Sunset from Hill House, Mount Helen. February 2024

Monday, July 31, 2017

Life's Little Excitements

Lindsey, Ian, Jim, Sam and I took Rupert for his first ever walk in the park yesterday morning.  He thought it was ever so exciting.  Everything is very exciting when you are a 3 month old puppy, but for Rupert Outside is the most exciting thing ever.  Even more exciting when the outside is in the park.  He did very well.  He didn't pull anyone over in his excitement.  He was a bit nervous of the other people and dogs we met who were also out walking in the park, but managed to get over his shyness and talk to them eventually. He did quite a bit of loose lead walking.  He didn't chase the Very Exciting Heron that he saw just over there.

Sam was quite well behaved too :-D

Both Sam and Rupert were quite tired when we got back from our walk

Sam having a little post-walk, pre-lunch nap

Rupert had a proper, full on afternoon sleep
When I was getting dressed yesterday morning, before we headed to the park (might attract attention if I went walking in the park in my polar bear pyjamas and fluffy dressing gown!!) I had the distinct feeling that I was being watched.  I looked out the window.  I KNEW I was being watched!

We have settled back into a routine of sorts.  I was rostered at work on the desk on Tuesday and Thursday and had intended to go in on Wednesday to do some scanning.  Then I was called in to do reception on Wednesday anyway.  I came back on the tram and train on Thursday afternoon.  This coming week I am once again rostered on Tuesday and Thursday but this week I am going to take the car down.  Lindsey won't be here this Thursday to pick me up from the station and I want to be back a little earlier than I can be if I use public transport  Alas, I was asked to start early, at 8:30 tomorrow only after Lindsey had already left for Melbourne.  I might have rethought my plans had Lindsey still been here!

We've had the painters in today in Mount Helen.  Sam was absolutely unimpressed to find two lads in fluorescent jackets outside his window at just before 7 this morning.  He was very unimpressed that they opened all the windows and doors and let the cold, cold air in.  He was incandescently indignant that Lindsey barricaded off the hallway so the dogs couldn't get down in to the lounge room.  It didn't matter if they wandered in and out of the kitchen door - that leads to a fenced off garden.  The lounge room door, however, leads to open space and freedom to roam and potentially get lost.  He has spent most of the day lying on our bed, willing us to put the bedroom heater on.  He's happy now.  The painters have gone.  The doors and windows are closed again.  Jim has lit the fire

Oh.  I almost forgot.  Jim's bridging visa has come into effect.  His visitor visa didn't actually expire for another week, but one of the conditions was that he could only stay for three months at a time.  We came back from New Zealand on April 28th. That condition was breached on July 29th so his visitor visa was no longer valid and his bridging visa came into effect.  This means that he can't now leave the country and re-enter.  But it also means that he can work if he is minded, get a medicare card, a Victorian driving licence, various other bits of bureaucratic usefulness - and live here lawfully until a decision is made on his partner visa.  Hooray!

Monday, July 24, 2017

Roundup of the Week

We were peacefully watching the TV last Monday evening when the lights flickered and went out.  The TV went off. Everything went off. Jim and I were just getting up to find torches when the power came back on.  And went off. And came on.  Off again. And on.  This time it stayed on.

The rest of Monday evening was surprisingly calm, given how the rest of the day had been!

During the course of the week the builders came and more or less finished the plastering, the doors and the windows.  The bricklayers came and finished the rest of the bricklaying. The car was mended by the car hospital so Jim and I are mobile again. Order was slowly restored to the week.

Stella and Tony were well enough to join Ian, Jim and me at Piper's at the top of the Lake for lunch on Wednesday. It was a lovely break from domestic routine.  And the food was extremely delicious.  Stella and I went for a drive out to Mount Mercer on Thursday and then she, Tony and I went for a gentle potter around the little Mount Clear shopping centre.  Lindsey and I went to work on Friday and Saturday.  Jim and Ian have done a fabulous job of fencing off part of the front lawn so that Rupert (and Sam) can wander in and out of the kitchen door without supervision (always supposing of course, that the weather is sufficiently clement for have the door open (not too cold, not too hot) and that there aren't many insects about. )

Stella's health improved more and more as the week went on. She decided that she was probably well enough to go home at the weekend.  So after very nearly three weeks in hospital and about ten days at Mount Helen she went home yesterday. Tony went too :-)  Lindsey and I took them back and had lunch with them at the Dava. And then we left them to it and made our way back to Mount Helen via a quick mad dash round Costco.  The house smelled amazing when we got back.  Ian had devoted himself to preparing a Persian style slow cooked shoulder of lamb with pomegranate seeds and roasted vegetables.  It was amazing!

