Tuesday, September 27, 2016

And Done (I think!)

I have my Tax File Number!

I dropped by the Tax Department yesterday afternoon and spent about 20 minutes with a friendly man sorting it all out.

Turned out that they had my address at Main Road, Eltham.  I was never, ever going to guess that.  It was my first mother-in-law's address and she's been dead for well over a decade. I'm not at all sure why they had that address. Quite apart from the fact that all my tax returns have had addresses in Beaufort, Ballarat, North Carlton and the Tax Department had happily sent letters to those addresses; quite apart from that - I have never actually lived in Eltham.  Bizarre.  They have me living in Ballarat now.  And I have my TFN which means I can fill out a tax form at my new place of employment, which means they might actually pay me :-)

I think that is now everything that I need to make it possible actually to function in Australia.  Unless there is something I haven't thought about yet?

We had a good weekend. We went with our friend Pat out to the Swiss Mountain Hotel for lunch on Sunday.  Over the past 40 years or so I have driven past that hotel, out in the countryside on the road between Ballarat and Daylesford, innumerable times.  I have never been even remotely tempted to stop and go in.  It looked a bit grotty, a bit of a dive.  So I was slightly surprised when Pat suggested that we drive out there for lunch.  But I'll try most things once, so off we went.  And it's lovely.  It's been well renovated inside and the food was really very good. And clearly other people haven't been deceived by the exterior appearance of the place.  It was very, very busy.  We must go again

Farley and Pat at the Swiss Mountain Hotel

A lovely piece of steak with succulent mushrooms

Hot chocolate pudding

Sunday, September 25, 2016

A Productive Couple of Days

We went into Ballarat on Friday and located the Centrelink offices, where you also deal with Medicare queries.  I wasn't expecting it to be particularly complicated to get a card of my own, and it wasn't.  I did expect to have to wait for a long, long time to be seen.  I was happily mistaken about that.  I think it was less than ten minutes before it was my turn to be seen.  I now have a Medicare card on its way, and a temporary paper copy to be going on with.

This meant that I could also register for a Senior's card.  It's on its way, apparently.

We took advantage of the spring sunshine yesterday and headed out to the lake to the twice monthly Farmers' Market.  Lots of other people were taking advantage of the sunshine too.  The market, the lakeside and the playgrounds were positively buzzing

And it wasn't just the humans and their dogs who were enjoying the spring sunshine:

Ten years ago the lake was so dry that you could have almost walked across it with dry feet - except you weren't supposed to.  This was for a number of reasons, one of which had been a prolonged drought.  The drought broke long since, and the other causes have long been addressed.  The lake is not dry any more.  At the moment, it is very noticeably Not Dry

There should be a path where that swan is swimming!

We called into the library on our way back and I now have a library card.  I think, apart from the Tax File Number which I'll tackle tomorrow afternoon, that should be everything in the way of Aussie red tape and paperwork.  For me, at least.

Walking with Sam on Saturday afternoon

Friday, September 23, 2016

I meant to say ...

We went to visit Stella and Tony on Tuesday and all went to the Dava for a pub lunch.  The Dava has very recently been refurbished and is looking good.

Stella and Tony were looking good too:

It's not raining this morning in Ballarat.  It's not even cloudy.  The sun is shining and the sky is blue! If only I had something to wash!!!

Thursday, September 22, 2016

An Exciting Start to the Morning

I didn't sleep very well last night.  No particular reason; I just kept waking up.

By about 6:00 I was beginning to wonder why Sam wasn't demanding his breakfast. No banging on the door from about 5:30.  I got up to see what he was doing.

He wasn't doing anything in particular at that moment, but overnight he had found the bag of seed potting mix that we had bought last week and left by the front door.  He had dragged it into the lounge area and obviously tried to play with it.  Very fortunately it didn't make a very satisfactory toy, so there was only a bit of potting mix scattered over the carpet.  I went to get the vacuum cleaner.

Then I trod on a plastic lid.  Odd.  Where would he get a plastic lid?  Hmm.  No wonder he hadn't been demanding breakfast.  He had found the box of dog treats and somehow managed to get the lid off.  He hadn't eaten them all.  There were lots scattered over the floor and couch.  But he had eaten about half of them.  I gathered up all that I could find and went to vacuum up the potting mix.

