Sunset from Hill House, Mount Helen. February 2024

Wednesday, May 31, 2023

Weekend report

Lindsey and I were working on Saturday morning. By arrangement this time. A regular shift.

It was strangely quiet. Lindsey's list filled up nicely but pathology was VERY quiet. It was the pathology lady's first shift with us and she had been warned that it would be frantically busy. She was slightly bewildered by the lack of victims!

We went to Freyja and Simon's place for lunch after work. They had made us a leek and cannellini bean casserole with lots of green things on the side. It was very delicious.

We went to La Manna after lunch. I have lots of delicious vegetables in my fridge. I don't keep whole vegetables in the fridge, normally. But I have found I am much more likely to eat them if I cut them up all at once, and then I keep them in bowls in the fridge. And then, of course, I eat them all together and run out half way through the week 😂

It was cold, wet, windy and miserable on Sunday. So Lindsey, Stella and I drove out to Blampied and had lunch in the Swiss Mountain Hotel. It was a lovely drive out. The pub was warm and welcoming with a wood fire burning. The food was delicious and plentiful. We had a lovely time.

Warm and cosy in the pub

I popped up to Rupert and Hugo's place on Monday, late morning. They were very pleased to see me. They were even more pleased to see my chicken salad - although that was my lunch rather than theirs! I dropped by Stella's place after lunch. She was in her room. Jim was not in his. The facility had a men's choir singing in the dining room. I think that, apart from a very small number of residents, pretty much everyone was in the dining room listening and singing along! 

Rupert and Hugo, hoping for chicken:

So a good weekend. Plenty of lovely food and good company.

Sunday's lunch:

My steak sandwich

Stella's slow cooked duck

And Lindsey got the very last serve of
a lamb parpadelle dish

Saturday, May 27, 2023

Centrelink. Again!

I had a phone call on Thursday afternoon from someone in Centrelink. "I understand you have been speaking with your local MP's office," she said.  Indeed I have. "I see we have you with the wrong surname and at the wrong address," Yes, that's right.

She asked a lot of questions and, I think, has fixed the issue. I think! I haven't actually checked it yet but she said she had. Apparently, I had been registered with them when my children were very young and I was getting child benefit for them. Centrelink didn't come into being until the late 1990s, after I had gone to the UK but clearly the social service records had been transferred to them. When I came back and reactivated all my government relationships, I didn't give Centrelink a thought. As far as I was aware I had never had any relationship with them. So I can see why they might have had me registered with my old name but that still doesn't explain why they had me at Ross' address where I have never lived. The lady on the phone also asked if I have ever lived in Hervey Bay. I have not. I didn't even really know where it was (on the Queensland coast, north of Brisbane, since you ask). Not at all sure where that came from!

She also said she would give the aged care assessment team a nudge. I'm not holding my breath on that one.

When time permits, I'll go back to the Centrelink office and see about linking them to my MyGov account. Then we'll see if they now have me under my actual name and at my actual address. And then perhaps I'll be able to apply for a senior's healthcare card.

It seems that calling upon the staff at your local MP's office to help with your Centrelink problems actually has some effect. But really - it shouldn't take invoking your MP's office to get things done.

I ordered a split system reverse cycle air conditioner last weekend. It's arrived and is sitting in the garage. Now I need to gather together the money to have it installed! No hurry at this stage, not for the winter. I still have the gas overhead ducted heating if I need it. I still don't like it, though it is better than freezing. But the wood burner is pleasanter, cosier, I think cheaper, and much more effective. It never blows cold air at my head!

Thursday, May 25, 2023


I got home yesterday at about 7pm. I organised something to eat, put the TV on ready for Masterchef, opened the patio door for the cats to have a potter in the backyard and sat at the table to eat my food, mess about on the internet and keep an eye on Masterchef.

Suddenly something flew into my head and bounced off. At first I thought it was a small bat but it turned out to be a large moth, much like a bogong moth. It had come in through the cat space in the fly screen.It was also hotly pursued by the cats.

