Sunset from Hill House, Mount Helen. February 2024

Monday, October 31, 2022

How much?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!

I received an email from Jim's Care Home on Friday, telling me that Services Australia had assessed Jim's financial status and decided that he would pay $233.30 a day for his care and keep and that therefore we owed $27, 300 in back payments.

This came as something of a surprise! For a start off, we don't have a spare $27, 300 sitting about doing nothing. Or at all! Also, $233.30 a day is more than we earn by a long way, even if we add every last cent of random income.

I rang Services Australia. Waited 30 minutes for the phone to be answered. Spoke at length to a lovely member of the Services Australia team. Ah!, she said. That amount is the top fee. I take it you haven't filled in the assessment form. 

Yes I have. I have also sent in the extra information you asked for.

She put me on hold while she looked through it. I put her on speaker and started to make lunch. After all - it might be the last lunch I ever have, if they really want $27, 300 from us!!

She came back after 15 or 20 minutes and said she had been through the stuff I had sent very carefully, and they still needed some other things and that the computer sent out the top fee assessment after a certain amount of time when it had no other information.

I strongly suspect that they hadn't got around to looking at the information I had sent or they would have sent another letter saying they needed more detail than I had sent. But I do think they should not let the computer send out extortionate demands for money just because it has got a bit bored!!

I'll get the information they need and send it back and see what happens. In the meantime, the Care Home has parked the bill they sent me until they get a further assessment from Services Australia.

A (not quite) Final Trip to Mount Martha

Yesterday, Lindsey, Wendy, Matthew, Belinda and I went to Mount Martha to make a final sweep of Stella's unit. The bloke who had provided the last skip had delivered another one on Saturday and was on standby to bring a second if we needed it. It was very clear that we would need it! I rang him at about 11:30 and asked if he could bring one at around 1:30. Ah. He had been hoping to go to the races in the afternoon. He would bring another one around in 30 minutes.

We all stopped what we were doing and stuffed the skip full of all the stuff in the garage and smaller bits of furniture. We had it full by the time he arrived about 25 minutes later. Amazing what you can accomplish when you have a time constraint 😂

We carefully filled the second skip with broken down furniture and other bits and pieces. Jenny Across the Road generously offered us all tea and biscuits. By 1:30 we had the house completely cleared out - and we  went down into Mount Martha and had fish and chips in the picnic area by the shops.

A good day's work!

We've moved the furniture out onto the lawn.
Matt chopped it up with a wood splitter and an
electric saw

We packed it all in VERY carefully

Taking tea on Jenny's front verandah

Everything is cleared out and empty

The house is ready to go on the market,
after LendLease has renovated it

Final Family Photo on the front porch

(Photos by Frances, Lindsey and Wendy)

It's not absolutely the final trip to Mount Martha. Lindsey and I have left a fridge and a cabinet in Jenny's garage to collect when Ian is free to bring the trailer down to collect them. And we are still hoping to have a final visit to The Dava. If we can find a time when everyone who wants to come is available!!

Monday, October 24, 2022

Weekend Shenanigans

I went down to Mount Martha on Friday, in Lindsey's old car, to bring back as much stuff as I could fit in it from the "keep" side of the garage. The charity people had been there on Tuesday to take some of the furniture away. There is, alas, still quite a bit left. There's still quite a bit of junk left in the garage. There isn't a lot left to bring back to Ballarat - a bird bath that I couldn't lift on my own, a walker that doesn't fold down and a mobility scooter. There's also a fridge/freezer that's supposed to be going to the surgery. Everything else has to be disposed of by one means or another.

If you want anything, you have until Sunday to put your hand up!

I wasn't there long - perhaps 40 minutes - and came back via Tully's, where I got lots of delicious vegetables, some meats and treats and various bits and pieces. There aren't many more opportunities to go to Tully's and I decided to take full advantage of this one.

Saturday was the fourth anniversary of Tony's death. Stella, Lindsey and I went to the Boatshed for lunch, as a celebration of his life. We had the seafood platter, with an extra bowl of chips. We didn't need the extra bowl of chips!