In the meantime, The Builder had gone to make a very much needed cup of tea.  The kettle wouldn't work.  He came to tell me that the power was off.  Except all the lights were on, and the vacuum cleaner worked.  We investigated further.  Power sockets were working our bedroom and in the snooker room.  It was just the kitchen.  Where are the trip switches?  A very good question.  Not in the garage.  Not obviously in the house.  I sent Lindsey a message. Before she could answer I remembered that in Australia meter boxes are very often outside.  Maybe the trip switches are also outside.  Put my lovely new Ugg boots on and went to explore.  And there on the front wall is a big brown box that we walk past several times a day and had never paid attention to.  And inside were the trip switches, one of which was in the wrong position.  Power is restored to the kitchen and all is now well - except that the ignition thingy on the stove won't stop clicking.  I've turned off its power supply and all is now quiet.

Ian rang from a freeway in Canada, en route to Calgary, in response to my message to Lindsey. By then I had found the trip switches but he was able to make some suggestions about the stove.  I haven't tried them yet.  I'll have another investigation later in the day.

And all of this had happened before we had had our first cup of tea!!!  I think we did very well, given that we were un-caffeinated.  We are caffeinated now!

I wonder what else this Thursday has in store for us ...

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

First Things First

There is quite a lot of red tape that needs to be done when you move countries.

I must say that I don't remember it being quite so frustrating when I moved to Sheffield - although it might have been and I have simply blocked the memory out.  But I have found here that in order to get A you need B.  To get B, you need C.  To get C you need D and in order to get D you need A.  It was very clear that it was going to take quite some while to get it all sorted out.

The main problem was that I had no proof of (Australian) address.  Fortunately, you may remember, I had arranged to get an Australian HSBC bank account through my long association with the British arm of the bank. Officially they have me still in Tupton, but have the Mount Helen address as a correspondence address.  Then - they sent me a letter.  In the post.  A letter from the bank that came through the post to the Mount Helen address!!!! An official form of proof of address at last.  I finally had A, so to speak.

This meant that I could open an account with an Australian telecommunications company.  Both The Builder and I now have Aussie mobile phone numbers.  The British ones have been cancelled.

It also meant that I could transfer my British driving licence into a Victorian one.  Two ID strikes there - when it arrives I will have proof of address AND proof of identity other than my (British) passport.  Excellent!  I will have a B

Now all I need is a new Medicare card and my Tax File Number.  The Medicare card is complicated only because Medicare treats households as single units and I am still attached to the card that Ross, Tabitha and Freyja (but not Austin -what happened to Austin?) have.  I suspect that Ross in particular might not be entirely delighted if I summarily change his address to the Mount Helen one and in any case I really need a card of my own.  I don't think this will be particularly difficult to arrange but I need to take myself physically into a Medicare office to sort it out.  This might take some time just waiting to be seen.  But it must be done.  Without a Medicare card I can't get a Senior's card and I would quite like one of those - I'll get cheaper tram fares if nothing else!

The Tax File Number is going to be more troublesome.  I need that in order to work.  In fact, I have one.  I've had it for decades.  My only problem is that I don't remember what it is.  I rang them this afternoon to get it, but they and I disagree about what my last Australian address was, and I simply can't think what address they might have. I think I'm going to have to physically go into a Tax Office and plead with them for it.

Because I do need it.  In an exciting First Thing - I actually went to work this morning.  Real Work.  As in they are paying me to do it!  It's not very exciting work in itself - just scanning medical letters and related stuff.  But it is a proper job and will bring in beer and skittle money. It was somehow quite satisfying leaving the flat this morning and hopping on a tram and Going to Work.  It could be ongoing part time work - but only if I have my Tax File Number :-S

We are about to head back to Mount Helen.  I might see where the Medicare Office is in Ballarat and set about getting a Medicare Card of my own tomorrow.

Thursday, September 15, 2016


We've had a fair bit of rain recently. There's been quite a bit of flooding around the state. Quite a bit around the Ballarat area.  We are midway up a fairly large hill; it would have to be quite a catastrophic flood that affected us.  But other places have not been as lucky (or as high!)

When we left Melbourne yesterday, after a very wet and gloomy day on Tuesday, it looked like this:

Mount Helen didn't look like that when we got here!!  It was foggy and rainy and gloomy and cold and very definitely not very nice.

Sam asked to go for a walk.  I put him in the back yard - very briefly.  He walked out and turned immediately around and came straight back in.  He was definitely NOT going out in that!  The day didn't improve so despite his begging, pleading, beseeching and sulking, there was no walk.  He was not a very gruntled dog. Mind you, he wouldn't have been gruntled if I had taken him out.  He doesn't like rain, wind and cold any more than I do!