This wouldn't do. I did not wish to spend the evening with an agitated, large moth flapping about, pursued by two excited cats. But how to catch it?

Inspired by the vision of people chasing butterflies with butterfly nets that had appeared from somewhere in my mind , I grabbed a long handled kitchen sieve and a tea towel. In the meantime, a second moth had come inside. Cats super excited!

I finally caught one of the moths and put it outside. I came back to sort out the second moth - and the first moth came back in. Sigh!

These moths were flying low (which I suppose is how they found the space to get into the house), and were easily in the reach of the cats. I managed to catch a moth, put it outside - and shut the patio door.

The second moth was more difficult, because by now it was very agitated and clomping around, up and down, here and there, all over the place. Eventually it was in the sieve, covered with the tea towel. I put it out the front. Brandy came out with me, but readily came back in. And started rushing about the house, miaowing loudly, hunting and searching.

I assumed he was looking for his lost moths.

I should have paid closer attention to him because while I was telling Freyja and Simon (by phone, they hadn't come back to my place) about the moth saga, I notice a third moth hiding in the kitchen sink. Brandy and Whiskey would never find it there. But I did!

I put a glass tumbler over it, then slid a disposable mask under the glass and took it into the laundry. My alternative moth catching equipment wasn't very stable and I needed to release the moth outside without letting the cats out or any other wildlife in. Fortunately, there is a door into the laundry which I could shut and use the laundry as a sort of air lock(or moth lock!).

I don't know if they were bogong moths. They certainly looked like it and they were definitely on the big size. But I can tell you that 20, 30, 40 year old Frances would have closed all the doors and windows, got in the car and gone up to Rupert and Hugo's place until her place had been thoroughly de-mothed. By someone else! 67 year old Frances was just pleased with the ingenuity of using a long handled kitchen sieve and a tea towel as a makeshift butterfly net. And not pleased that she had missed most of Masterchef!

Unexpected things

I was called upon to work on Saturday, as an extra shift. I don't mind working Saturdays. They're usually not frantically busy and we finish up at lunchtime. And the traffic is usually much lighter than it is during the week.

I had an easy trip down. There was time for a toastie and a hot chocolate when I got there. The patients were happy. The Pathology clinic ran smoothly.

Then I went to Freyja and Simon's place to pick them up for an unplanned trip to Ballarat. We went to La Manna on the way to my place, to get supplies for the weekend. 

Freyja and Simon had come up to see Ross, who had had some dental work done during the week, so I dropped them at his place for a late afternoon visit. They stayed at my place overnight and we had burgers and salad from La Manna for dinner.  

We had a nicely leisurely breakfast on Sunday. "Chicken" sausages from La Manna with toasted Turkish bread, avocado, green leafy stuff. Tea. Coffee. Newspaper. Quizzes. 

Then we had a burst of short, sharp activities:

We went to visit Stella (but not Jim). 

We went to visit Ian (but not Lindsey who was in Adelaide), Rupert and Hugo. 

Freyja and Simon went to visit Ross. 

We packed the car with their stuff and went into town.

Where we met Julia, Travis and Henry in a sandwich shop that I didn't know existed, in a little street, almost a lane, that I had not previously noticed and where I had perhaps the best chicken Katsu sandwich that I have had outside of Japan. Lovely crunchy, thick, juicy chicken inside soft, fluffy very fresh bread. It was just lovely. It was also lovely to catch up with Julia, Travis and Henry.

Then I went back to my place. Freyja and Simon took the train, disguised as a coach, back to Melbourne.

I have some stuff for Henry that I keep forgetting to give him/Julia. I have put them in my car. And now watch them come to my place and I'll forget to give them to him because they're out of sight in the car!!

Sunday was quite a busy day, topped and trailed by a leisurely breakfast and a leisurely lunch. My kind of day, really.