When we moved Stella's bear cabinet from Mount Martha to Mount Clear we somehow managed to misplace a WWI army nurse. Stella noticed immediately that it hadn't come with the rest of the bears. We assume the nurse bear was accidentally put into a charity box but by the time we took the bears to her place the boxes of stuff to go to charity had already gone. So I went trawling around the internet for a replacement and found one on Gumtree. I hadn't used Gumtree before and was a bit dubious, but Stella and I decided to give it a go. She turned up in good time and we gave her to Stella at the Boatshed.

She is a very formidable looking army nurse. You wouldn't have wanted to play up on her ward!

Sister Bernadette with Nurse (Ret) Stella

Lindsey and I called in to see Jim after we took Stella back to her room. He was pleased to see us, but definitely wanted to come away with us. We don't take him out all that often, and increasingly only to Hill House. It was a bit too late in the afternoon to take him out on Saturday, so Lindsey and I decided we would take him to Hill House for lunch on Sunday. I had bought a pork fillet at Tully's, along with cocktail potatoes and lots and lots of vegetables. We had enough for a Sunday lunch for three. 

Lindsey said she needed to go to the supermarket on Sunday morning. Did I want to come?

I did. We bought, amongst other things, some puff pastry so I could make a pork Wellington. I picked up some chocolate lava cakes and raspberries for dessert. We decided we actually had enough for a proper Sunday lunch for four and rang Stella to see if she fancied joining us. She did! We took the shopping back to Lindsey's place. I prepped the Wellington and made a mushroom and onion gravy. I had already prepped the veg, after I got back from Tully's.

I went to pick up Stella, and then we went to get Jim - and found him still in bed, in his pyjamas, watching TV. At almost 11:30!! He had absolutely refused to get up when the carers had gone in to get him dressed and give him his breakfast. To be fair, he didn't know we were planning to take him out to lunch, but even so! Such laziness :D 

One of the carers came in to get him up. Another was already cleaning his room, mopping the bathroom and clearing and tidying. He had had breakfast and then tea and cake. I want to live somewhere where all these things happen around me!!

We had a lovely lunch and a good afternoon. It was a good weekend with lots of delicious food and a fair bit of fun.

Lindsey's photos of our impromptu Sunday lunch:

Monday, October 17, 2022

Golden Point

Now that Stella has moved to Ballarat, we felt we needed to find an alternative, or even a replacement for The Dava, the pub in Mount Martha that she and Tony had been going to since they first moved into Martha's Point. A five hour round trip by car is not really convenient just to go out for lunch!

There are, of course, lots of eating choices in and around Ballarat.And we are hoping to try many of them. But we were also looking for a place that is suitable when all you really want is fish and chips, or a parma, or just good pub grub.

Not far from Stella's place, heading in towards Ballarat is the Golden Point Hotel. From the outside it looks similar to The Dava. Pub, games room, bistro, pokie machines, that sort of thing. We decided to give it a go. Not only is it conveniently located and has plenty of disabled parking, but it is also friendly, spacious and even has alcohol free wines!! The food is adequate. More than adequate. The chips were hot and crunchy. My grilled fish was juicy and tasty. The ubiquitous-in-pubs salad was tasty. It was all very pleasant. We have nominated it as our Dava replacement

This is not to say that we won't go to other places. There's a pub in Buninyong that none of us have been to for many years. We thought we might give that a go. Plus there are also lots of country pubs that do good food which we might also explore. But it's good to have the Golden Point close by when we randomly decide that we fancy a Sunday Lunch out with no notice.

You may have noticed that we have had quite a bit of rain locally over the last week or so. We decided to go out to Lal Lal after lunch and look at the waterfall.

The first time I went to the Falls, four years ago.
There is a trickle of water, if you look very carefully

After a little bit of rain, about four months ago

And yesterday, after the Major Rain Event of last week

I have never, ever seen so many people, dogs and cars at the Lal Lal Falls reserve. I think everyone locally had decided to go out and admire the water. There are picnic tables and a barbecue/picnic rotunda, which were being well used. The viewing point was full!