Today was an exciting day for Rupert.  He went in the car for the first time since he arrived.  Although I don't think he was particularly excited by this.  In fact he seemed to be quite worried.  I wondered if he thought we were taking him away for ever.  In fact, we were taking him to the vet for his second lot of shots.  He rather liked the vet, who is a friend of Emily's.  And he was so busy munching the little bundle of treats that she put on the floor that he didn't notice the injection.  And he was quite happy in the car on the way home.  We hadn't abandoned him after all!  And now that he's had his second shots we can take him out more and he can meet other people and other dogs.

When Lindsey, Emily and I were walking around the Lake on Sunday a week ago Emily happened to mention that when she was working for a few months in the Solomon Islands they had used cannulas to clear wax from people's ears. I have had a blocked ear for weeks and weeks and weeks.  I've had my ears syringed out twice but it has been clear to me that this hasn't got absolutely all the wax out.  I've had my ears looked at but to no avail.  Lindsey pondered the cannula idea and on Friday mentioned it to two of the practice nurses.  All of a sudden I was sat in the treatment room while a GP and two nurses were animatedly discussing this idea, how best to do it, which things to use ... Experimenting on my ear, they were!!!  And the experiment was successful. It was a tiny piece of wax which had been causing the trouble, obviously tucked away where no one could see it and where the syringing wasn't reaching.  Water through a cannula worked magnificently - and I can hear properly again.

Persian style lamb for dinner.  Photo by Lindsey

Monday, July 17, 2017

Lindsey and I both had a 7:00 Japanese lesson yesterday morning.  It was a Survival class so not very taxing for Lindsey and me.  I didn't learn anything I didn't already know - apart from the names of a few menu items.  But it never hurts to revisit very basic stuff when learning a language that you don't get the opportunity to use very often.  Stella did ask why we were learning survival phrases if we had no plans to visit Japan. We both looked at her slightly blank.  There are ALWAYS *plans* to visit Japan. In fact we have a plan.  It's just not until sometime next year.

Anyway.  After that we had a plan to pick up Emily and do a circuit of the lake.  So off we went, leaving Jim, Stella, Tony and Ian in the house.  Lindsey and I were discussing that we thought Jim wasn't looking absolutely happy.  We thought about it. And realised that apart from going across the road to pick up the post we couldn't actually remember when he had last left the house and garden.  We thought maybe a week?  Perhaps just over a week?  No wonder he isn't looking very happy!!

So when we got back from our walk around the lake I popped him into the Honda, the spare car and we went to Buninyong.  The car used to be Tony's.  Then, when he and Stella bought a new car, it went to Emily and was driven up to Townsville. When Emily came back to Ballarat she bought Lindsey's old car and the Honda went to Ant and Jess.  They have now bought Ian's old car and the Honda has come here to be the spare car. It needed its tyres pumping up so we did that and then we went to the Pig and Goose for lunch.

We've walked past the Pig and Goose many times and thought that we should pop in.  And so we should have.  The food was delicious - and we had to wait for it.  They cooked it to order.

Then we drove back to the house.  Lindsey mentioned that there was oil on the drive where the car had been.  We decided to check the oil levels in the morning.

Time passes.  Emily and a friend came up for Sunday evening roast which was cooked mostly by Lindsey but with some assistance from Ian and me (I made the Yorkshire puddings).  We watched a bit of TV (but missed Masterchef.  Fortunately the whole series is available on the Internet.  I might watch the whole season again from the very beginning. I've only seen it intermittently).

I slept fairly well and woke at a reasonable time.