I was out and about with Lindsey on Monday and took her to the sandwich shop, which she also didn't know about, although she did know about the street. It's at the back of Dan Murphy and close to the back of Big W, so it's surprising that I haven't noticed it before. She bought sandwiches for her and Ian's lunches and reports that they were very good. We went and saw Stella (and Jim this time), pottered in Wilson's and the supermarket.

It was a good weekend. Several unexpected things happened in a pleasantly gentle way.

Friday, May 19, 2023

Centrelink Adventures Continued

I want to apply for a senior's healthcare card. This allows for discounts not only on healthcare (😂) but also on council rates, car registration and other things I haven't looked into. It is means tested but I easily fit all the conditions, including the financial ones.

However, this will require that I communicate with Centrelink. Sigh!

But it should be possible to do it online. First, though, I need to link my Centrelink registration with my MyGov account.

Mysteriously, this proved to be impossible to do online.

More Sighs.

So on Monday I drove back out to the Centrelink office to get it linked by a Centrelink person.

By pure coincidence, I got the same person I had spoken to about Jim's issues the previous week.

She couldn't link my account. They still have me registered under my previous married name (which I haven't used since the mid-1980s!!!) and have me living at Ross' address. She couldn't change either of these things because the aged care financial assessment team has an "action" open on my account, tied to the action they have open on Jim's account. She was worried that if she overrode that, it might reset Jim's issue back to October or even July of last year. We definitely didn't want that to happen!

I really don't understand this. Medicare (which is linked with Centrelink), the electoral office, the passport office, the tax office, the health department, every other federal government department have my name and address right. So does the state government. All of my official forms of identification have my current name and address, so do the bank, the council office, everyone. There is nobody anywhere who thinks I live at Ross' address and use his surname. Nobody. Except Centrelink!!!

There are so, so many issues with this, not least of which is that they have told me (on several occasions now) where Ross lives. As it happens, I know where he lives, but not all divorced people know where their ex-spouse lives, and not every ex-spouse wants them to know.

After I left Centrelink I bought some chicken and chips and went and sat in the sunshine by the lake and had a brunch picnic. I felt I deserved it. I hadn't yelled at anyone, had remained calm and had only gently revealed my deep frustrations with all of this.

As far as I am aware, absolutely nothing has changed during the intervening week but I can't quite bring myself to ring anyone and ask. However, the accounts manager at the care home has parked the $30k arrears until it's all sorted out so at least they shouldn't try to take out ridiculous numbers of dollars for Jim's care fees. I will be very pleased when that particular problem gets driven away. Then I can give proper attention to other things that need sorting out/organising. Such as a new passport so I can go overseas, should the opportunity arise. (I do have a valid passport but it only has another 6 months validity and that will disappear very quickly if the second half of the year is as hasty as the first)

In other news, the new heat pump hot water service has arrived. Two blokes turned up yesterday morning at about 7:30. The hot water service was installed and up and running, and they were gone, by 9:30. Not bad going. I have enquired about getting the gas to the house disconnected. This can be done, but if I just stop the supply and leave the meter in place, I will still have to pay the monthly connection fee, which is about $40. If I have the meter removed and the supply of gas permanently disconnected  it will cost a little under $1000. The only thing I still have that uses gas is the ducted heating but I don't yet have the reverse cycle heating unit that I am intending to replace it with. If I have the meter removed, that's most of the money towards the reverse cycle unit gone. If I am going to keep the meter, then I might as well keep the gas supply. 

I'm not sure what to do. I shall ponder. There's no hurry.

It looks very smart
and produces hot water at
good pressure

Friday, May 12, 2023

Mega Sigh

I've had the first bill from the new owners of the care home for Jim. I noticed it, sitting quietly in the junk folder of my email, as I was heading to bed on Tuesday evening. I foolishly fished it out of the junk file and read it.