There are walking tracks down along the creeks at the bottom of the falls. Strictly speaking, they are closed to the public, but you do see people walking along them. Funnily enough - not yesterday!

It was a good Sunday, even if I didn't get the things done in the garden that I am hoping to achieve. I have bought a mini-dwarf peach tree to add to my fruit collection. I have bought a celery plant. I don't use a lot of celery but I like to have a stick or two for flavour. There are very few places where you can buy a stick or two. One plant usually does me for an entire season! I have cut the grass in the front garden. I really must do the backyard and then I can carry on with the new fruit and veg beds. My seedlings are coming along and will soon need new homes if they are to flourish. I need to get wriggling.

(I do need to do some more zucchini seeds though; the ones in my cold frame seem to have snapped in half, which isn't helpful when they are so small)

Saturday, October 15, 2022


Back in 2013, I said this:

Once upon a time,  long, long ago, in a country far far away ...

... I spent some time living on the edge of a desert during a prolonged drought.  Day after day after day dawned with blue skies and perpetual sunshine. It never rained, not even a little bit. You might find this hard to believe, but ongoing, unbroken blue skies and a complete dearth of rain become very dispiriting and rather boring. And if you rely on lake, river and rain water for your supplies, a complete lack of rain also gets quite worrying.  I kept the garden alive by putting the washing water from the washing machine on to it.  Rinsing water became the next cycle's washing water. We became very creative and resourceful in our use of water.

Then, one day, the drought broke.  I remember very vividly when it started to rain.  I happened to be out in the depths of the countryside visiting someone and remember quite clearly turning round and looking for the idiot who had put a sprinkler on their garden.  Austin, on the other hand, who must have been only two or three, had screaming hysterics because he, of course, had no memory of ever having felt water falling out of the sky before.

I vowed and declared that I would remember this experience and that I would remain perpetually grateful for the gift of water. In short, that I wouldn't ever complain about the rain again.

And by and large I don't complain much about the weather, if for no other reason than that there is absolutely nothing that I can do about it so it is a complete waste of time and breath complaining about it.

It is, however, perfectly possible to have far too much of a good thing! Far, far too much.

We were warned in Victoria earlier in the week to prepare for a Major Rain Event and for potential flooding. It was suggested that people should make sure that they had at least three days of supplies at home.

It was reiterated, over and over and over again, that YOU MUST NOT ATTEMPT TO DRIVE OR WALK ACROSS FLOODED ROADS (this doesn't stop people, who end up being washed away,  stuck, or worse).

I made sure that I had plenty of supplies. I must admit that I wasn't expecting to be flooded, and we weren't. But many roads in and around Ballarat were. And there was a lot of water lying on the roads. There are parts of the state, including some parts of suburban Melbourne, which are inundated by swollen rivers, overflowing dams and overflow water.

Lindsey and Ian's back garden had many deep puddles. Hugo refused to go out for a wee for nearly 20 hours. We had no torrential rain in Mount Helen, just a very great deal of steady and heavy rain. On the whole, we were lucky. 

My garden rain gauge, for the 24 hours from 9:00 on Thursday morning read 42 cm. This is a lot of rain!

Yesterday was damp, overcast and cold.

Today, in Mount Helen, it is sunny, the sky is blue, it's (relatively) warm and the cats are sitting outside in the backyard, lying in pools of sunshine rather than pools of water.

The rivers are still rising around the state and there is a very great deal of ground water. But I think the Rain Event has stopped. For now.

Rupert and Hugo in their backyard, on Thursday:

Lindsey's photo

Tuesday, October 11, 2022

Sunday and Monday

We took both Stella and Jim to Hill House for lunch on Sunday. Unbeknownst to Stella, Simon and Jacob were also planning to come. Stella was very pleased (and surprised) to see Simon. He speaks to her by phone often, but this is the first time he's been to Ballarat since she moved up here. I don't think I've seen Simon since Christmas. I've seen Jacob. He was at the Great Clear Out at Mount Martha.