And from there the day went downhill.

The builders arrived, by appointment, to carry on with the proper fitting of the doors and windows.  Ian was planning to head to Melbourne.  Lindsey was planning to leave a bit later.  Jim and I went out to check the oil levels of the car. About half way up the dipstick.  Then the gasman came, unexpectedly quickly,  to fix the main gas heater. Then we checked the oil levels in the car again.  No oil.  So Lindsey and Ian called the breakdown people. They came and organised a tow truck.  Lindsey rang the Honda people who said they could look at the car on Wednesday.  Ian disappeared to Melbourne, laughing quietly.  The gasman went away.  The tow truck came and took the Honda away to the Honda hospital.  Sam was unhappy about the builders, the gasman and the general chaos.  Rupert was causing the general sort of chaos that 11 or 12 week old puppies do cause. Then Lindsey went away leaving a frail Stella, a poorly Tony, a reasonably robust Jim and me, almost voiceless and one earless, plus carless on Mount Helen!!!

Fortunately we are not short of food, milk, bread or wine. Lindsey and I made a quick dash to the local grocery store anyway to stock up on milk and tasty things.  Ian is due back tomorrow evening anyway.  But the lack of the Honda has thrown the rest of the week into a quiet level of disarray.  However, as far as I am aware, everyone is still breathing, the wood fire is lit, the dogs are contentedly sleeping and a level of peace has descended on the house (mind you it is almost 6:00 in the evening - you would hope things might have settled down by now!)

Oh. And the fridge in the kitchen has stopped making things cold.  And the stove top has cracked but is still working.  On the other hand, the main gas heater is working.  For now!

Off for a walk down the driveway.  In the wind!

Saturday, July 15, 2017

In Retrospect

it would probably have been better to have picked Stella up from the hospital in Frankston on Tuesday morning (a process which took much, much longer than I had expected it to), taken Tony to see his GP in Rosebud at lunchtime (something else which took longer than I had expected it to) and then stayed overnight in Mount Martha heading to Mount Helen on Wednesday morning.

As it was, by the time we had got back to Mount Martha after the GP visit, got packed and organised, very carefully packed the car with two walkers and everything else that was coming with us, got ourselves in the car and set off, by the time we had done all that we hit the Monash at peak hour and found it very, very busy what with road works, minor accidents and other hazards.  Then we got to Richmond and found the approach to the Burnley Tunnel at a complete standstill (I think there had been an accident on the approach to the Westgate Bridge).  The satnav took us off the freeway and then all around the houses until eventually it dropped us back onto the bridge.  It was well after six by the time we got to Mount Helen.  We hadn't had any lunch and everyone was tired and hungry.

We should have waited and come up on Wednesday morning!

No matter. We're all here now.  The builders have been and installed beautiful new doors and windows in the lounge room and kitchen. I went to work yesterday and tackled the mountain of scanning that had accumulated in my absence.  Mind you, I am really not sure what is happening with the traffic at the moment.  It's the school holidays and I had expected things to be better than normal. There were two absolutely massive hold ups getting back from work yesterday. The satnav tried to take me off the freeways both times, but the first time it changed its mind too late for me to change lanes and take the exit and at the second hold up I couldn't see any point in coming off the freeway, driving around loads of back roads in the dark and rejoining the freeway later.

Rupert has been here for a whole week and is settling in quite nicely.  He and Sam are mostly getting on quite well, although Sam wasn't even a little bit impressed when Rupert tried to take his pig's ear.  He wasn't absolutely delighted this morning either when Rupert (accidentally, I think) jumped on him while he (Sam) was having a nice sleep.

I have a couple of online Japanese lessons over the weekend and there's a baking festival today and tomorrow in the Mining Exchange. It's supposed to be very cold in and around Ballarat over the weekend but I think it's supposed to be quite nice.  We could take Tony and Stella for a drive, or out shopping or out for lunch. So many possibilities before us!