It wanted the usual amount for Jim's daily care. Plus an arrears of $30,200, transferred from the previous owners. I really don't understand what the difficulty with this is. I've had two letters from Services Australia saying that Jim's daily fee will be the minimum payment, no extras required, one effective from February 1st, and one from March 1st. Nothing has changed in the time from July 22 to February 23. If it can be assessed from February, then why not from July 22?


Also, the bill only said that the money would be taken by direct debit on the agreed date. I didn't know what the agreed date was. The previous people had taken the money on the first Thursday of the month and that was in the past. I didn't want them trying to take that amount from my bank account. That would have seriously amused the bank!

I rang work as soon as it opened and said I wouldn't be in.

I decided that I couldn't, just couldn't bear to ring the assessment people yet again, so drove out to the wastelands where Services Australia moved a couple of years ago. It's easy enough to get to by car but I do wonder how people who don't have a car get there. I assume there's a bus service ...

Anyway. I had a pleasant, reasonably short wait before a helpful, lovely lady called me. She was highly sympathetic but alas, the only people who can deal with this are the Residential Aged Care Assessment people and they are only available by phone.  She did give me their phone number (which, you'll be amazed to hear, I already have) and a number for the complaints and feedback line.

Mega Sigh.

I called into the cafe next door for emergency raisin toast and a hot chocolate, then went home and rang the assessment number. 45 minutes later I was talking to yet another person who asked all the same questions, checked the documentation to make sure it was all there (it was), and told me that the assessment was waiting for someone to be assigned to do it. I pointed out that I had been told it would be done as a matter of urgency. It *is* being treated as a matter of urgency, but they're busy.

So am I!

I rang the complaints line, waited for 35 minutes for it to be answered, and fell into - I'm not sure whether it was a Kafkaesque world or whether it was more Alice's Wonderland. Whatever it was, it was frustrating, bizarre, no help whatsoever. The person I spoke to thought I was talking about pensions, didn't seem to understand about assessments, and had me living in Buninyong, at an address that I have never lived at (although Ross does!!!!) I definitely don't understand that. Medicare, the Tax Office, the Electoral Office and various other Federal Government Departments know exactly where I live.

I rang the new owners of the care home to see what we could do about the bill for $32,000. Someone will call me back, although they haven't yet. I don't think I was the only person who had rung about similar issues!

Then, at Lindsey's suggestion, I rang the local office of our federal member of parliament. I would never have thought about doing this, but Lindsey knows a couple of people who work in MPs' offices and they had mentioned that they do this sort of thing. The person I spoke to understood what I was saying, asked pertinent questions and said she would look into it and get back to me. Although probably not this week.

A couple of people have suggested that Services Australia are deliberately messing me about for their own nefarious purposes. I can't see what they would gain by that.  They will eventually have to reduce the amount Jim owed from July. And, as someone very wise once said to me, a long, long time ago, if you have to choose between conspiracy or incompetence - it's pretty much always incompetence. 

Things haven't changed!!

My dealings with the State government have been much more straightforward. I got the $250 power allowance that Victorian residents are entitled to. It's not means tested but there are a couple of things you need to do to be eligible. I did them. The money came in. I applied for a small State grant for my solar panels. I filled in the form. The grant was made available. The solar panels arrived. I applied for a small State grant for a heat pump hot water service. The grant was made available. The heat pump is coming next week. Both these grants are means tested but there was no drama getting that sorted out.

The solar panels are working well. I checked my electricity usage yesterday. I don't do this very often but I do when I have new appliances, just to see how much power they use. And this is what the app showed me:

The 3 cents is the estimated supply charge
No electricity coming in from the grid

It is true that it was very sunny yesterday morning, even so I am rather pleased with my new toy.

It was Lindsey's birthday yesterday. She and Stella came to my place for a birthday lunch. We had the lemon stir fry with rice noodles that I had prepared for Lindsey and me  to have for lunch at work on Wednesday, bumped up a bit for the extra person. And with prawns rather than the planned chicken in honour of the lack of prawns in Stella's diet in the care home. Also, prawns are slightly more celebratory than crispy chicken wings.