He made us pay for it, though.  He was deeply reluctant to get on his bed when we turned in.  He managed to open the sliding door between our bit of the house and the rest of it at about midnight and came hurtling into our room and stood over us, wanting attention - and a walk.  I put him back near his bed and shut the sliding door firmly.  So he banged at it.  So I put him down in the lounge room and shut him in there.  He devoted the rest of the night to trashing the lounge room.  Not that he actually destroyed anything.  He just swiped it all off the tables, couches, shelves and rearranged it all over the floor. At about 4:30 he started banging on the door again. I let him in to our room.  No, thank you.  He didn't want to sit on the bed. He wanted breakfast.  At 4:30!!  I would say that I relented at 5:00 and got up and fed him.  But it wasn't really me relenting, more him nagging until I caved in.  The Builder also arose and made us a cup of tea.  Peace reigned.  Briefly.

Sam came back in after his breakfast and settled on the bed.  The Builder got up to get another cup of tea, tripped over something on his way back and fell on the bed, narrowly avoiding squashing Sam.  He did not drop his cup of tea, but he couldn't get back up while still holding it.  So I got up to help.  Sam took advantage of that to spread himself all over the bed.  The Builder and I gave up at that point, put our dressing gowns on and retired to the (tidied) lounge room, leaving Sam in possession of our bed.

Sam is not usually so disruptive over night.  I wondered if he was cold, for it was not a very warm night and The Builder had complained of being cold in the night.  Lindsey, cruising in Alaska/Canada, wondered if he was lonely and/or hungry.  Ian, also cruising in Alaska/Canada, postulated the distant presence of a thunder storm.  The Builder thinks Sam just hates him.   I don't know.  But fortunately, after a very foggy and damp start to the day, the weather cleared a bit and we took him for a nice walk this afternoon and he is ever so much happier.  He is now catching up on his lost sleep on the lounge room couch.

Out on our walk in Buninyong this afternoon

This is usually a quiet and unobtrusive mini-creek

And here the ducks are usually wandering around or sunbathing - not swimming!

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

We took Sam out to the lake on Sunday.  It was quite a nice day and the advantage of putting Sam in the car and taking him somewhere for a walk is that you don't have to tackle Lindsey and Ian's very steep drive at the end of a walk.  The car can take you up it when you get back!

I was a touch worried that there would be lots of people taking advantage of the nice weather on a Sunday to take their small, white, fluffy, yappy things out walking as well.  Sam is largely of the opinion that small, white, fluffy, happy things serve no real purpose other than as a between meal snack for him.  I had no wish to be rescuing the yappy things from Sam's ninja jaws!

There were some out walking but fortunately they resisted the temptation to yap at Sam and he ignored them.  He loftily ignored the children who were amazed by his great size.  He mostly ignored the adults who came to admire him.  I think he enjoyed his walk.  We only did the wetlands bit of the lake which is a little over 2 km as a round walk. That seemed to be long enough for both Sam and The Builder.

Enjoying the fresh air. 

All tuckered out after!
Monday saw us heading back to the flat, via Coles and Wilsons (which I thoroughly recommend should you ever find yourself in Ballarat in need of fruit, veg or fabulous yoghurt - it was a largish stall out on the highway when I first moved to Ballarat in the late 1980s; it's seriously upgraded since!). Then on to Clifton Hill, making our first ever Uber trip.  I may have come late to Uber (Freyja has been using it regularly for some time and has been encouraging me to try it, except that it doesn't operate yet in Chesterfield) but I will certainly use it again. Both the trip to Clifton Hill and the trip back were effective, efficient, economical - and allowed me to have wine with my steak since I wasn't driving back!.

The weather has turned very wintry.  It's been chilly, wet, windy and rather gloomy in Melbourne over the past couple of days.  So much so that we abandoned our plans to go into Carlton on the tram, or into town, or even out to Richmond to look at Ikea and Kmart.  I ventured out far enough to lay in a few supplies from the shops under our feet.  The Builder didn't venture out at all.  We must venture out today though.  We are off back to Ballarat this afternoon!

The Nothing is attempting to eat central Melbourne

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Lessons Learned and (not) Remembered

You may recall, although it was over five years ago so you may not, that I made 80 cupcakes for Tony's 80th birthday party.  This enterprise was set back when Lucy the Great Dane took it upon herself to eat the butter from the kitchen bench. Lindsey had to dash to the shops to lay in emergency supplies otherwise we would have been a few cupcakes short of a party!