Monday, July 10, 2017

So.  Stella moved from her hospital ward to the rehab ward at Beleura.  I was a bit surprised - she still didn't seem all that well to me. But then I am a librarian and not a doctor or nurse and I'm sure they all knew what they were doing.  We were all prepared for her to leave the rehab unit and come home, when her cardiologist dropped in to see her.  I knew she didn't look all that well!  He had her moved pretty quickly into the cardiology ward at the Peninsula Private hospital in Frankston.

She's only been there a few days and is now very much improved.  She's due out tomorrow morning.  I have come down ready to pick her up tomorrow and then to take both Tony and Stella back to Mount Helen for a few days staying with us, Lindsey and Ian and Sam. We can feed and water them and make sure they're both properly back on their feet before returning them to Mount Martha. Lindsey is arranging various services to be put in place so that they can live at home comfortably and easily once they're fit enough.

Of course, they may not want to return home. As well as Jim, Lindsey, Ian, Sam and me, they now have this to play with at Mount Helen

Meet Rupert, who is ten weeks old and arrived on Saturday.  Sam was a bit surprised by his arrival but seems relatively OK with him.  Except today Rupert bounced at Sam so Sam bounced back - and squashed him!!  Apart from that, though, all is good

Tuesday, July 04, 2017

Red Tape, Form Filling and Paperwork

As you may be aware, Jim and I have spent the last little while putting together an application for a partner visa for him.

It is a long, tortuous, drawn out process filled with frustrations, blind alleys, twisty turns and complications.

I spent the better part of a day filling in the online form for him.  Fortunately, we had already gathered together all the information we needed.  Each page had to be saved before you went to the next one.  It was therefore EXTREMELY frustrating when the website crashed and it took me back to a page before I had filled in ALL the details of his parents, siblings and offspring and all mine.  I had also filled in all the personal statements he needed to have put together.  I would swear that I had saved all the family details.  I hadn't saved the personal statements - the site crashed while I was doing that. But no.  It was all lost and had to be done again.  Finally the form was filled in, submitted and the application paid for.  Many, many, many dollars left my bank account and headed to the Australian government.

The following day I suddenly realised that I had paid for it not with my Australian bank account, which had many, many Australian dollars in it but with my British credit card - which did not!  Another morning wasted while I tried to transfer money from Australia to the UK.  I knew it shouldn't be as complicated as it seemed to be.  I have transferred money internationally before without trouble.  Eventually I gave up on the live chat on the internet and actually rang the bank.  The nice lady I spoke to said there was no need to worry at all about IBANs, Swift Codes or anything else (none of which had worked) and just to put my personal bank details in.  Worked like a charm.  As it should have done :-D

Then we faced the daunting task of adding all the supporting evidence that the government requires.  We have spent the last few months gathering it all together.  Birth certificates; tick. Marriage certificate; tick. Passports; tick. Statements from friends and family attesting that our relationship is genuine, long lasting and enduring. Tick. Bank statements, mortgage statement, passport photos, stuff, more stuff, even more stuff.  Tick, tick, tick, tick.  And always, just when we thought we had it all, we found more stuff that they wanted.  It all had to be copied, certified, scanned and added to precisely the section of the application that was relevant.  It took all weekend just to do the scanning and adding.        

I am extremely grateful that I speak English (no need for English tests for migrants in my view - filling in the form is all the evidence you need that someone can speak and read English!!). I am grateful that I have access to computers, scanners, printers and that I know how to use them. I am extremely fortunate that I had the money to pay for the application and the support of family, friends and colleagues in putting it together (many, many thanks to the practice nurse who certified a mountain of documents - almost as many as our friend Ginger had to certify when I was putting together my application to have my residency restored but he at least was rewarded with Sunday lunches after the bouts of certifying !!)

And let us all give thanks that we are not displaced, homeless, refugees or anyone else who has lost all their paperwork, identity documents and all the other things that make navigating bureaucracy and red tape possible.  I was reminded of this after the bushfires in Victoria in 2009 and again after the recent Grenfell Tower block in London when so many of the people who survived had lost everything, including the things that proved who they were, gave them access to government agencies, access to money and access to information.  I must once again put our documents in a safe place and remember to keep my phone and wallet somewhere where I can grab them if I have to leave in a hurry.  I have been a bit slack about that recently.