Tuesday, May 09, 2023

And Another Weekend

The solar panel inspector came on Thursday at just after 8:30 in the morning. Fortunately, I had seen the message he sent at 7:30 to say he was on his way, and so was up and dressed.

He didn't stay long and the panels were turned on well before 09:00 

He explained lots of things but I do wish he had mentioned that the inverter turns itself off when it is dark. I was a bit worried when I noticed on Friday morning, before sunrise, that it wasn't working!

Wendy came for the weekend on the 10:00 train on Friday morning. We went out to what used to be the Amazing Mill Market and is now the Ballarat Vintage and Collectibles Market and had a good potter round, plus a rather nice toastie and a rather weak coffee.. I haven't been in there since it change hands. It's been re-arranged but is still fun.

Lindsey, Wendy and I took Stella to the Bridge Mall Market on Saturday, called in to Black Pepper for Stella to buy some new clothes, had a sausage sizzle sandwich, visited Big W and had coffee and a(nother) toastie in Hudsons. Stella went to a Coronation afternoon tea in the care home. And we all watched the coronation on our various TVs - even Stella who watched it on her phone.

We re-gathered on Sunday and went to the Red Lion for lunch. It's on the main road heading into town. None of us had been there before. We will go again - although Lindsey thought: It's got smaller spaces than the Golden Point, not as open plan, much quieter and easier to hear, and I thought - It's got smaller spaces than the Golden Point, not as open plan, not as bright and light! The food was good. No alcohol free wine though.

Wendy went home. Stella went home. Lindsey and I went out to Delacombe for pet food and to the supermarket. Then I went home and so did Lindsey

It was very cold this weekend. Apparently a polar blast had made its way up from the Antarctic. I initially read the report as saying that there was a polar bear making its way up from the Antarctic. This was briefly puzzling. There aren't any polar bears in the Antarctic!

I regularly remember to look up when I am out and about in Ballarat. Lots of the laneways and alleyways have pretty thing overhead

It turns out that you should also look down:

The tiny things along this laneway have,
apparently, been there for a very long time.
I have not noticed them before

Ian and Lindsey came around and helped move the top of the dresser into the garage and the base between the two cabinets. The dining room looks very good (although perhaps like a dining room in a guest house or B&B!)

And somebody came yesterday and took away the freezer which had been in the garage. I had noticed on the Ballarat Buy Nothing Group on Facebook that a food pantry in a kindergarten/childcare centre/ maternal and infant health clinic was looking for a freezer so it could accept donations from the supermarkets. Mine wasn't doing anything useful so I offered it. Nice to think of it doing something useful in the community.

Stella in the warm and cosy pub,
on a cold and breezy Sunday

Thursday, May 04, 2023

Solar Panels

They came to install the solar panels on Monday at lunchtime.

Uh oh! 

They were worried about two things. They were concerned that the roof tiles might not be robust enough when they were putting up the struts for the panels. I don't have any spare tiles (why would I, I wondered.) As it happens, there are a couple, plus a load of ridge tiles, by the back of the garage wall, along with some wooden boxes and what I strongly suspect is a redback spider nest. The tiles were there when we moved in. I left them there and put the small wooden boxes on top to stop the cats going along the back of the garage. It's a very narrow space which I wouldn't fit along and I don't want them going down there and refusing to come back. Or escaping. Or anything else.

Anyway. I digress. No spare roof tiles. I'm not sure why the roof tiles would be so fragile. The building is only 13 or 14 years old, not 130 or 140 years old. But I suspect the three units were not built to a very high spec and I have a feeling they might have been built as rentals. They were certainly bought and then used as rentals. Just one careful owner until she got bored and sold all three units separately, which is when we bought ours.

The other concern they had was that if they put all the panels up that had been planned they might well damage the ridge tiles and then all sorts of undesirable roof problems might/would arise.