Marlo the cat would never steal the butter. He can't jump well enough any more to get to the kitchen bench. Even when he could he very seldom tried to help himself to whatever was on the bench (unless it was turkey which I never left unattended!). He is quite a polite cat and asks if he wants something.  Mind you, if you aren't quick enough to respond (such as if, say, you are slow in giving him all the turkey there is) he can be quite insistent, not to say assertive. But he wouldn't steal the butter.

Or the bacon.

I had some bacon sitting on a chopping board on Friday morning.  I was  intending to chop it up and add it to some mushrooms and tomatoes and have it all on toast for breakfast.  Now.  What have I done with those scissors I was using the other day. I know I put them in the dishwasher, but I've emptied that since.  I wonder where I put them?  Hunt in drawers. Fossick in cutlery pots.  Search around the kitchen.  Give up and grab a knife.  Turn to chop the bacon.  And there it isn't.  But there is Sam,  who had come in ninja like, helped himself to the bacon and was now stood there licking his chops.  He seemed quite shocked when I yelled at him loudly and forcibly ejected him from the kitchen.  

So the lesson has been remembered - just too late to save our bacon.  Fortunately we had eggs, which Sam hadn't eaten. I fried up some of those to add to the tomatoes, mushrooms and toast.

Yesterday The Builder and I went to the little farmers' market which is held at the top of the lake in Ballarat on the second and fourth Saturday of the month.  It's quite cute. I've been once before, many years ago, at Christmas. It was significantly colder, damper and muddier yesterday!  We bought some lamb for today's lunch (safely tucked away in the fridge, away from the mouths of ninja dogs). Some potatoes for the weekend and some others for Monday evening.  Lots of vegetables. It might have been small but we enjoyed it.  We will probably go again. Next time we might even take Sam. We didn't take hims yesterday because we weren't quite sure where we were going, or what we might do afterwards. Instead, we took him for a walk down through the University, which sits snuggled in woodland, down at the bottom of our hill. He was a bit puzzled that we weren't following any of his usual routes, but he seemed to enjoy the walk anyway.

We have investigated the tumbledown greenhouse and decided that it will do nicely for starting off the seeds that we got from Diggers.  But not quite yet.  Not only have we still not bought any seed planting compost, but the weather has turned noticeably colder (although it has at last stopped raining - for now!) The weather bods are warning of the possibility of frost this coming week.  I have to keep reminding myself that this (in gardening terms) is the equivalent of March in Tupton and I wouldn't have dreamt of planting seeds in March, unless I was growing them in the house. Which I could do here, except that this is a strangely dark house given the number and size of the windows. I'm not sure they would get enough light. No need for impatience though. There's plenty of time.

We were being watched, while we were in the greenhouse

There was a whole mob of them further over in the paddock.
This one was apparently suspicious of what we were doing in the greenhouse!

Friday, September 09, 2016


When I first got to Ballarat a couple of weeks ago I joined the Diggers Club. Or, more accurately, rejoined after a hiatus of 20 years or so.  My membership included a little welcome selection of free seeds (green beans, zucchini/courgettes, beetroot, cucumber, lettuce, stripy tomatoes) and free entry into their various gardens.

We decided yesterday to take a drive out to the nearest of the gardens to Ballarat, St Erth near Blackwood.  It's about an hour's drive from Mount Helen and the Satnav took us along country roads rather than along the freeway. It was all rather pleasant.  We didn't actually look around the gardens; it was very windy and it's a bit too early in the spring for the gardens to be particularly interesting. We'll go again in a month or so and have a potter around.  There's one not far from Mount Martha as well.  We'll go there too.  We did, however, have a lovely rummage in the shop and bought some more seeds. Rainbow silver beet/chard, black cherry tomatoes and runner beans. The Builder is very pleased about the runner beans.  You don't find them in the supermarkets here, and not all that often in the greengrocers.  Runner beans are positively his most favourite food!!!

Now all we need is a garden in which to grow our vegetably bounty.  We could, of course, grow them here at Mount Helen.  I'm sure the rabbits would love them! We are pondering trying in pots and containers and attempting to keep the rabbits off them. And The Builder is going to make me a wooden box to grow carrots in.  I don't think Mount Helen is much troubled by carrot fly, but carrots in a box up on a table or bench will definitely thwart the rabbits!

First though is to plant the seeds.  I bought some little coir seed pots at St Erth. Now I need some seed potting mix. We might try and find the garden nursery we've been to with Lindsey a couple of times.  It was some time ago so this might be another exploring challenge.

