow in Ballina, this is a stressful day for me, as when I have to go a long way from home, my round of checking that things are off, escalates in stress.
If I get all the way to Ballina and have a sudden fear that I've left the oven on, it's problematic to say the least.
However, my friend Scott has agreed to help me, and he came into my little flat, known as The Cupboard, I've now learned, and stood with me as we checked that the windows were shut, the taps were off and there was no power flowing into the oven and electric jug.
I was thankful for his help, and therefore was able to get away reasonably on time.
So down to the underground car park.
Turn the key," urggagh, urrgagh, urr...." went my engine.
Flat battery.
Switched off, went back upstairs and asked Scott for a jump start.
He agreed and we went back downstairs.
Batteries linked, I turn the key.
Same noise, a slow, and slowing, grunting noise as of a walrus giving birth came from my engine bay.
Double NUTS.
Battery cactussed.
I thanked Scott and he went back to his desk.
I called the NRMA, and duly he arrived.
"How old is your battery, mate?" he asked.
"Er, I don't know." I said, feeling slightly less manly as all us men do when we are caught out as being less than mechanical.
I might add, probably the only thing less mechanical than me is a dairy cow in a field.
So the NRMA man nodded and then removed my battery and examined it.
"2008," he said laconically, "You've certainly got your worth out of this one."
I nodded.
For the record, modern batteries have a three-year warranty.
If you get four years out of it that's average, five is great, and six near miraculous.
However, since I only recently bought this car, what that really meant was that my friend Tom, who I bought it from, got the near-miraculous life out of the battery.
So with the new battery in, I turned the key and the engine kicked over like a newly shorn sheep exiting the shed with gleeful high-bouncing.
Caitlyn could afford to relax,
I was mowing her damn lawn.
Well that was something, at least.
Like all of us, whenever the NRMA has to be called, there is the innate fear that it may be something serious involving a tow to the mechanic and a lot of money.
So I handed over my debit Mastercard, and the NRMA man phoned it in.
He read out my numbers twice, then turned to me and said, "Sorry, your card has been declined."
Triple NUTS.
I rubbed my already fevered brow, then hit on a solution.
I raced upstairs and asked Scott for his help for the third time already this morn.
"Can I borrow your credit card? Mine's been declined."
Scott nodded and handed me his card.
As I turned to race back downstairs, he added, "Just don't use it for buying porn off the internet."
This was a regular joke between us, but my sense of humour was already failing on this day.
I smiled wryly, nodded and left.
I gave the NRMA man Scott's card, and he called that in.
This time there were no problems, thankfully, and I was now ready to leave.
I raced back upstairs, gave Scott back his card, and then finally got underway for Ballina.
I pulled up outside Terry's house in Tamar street, got my whipper-snipper out, and launched in.
Things were back on track.
I finished the edging and then got out the mower.
I was halfway through when the mower gave a few lugubrious gasps, then came to a puttering halt.
Quadruple NUTS! (And more, most of it unprintable).
I stared at the thing, then up at the sky, wondering why god had it in for me this day.
So I pulled out my 'carry-with-me-tool-kit', pulled off the plug lead, checked that, pulled off the air filter, checked that, then remembering a trick that I'd learned, I pulled off the petrol cap, and pulled the rip cord with the cap off.
This does some internecine thing to the airflow within, and the mower started.
Thank f^#-ing Christ I said.
I put the cap on, and finished the job.
Back in the car.
Over to Cambden street and got Caitlyn's lawn done.
Icing my knee, a common site for
men playing soccer well past their use-by date.