I have not budgeted in any way for a completely new roof. It is emphatically not on the list of Things To Do.

They went away and returned on Tuesday with some roof tiles they had picked up from some tile yard somewhere, and they put up 8 solar panels rather than the 10 that had originally been planned.

I can't use them yet. I'm not allowed to turn them on until An Inspector Calls and turns them on themself.

Benefits of using a local rather than a national company: No attempt to upsell. The owner came round, looked at the house, talked to me, assessed what my actual power needs would be and designed a system to suit. He discussed the need for a battery with me. No point putting one in just yet for a small system. They're very expensive and it probably wouldn't be cost effective. Monitor things for 12 months and decide after a full four seasons of use if I think it would be worthwhile. And, when I came back from taking Stella to a doctor's appointment, they had finished up, tidied up, closed the garage door. There was no indication they had ever been there, apart from the solar panels on the roof.

Until I opened the garage door to put the car away and found they had swept the garage out. I wasn't surprised they had cleaned up after themselves but the complete sweeping of the garage was above and beyond. I've been thinking for some time that it really, really needed doing!

Garage roof

Main roof

Monday, May 01, 2023


I went out, bright and early yesterday morning, to collect Freyja from her isolated farmhouse in the middle of the Wombat State Forest. It was a beautiful morning for a drive in the countryside. There were more people out and about at that time on a Sunday morning than I had expected. They were going for walks along the tracks in the forest, some carrying picnic baskets. They were out cycling. They were driving old or antique cars. All apparently having a good time.

Freyja had had a good time at her vegan food retreat. I look forward one day to sampling some of the pretty pasta she has learned to make.

We were making our way towards Daylesford  when we saw up ahead a lot of stopped cars and many people along the side of the road, some waving their arms in warning. We could see a very great deal of debris across the road and a car straddling the road. It was clear there had been quite a bad accident, not long before we got there. There didn't seem to be much that we could do to help. There were already lots of people there and I assume someone had called the emergency services. I couldn't see any point waiting for the road to clear. That was likely to take hours, even longer if it had been a fatal, which it looked very much as though it might have been.

So I did a multiple point turn and we made our way up a narrow forest/mountain road, not absolutely sure where it was going but fairly certain that it would eventually end up somewhere.

It was a beautiful drive, on a glorious morning, which took us back to the main road, almost into Daylesford. I think we could probably have rejoined the main road sooner, looking at the map when I got home. But we weren't in any hurry and it was a lovely diversion - though I am sorry it was delivered because of a nasty accident.

Here are some of Freyja's photos of Sailors Creek Road. I couldn't take any, obviously. I was driving

We went to the Daylesford Sunday Market for a wander around, and then for a look at the Scenic Drive in the Daylesford Botanic Gardens, before meeting Lindsey, Ian and Simon at Harry's in Hepburn Springs for lunch. Stella had been hoping to join us for lunch but hadn't been particularly well during the week so didn't come. Apart from that, it was a lovely Sunday.

When I went to pick Freyja up from the station on Friday, I was a bit early so dropped into Wilson's to see what was there. They had a fruit and veg box for $7, which had a large half cabbage, half a green melon, a bag of onions and a variety of other things, including a green and a red pepper, a box of raspberries, a box of strawberries, some apples, a pear, an orange and more. Excellent value for money, I'm sure you'll agree. I picked some of the sweet corn and the last of the baby pumpkins from the garden. Then Freyja and I bought some garlic, lemons, beetroot, more baby pumpkins, other things at the Daylesford market. And this is what my kitchen bench looked like when I got up this morning:

All very delicious. Now I just have to eat it all!

The accident at Leonards Hill yesterday wasn't, I am pleased to say, a fatal. The air ambulance was called and took two people to hospital in Melbourne. Two other people went to hospital in Ballarat. But I'm glad we turned around and went along the forest road. I think it took a very long time to clear the main road.