We took Sam for a walk in Buninyong yesterday afternoon when we got back from our explorations.  He enjoyed the walk and was much admired by passers by.  Having a dog to look after certainly makes sure that you get your 30 minutes of exercise a day!  It is less amusing having a dog to look after when that dog decides at 5am that it is time for everyone to be awake and definitely that it is breakfast time.  As it happens I was awake anyway when he came a-knocking on the bedroom door.  It had been raining very heavily and the combination of that and the wind had woken me at about 4:30.  I hadn't actually intended to get up at that time though. He has had his breakfast and has gone back to sleep.  We have not :-(

I think the rain has set in for a day or three.  Not sure about the doggy walks in your actual, proper rain!

Oh - and Tony has escaped from Beleura.  He's back home again, with his own bed to sleeping, his own squishy chair to sleep in, and his own kitchen table and chairs, not to sleep in.

Tuesday, September 06, 2016

Tony was moved from Cabrini to Beleura in Mornington on Thursday.  Alas - his hearing aids were not.  Stella and I turned down an invitation to drive to Malvern to collect them, despite the fact that we had, on Wednesday, been given a parking permit for the hospital car park.  Tempting though it was to drive to Cabrini just so we could use the permit, it is just over an hour in each direction and we decided that the time could be better spent in the afternoon visiting Tony in his new abode.

The rehab unit at Beleura is quite new and rather nice.  Mind you, it is something of a forced march to get to Tony's room at the very far end of the corridor.  Not such an issue for The Builder and me, but something of a challenge for Stella. We made her go back, when we left, in a ward wheel chair.  But that's not an option for Stella when she is on her own.  She's just going to have to take it slowly.

Lindsey and Emily came to visit Stella and Tony on Friday and then brought The Builder and me back to Melbourne. We stayed in another flat, because on this occasion both Emily and her friend were staying in Lindsey and Ian's flat (as, indeed, were Lindsey and Ian) and there really isn't room for six.  They all went out for pizza with Ant and Jess.  We amused ourselves in our rather nice little apartment, had fish and chips from the shop down below, had chocolate from the supermarket down below, had wine from ... Well - you get my drift.  It's not absolutely an unalloyed Good Thing to have a series of shops, wine bars, cafes and takeaways under your feet!!!

Lindsey and Ian set off for Canada, via California, early on Saturday morning.  Emily was also going to Canada, but on a separate trip and not until Sunday. We headed to Ballarat to play with Sam.  I failed dismally at the whole "turning on the heating at the front of the house" thing, despite having been given instructions by Lindsey.  Fortunately, I can still light a fire (I used the fireplace; I didn't just randomly light a fire in the middle of the lounge room!!) and the heating in the kitchen was working.  Lindsey sent further instructions on Sunday morning, which worked.  But we were heading back to Mount Martha, nice and early, for a Fathers' Day lunch.  As many of the family who were available were intending to be there - including Tony who had been given a day pass from Beleura.  It was a great, if somewhat noisy and boisterous, family lunch.

We had intended to head back to Ballarat after lunch, but there was an OT coming on Monday morning, with Tony, for a home assessment, so we decided to stay over and see what she had to say.  In fact, she didn't have very much to say.  She suggested a night light in the bathroom, along with a  non-stick bath mat.  She suggested a toilet surround rather than rails (if you put rails in you'd never be able to close the sliding door). And, in a burst of unlikely optimism, she suggested that we should clear paths around the unit so Tony could navigate around with the walker that we are fairly certain he will never use once he gets home. There's no news yet on when Tony is likely to come home, but we are not anticipating that it will be this week.  He needs to get his strength back, and to sort out his balance a bit

You find us now back in the flat.  Christina, Emily's friend, is still here until Friday when she returns to Townsville having completed her placement in Footscray. It was my intention to stay in Melbourne today, possibly having a potter around in the city, possibly not, maybe even buying some extra charger cords for our various devices (we have one each, but at the moment we have five devices between us and a couple of extra cords wouldn't go amiss.)  However, my wallet decided to prolong its seaside holiday and hid in the back of Stella and Tony's car, along with a bit of shopping.  I wouldn't worry so much about the shopping, which I don't urgently need.  But it's a tad inconvenient not having my wallet.  We will head down shortly to retrieve it.  While we're there we'll drop in to visit Tony.  We might even have a spot of lunch with Stella. Then we're here overnight and back to Ballarat tomorrow.  For a few days, I hope.

Tony on Sunday, in his favourite chair at last

Tony, Matt and William.
Three generations, waiting for lunch :-D