Loaded my gear and drove home, more thankful than I could say that this Thursday was coming to an end.
So then Friday came and I was due at Physiotherapy.
I'd hurt my knee playing soccer, and Marty the physio, was working on it, trying to get me through to the end of the year.
He did his treatment, and then I went out to the reception area to pay.
The receptionist there, in an echo of yesterday's contretemps with the NRMA man, ran my card twice through the Medicare machine, then handed it back and said to me, "sorry, your card has been declined."
Later, when I told Scott about this, he would remark, "Man, you're the only person I know who has had their Medicare card declined, just how poor are you?!"
Answer: "Very!"
So I paid out of my own pocket, and then left the physio surgery, heading for the Medicare office to sort it out over the phone.
In Byron, we don't have an actual office, just a little nacelle in the corner of Pharmacists Fleur's chemist shop, where you sit at a desk and call Medicare on an in-house phone.
I arrived through the door of Fleur's shop like a man breasting the tape at the end of the Boston marathon, and skidded to halt where the Medicare nacelle should have been.
It was gone.
"Fuck me," I said with considerable vehemence.
I turned and asked one of the counter staff where the Medicare nacelle had gone.
"It's in the Centrelink office now."
Ok, well that was something.
Least it hadn't relocated to Ballina or Lismore, where many of our services have gone.
So I hotfooted over to Centrelink.
I sat down at the desk and called up Medicare.
The photo was staged, taken by
Scott after I had genuinely fallen off
After a wait during which I once again renewed my vow to find and terminate with extreme prejudice whoever it was that converted Greensleaves to three-tone electronic muzak, a human came on the line.
We went through the process, organised my refund and then I asked, what had caused this hiccup.
She replied, "Looks like we sent you a new card out yesterday, and so that means we cancelled your current card at the same time."
I choked back what I really wanted to say, which was, "don't you think that it would be more logical to wait till I get my new card, and use it, before cancelling my old card?"
However, it wasn't the fault of the nice woman on the phone, so I let it be.
With that done, I then went for the exercise that my physio Marty had recommended, some cycling and a gym session.
This went quite well, but I knew this week hadn't given up on testing me, and thus I shouldn't have been at all surprised when I fell off my bike and nearly broke my arm.
What happened was, and this is a lesson to all those who use their mobile phone while driving, that on my return to my place of residence, I was coasting down the concrete ramp toward the underground carpark where I leave my bike when I saw Scott ahead of me walking down the ramp.
I was listening to music on my headphones at the time, so I thought I would be a smartarse, and coast silently up to Scott and then yell loudly in his ear.
To do this I took my phone out of my chest pocket and was manipulating it down the menu stream to the music player to turn it off, when it suddenly occurred to me that I better start braking before I ran into Scott full pelt, and really gave him a shock.
But with one hand holding the phone, I unconsciously pressed the brake with my remaining hand on the handlebars, and the extra, unbalanced pressure brought the front wheel round sharply, and over I went.
Note: Concrete is hard.
Ever so thankfully I hadn't broken anything, or worse, re-damaged my knee.
Once I felt around and realised that I wasn't badly damaged, I was able to laugh about it.
But if I laughed at medium strength, I'll tell you who laughed so hard he nearly burst his spleen: Scott.
In the end though, I had provided a service, Scott was having a real bad day, with the  multifarious stresses of his life as manager of a forty unit apartment complex, and my hopelessly dorkish spill from my bike released the tension for him.
I picked up my bike and wheeled it into the garage and chained it up.
I then called time on Friday, and went home and carefully did as little as possible for the rest of the day, casting occasional glances vaguely toward the ceiling, wondering what the universe had in store for me next.
As it turned out, it came on the Saturday at Bangalow.
Scott was playing in a six-a-side soccer comp up there, and asked if I would fill in, as one of their players had cried off.
After much soul-searching I agreed.
I really should have given my knee another week off, but by the same token, a gentle six-a-side tourney could be the fitness test I needed.
So Saturday came and off I went.
Scott was all concern for my plight.
As I'm sure you understand, given the week I was already having, this was risky, and damaging my knee was my real fear.
However, as It turned out, I  got through the soccer Okay, no, what the universe had in store for me was another player stepping on my carelessly thrown jacket, and breaking my glasses that were in the chest pocket within.
Quintuple NUTS! I said, when I went to put them on after one of the games.
Thankfully the lenses weren't cracked and so I was able to put them inside my sunglasses and drive home with reasonable vision.
The problem with that was though that when I pulled the car into the subterranean gloom of the underground carpark, I reflexively took off my sunglasses, as it is as dark as night with them on, and in doing that the unsupported lenses fell from my nose onto the floor of my car, where I nearly completed the job, started next to the soccer field at Bangalow, and trod on them with my boot.
Thankfully they survived and I parked the car, then got my glasses and went, once again, home vowing to do nothing more to tempt fate.
I then spent Saturday evening watching TV in my sunglasses looking like a sort of white Ray Charles.
Sunday passed thankfully without incident, I drove up to Clunes and did some gardening for my friend Eric, thankfully without cutting off a finger with my secateurs, or anything like it that this week was constantly threatening me with, then spent another evening at home watching TV and listening to the sound of the winter rain.
Monday came and I raced into the office to call the optometrist to get my glasses fixed.
To my consternation I got an answering message saying the office was closed.
WTF?? I said to myself.
Then it hit me, it was a long weekend.
Of course.
Glasses broken like my
spirit was becoming.
One thing that I may have mentioned about my home town is the rubbery grip on time that we all have.
Everyone here knows what the tides are doing, but no-one, myself included, can tell you what day of the week it is.
This is due to most not working nine-to-five, but having various rolling shifts to do with the hospitality industry.
And doubly so on that is that long weekends catch us all by surprise.
We usually don't know it's a long weekend until someone going home on the Friday evening notices a seemingly eternal nose-to-tail line of traffic coming into town from the highway.
Additionally, I have three stories to research and get comment on from various politicians, and needless to say none of them were in the office.
However, I did get the time to write this, so at least my day hasn't been wasted.

Victory is ours

On the up side though, this week did mark a victory over Channel Ten.
I, as you well know, have spent a lot of time ranting at Ten over those annoying promos in the corner of our screens.
Well me and my complaining compadres seem to have gotten through, as the picture shows.
The promos have disappeared from my show Modern Family.
I'll just add my usual rationale for getting so hot and bothered about this, as many of my friends grow concerned when I start talking about this, as I look like I'm about to detonate.
The fact is that 80-90% of Australians get their information completely from commercial television.
So therefore, I feel, it's important to get them to behave.
There is a commercial television code of practise, but this was written by the networks and is about as effective as an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting held at a vodka bottling plant.
This code actually says in black and white that promos are allowed on screen full time.
But there is no denying that the networks are trying it on to have them there full time.
I say that this means they have advertising on the screen for thirty minutes out of every thirty.
Additionally, as most agree, it is rude beyond belief to the makers of, and watchers of, a show, to have these promos horning in and destroying the flow of the show.
As the picture shows, there is only the Ten watermark now and now promo, which used to sit next to it.
So well done all of us who complained, just goes to show what I have been saying for 66 posts now, over a year and change, complaining does work.
So everyone out there, do more of it.

Sunset over my town

And before I go, I'll leave you with some of those sunset shots that we all love.
I took these on Thursday night and very much enjoy the process of photographing my town as it winds down for the day, and on Thursday I bloody needed it, I can tell you.

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