Jim enjoyed his outing. He particularly enjoyed the food, and especially the roast potatoes. Stella also enjoyed the roast potatoes. She is very fond of roast potatoes and they don't do them in the care facility; mostly they do mashed potatoes and she isn't particularly keen on mashed potatoes. She was also pleased to have roast lamb, rather than chicken. They get a lot of chicken in her dining room. It's served quite often in my dining room too, but I get a choice about what's served in my dining room.

Yesterday I made a start on clearing out the garage. I moved the desk that has been in there since we moved in, doing not very much, out into the long narrow "garden" at the back of the house. I thought it could sit by the garage door, near the compost bins and the plastic cold frame and I could use it as a potting table. All the utilitarian stuff in one place. So I dragged it out of the garage and shoved it up against the wall of the garage and the back fence.

Then I shoved one of the metal shelves to the back wall of the garage, where the desk had been. I sorted out the garden stuff and the tools and the pots. I even swept the garage floor, which was covered in soil and leaves and stuff. Then, I glanced out the garage door window into the backyard - and saw Whiskey pottering around on the desk and making his way onto the wooden seed boxes I had shoved into the (small) space between the garage and the back fence to stop the cats wandering along the space. From there he could easily jump down into the garden over the back fence and I am not sure he would be able to get back again. I am also not sure that their terrier would be entirely delighted to find a Whiskey Cat in his back garden!

I hadn't expected Whiskey to get onto the desk. He's not much of a jumper and he doesn't jump onto the dining table unless he goes via a chair. I have dragged the desk back into the garage, by the garage door. I might have to have another think about where to put the desk. It would work as a potting table where it is, except that the garage door doesn't open fully. Easily enough room for me to go in and out, but not for the wheelbarrow.

I am also going to have to have a rethink about what to do about the asparagus bed. I had intended to move the asparagus from its square, metal bed by the side fence to a new, oblong wooden bed running parallel to the back fence and the fruit bed. I knew I had left it a bit late to move the asparagus. I hadn't realised quite how vigorous it is this year. Tall, well formed spears are emerging. I could, possibly, even harvest a small number this year, and definitely next, as long as the plants are left undisturbed. I have decided not to move them and to run another fruit bed parallel with the side fence. It's also too late to move the rhubarb and blueberry bushes this year. I've planted potatoes in the spaces I was going to put them. I'll move them in the autumn, after the potatoes have finished.

A small redesign of the planned new vegetable/fruit garden is underway. It might even be better!

Sunday, October 09, 2022

Glass Cabinet and Bears

Last Sunday, during the Great Clear Out of Stella's house, Lindsey and I managed to get Stella's glass cabinet into the back of Lindsey's car. The cabinet has been in the dining room in the Mount Martha House, filled (mostly) with teddy bears and other soft toys. It was one of the things that Stella had specifically asked to have brought to her new place in Mount Clear. We filled it with blankets and towels and other soft things we thought might be useful at Hill House, for Christmases and other times when lots of people come to stay.

We managed to get it, intact, to my place, where it has spent the last week holidaying in my garage.

Yesterday, Lindsey and I went to the Zoo Drive market, then the Mushroom Farm, followed by a rare trip out to the Elaine Farmgate Shop. We don't go out there very much any more. It's a bit of a trek and we can get pretty much all of the stuff they sell at the markets, Mushroom Farm and Wilson's in town. But they do sell remarkably good lamb and Lindsey wanted some.

Then we had an online Japanese lesson, and then we manoeuvred the glass cabinet back into Lindsey's car and took it to Stella's place, along with two boxes of her bears.

It is now set up by the door to her room and looks really good:

We were *SO* relieved to get the cabinet
into Stella's room without breaking it!!!

Her room looks good. Very cosy. Very Stella-like. She seems to be enjoying life in there - she certainly enjoys the cups of tea and little snacks that are delivered to her throughout the day!

We went to visit Jim after we had set up the bear cabinet. He seemed well and happy. He was pleased to see Lindsey. She doesn't get in to see him all that often and he does enjoy having visitors. For ten or fifteen minutes 😉

I took Stella to see her GP on Friday morning. It was absolutely chucking it down when we got there and we got all soggy wet! Fortunately it had dried up a bit by the time we left. The GP is very pleased with Stella and said she should eat, drink and do whatever she fancied (within reasonable limits; no skydiving, for instance)  to keep making life happy and interesting.

So we went to the cafe in Mount Clear for lunch:

That is alleged to be a steak sandwich.
There is a piece of steak under all
the trimmings!
Stella did a mighty job of eating it

Rupert and Hugo have not been told to eat, drink and do whatever they please. So Rupert took a great deal of time to eat his dental chew:

Friday, October 07, 2022


For the first time since the beginning of 2020 I have been on a tram. And not just one tram. Two trams!

I haven't had any reason to use public transport since then, apart from a train or two and a bus in the UK. First there were the lockdowns and the travel restrictions. During the worst of the pandemic it seemed more sensible to use the car than to risk using public transport. Since then, I haven't been anywhere that I needed trains, trams or buses.

Until Wednesday.

I drove to the flat after work and then took a tram into town, then a tram out to Coburg. I might have accidentally got on a wrong tram when I got into the city, but I realised immediately and got off at the next stop and caught the right tram. Fortunately, my Myki (think Oyster card if in the UK) card is still active and has plenty of money on it. I transferred the balance of Jim's Myki card when it became clear that he wasn't going to use it again, plus I had topped mine up before I went to the UK.

I think, even so, it might have been surprised to be disturbed from its slumber in my wallet! It had been a Sleeping Beauty Myki 😂

Sandy, who we went to Japan with in 2018, was in town  from Perth for a few days. We met her in a Turkish cafe in Coburg for a catch up and a nice meal. It was a plain and simple cafe with a plain and simple menu. The food was delicious. Sandy and her family used to go there regularly when they lived in Melbourne, so it was a trip down memory lane for her. I know we were there quite early, and it was a Wednesday night, but I hope they are busier over the weekends. It was very quiet when we were there. Mind you, they have a lovely website and they are open until late so I assume they are doing alright.

Lindsey and I stayed in the flat overnight. She went to an accreditation on Thursday morning and I came back to Ballarat. I dropped by Rupert and Hugo's place, called at my place, visited Stella, went back to Rupert and Hugo's place and eventually returned home for the evening.

My morning view on Thursday:

Tuesday, October 04, 2022

Stella's Place

Lindsey and I were at work on Saturday morning and then pottered down to Mount Martha.

We might have gone to Tully's on the way. And maybe also Bunnings.

We did a little desultory tidying and organising when we got to Stella's house. Then we had beef and vegetable stew and wine for dinner.

The clocks went forward for the summer early on Sunday morning.

Nevertheless, Lindsey and I were up and at it reasonably early on Sunday morning. We had had a skip delivered on Friday afternoon, which was waiting for us on Stella's driveway. Various members of the family joined us over the course of the morning. And we cleared and tidied and threw things into the skip and organised and beavered away and got the place mostly ready to hand to LendLease so they can do their stuff before it goes on the market.

Neighbour D took Stella's dining chairs. Neighbours C&J asked if their grandson could come and have a look over what was left to see if he could use anything in his new house, lent us a tape measure and provided shortbread for afternoon tea. Jenny across the road cheered us on from her place.

The skip is nice and full.
We need another one!

Filling up Lindsey's car with things to
go to Ballarat

Most of these boxes and computers
are destined for Ballarat

Filling up the trailer with even more stuff
headed to Ballarat

The things at the back in the dining room
are heading to charity

Stella's dining chairs in their
lovely new home

The charity house clearance people are coming on Thursday to sort through everything that we've left in the house. In the garage we've got things on that side, destined for the next skip, and things on this side which people have said they would like to have but didn't have room to take away.

We had rissoles and salads for lunch. Then we all went away - not for the last time, which we had hoped, but almost certainly for the penultimate time. Although I might drop down before the next Skip Sunday just to see what's what. Wendy is going on Thursday to let the house clearance people in. And Stella would like to go for one last time, and one last lunch at the Dava before we relinquish the place to the tender hands of LendLease.