Category Archives: Try Something Different

#78 Rate the Justice System

It was my misfortune recently to be the victim of a crime. This means that I’ve had dealings with our justice system up close and personal, and let me tell you, it’s not a pretty sight.

It all began when the tax agent who’s looked after my Super Fund for the last ten years suddenly went rogue and stole my tax refund. He was able to do this by virtue of him being my tax agent in the first place, because the position gives him entry to my tax portal at the ATO.

This, I’ve now learned, is like giving him my front door key and mentioning that I’d be away for the long weekend and that a very valuable package was about to be delivered.

So several thousands of my hard-earned dollars — dollars that the ATO was supposed to refund to my account — were shifted into his account instead.

Getting justice has proven to be quite difficult, so I seem to have been left with only two options. Either go mad and turn into yet another old person yelling at clouds, or

I feel your pain, Grandpa Simpson

#78 Rate the Justice System

And thanks to the great example set by Miles Barlow, there’s a precedent for scoring life’s experiences as one would review a restaurant or film. So here are my star ratings for the whole sorry saga.

1. The Criminal (hereinafter known as X)

Despite my repeated phone calls and emails to X, he has proven resistant to repaying the stolen funds. In fact, he went so far as to suggest that he had been unable to look at my problem “due to health reasons” before adding that “the only thing I can think is that another client … [with a name identical to yours] … owed us money and had agreed to us receiving her refund.”

Really, X? That’s the only thing you can think?

Verdict: ***** No stars

2. The Lawyers

The lawyers sprang into action for me. They were outraged! The man was a criminal who had committed fraud and irrespective of his company’s ability to pay, he had stolen this money and was therefore personally liable. A very stiff letter, outlining sections and subsections of the Corporations Act was sent demanding return my money … or else. The lawyers even had the chutzpah to add “your assertion that these changes were intended to apply to another of your clients named …[exactly the same name as our client] … is, frankly, absurd.”

I was buoyed by this, even more so when X responded asking them how much he owed me now, including their fees. That was until a report came out in the local newspaper:

…it was pointed out to me that trusting anyone who’d
wear a lime green tie might have been my first mistake.

It turned out X owed over a million dollars and had assets of about $15,000. So my lawyers reluctantly, but kindly, suggested that any further action on my part might be throwing good money after bad. I had to agree with them.

Verdict:   *****  Four stars. (At least they tried)

3. The Police

If you can avoid living on the border between two states, I’d urge you to take that option. I live in New South Wales. X ran his business across the Murray River in Victoria. My experience with the police has thus far entailed both me and my statement bouncing from one side of the river to the other for several weeks as they decide which jurisdiction should handle it and whether to call it fraud (NSW) or theft (Vic).

My statement’s currently down a rabbit hole somewhere in Victoria, but they’ve assured me they’ll ring me back the minute they find it. Very, very soon, or possibly even earlier.

Verdict: ***** Two stars.
(They are trying. In more ways than one)

4. The Liquidator

So then I rang the liquidator and spoke to his offsider, a youthful sounding lawyer by the name of Will. Such a perfect name for someone who comes in at the death of a business.

Will didn’t say it in so many words, but after he’d explained that I was at the back of a long line of creditors, with the Tax Office at the front of the queue, I gathered that the likelihood of ever seeing my stolen money was even more remote than my chance of visiting Antarctica soon.

Verdict: ***** Three stars. (It’s not his fault
that the cupboard is bare).

5. The ATO

It seemed a reasonable idea to lodge a complaint to the tax ombudsman. After all, the ATO knew X’s  business was heavily in debt to them as they were the ones who wound it up, so why would they meekly pay my tax return to him without checking with me first?

Nope. Not our fault, they said. It was ASIC who had the strike-off action against his business, not us. We just entered the game at the end. So move along, please, nothing to see here.

Verdict : ***** One star. (I bet it’d be my fault
if the roles were reversed)

6. The Regulator

Make sure you report X to the Tax Practitioner’s Board (TPB), everyone from the lawyers to the police, the ATO to the liquidator, exhorted me. The TPB won’t stand for this behaviour. They’ll come down on this miscreant like a ton of bricks.

So I lodged a complaint with the TPB, was heartened when the case officer took a keen interest in my complaint, elated that she understood all the points I made, relieved when she said the Board took these issues very seriously.

Then I received this letter from the Board:

No further action after one of their own stole money from his client? Ton of bricks indeed! More like a piddling pile of Lego.

Verdict: ****** Minus one star. (The extra deduction’s for using
the term ‘incorrectly’ instead of ‘feloniously’)


Quite frankly, I’m a bit disappointed. For years I’ve watched the opening credits of the TV show Law and Order tell me that in the criminal justice system the people are represented by two separate, yet equally important, groups: the police, who investigate crime;  and the district attorneys, who prosecute the offenders. And their stories are always resolved in an hour.

Sadly, this awful episode, which just drags on and on, has been my story.

Verdict: ***** One star

#76 Write a Novel

Way back in December 2014, in blog #24, I discussed the fun of attending the Albury launch of my sister’s middle-grade book Stand Up and Cheer. It’s a novel about the daring rescue of the Dutch plane, the Uiver, by the citizens of Albury during the Great Centenary Air Race of 1934 told through the eyes of an intrepid ten year old.

By the time the book’s second launch occurred in Sydney in early 2015, I’d decided that this book-writing caper seemed like a jolly lark, and I wouldn’t mind having a go at it myself. Sensibly, I asked my sister if she’d like to join me and write together.

With the benefit of hindsight, it was a crazy undertaking. Had I known it would take four years from beginning to end, and that retired ladies in a regional city, writing about other similarly-aged ladies in a regional city, would have as much appeal to young publishers as we do to powerful, wealthy men, I may have hesitated.

But I did not know this, and so I innocently decided to

#76 Write a Novel  

To be truthful, the writing only took us two years and 9 months. It took another 12 months of submitting the manuscript far and wide to realise that it was never going to move beyond a publisher’s slush pile.

The name’s a giveaway, really.

Does this look like something you’d enjoy wading through?

Enter indie publishing, a way to bypass established publishers who actually pay you to take on your book, who do all the work, and might, if you’re lucky and/or famous, and/or have an agent, give you an advance. In cold, hard cash. They’ll distribute your books all around the country, too, and even overseas. And they’ll help promote you.

Indie publishing, on the other hand, enables you to hire someone who knows the ropes and who’ll help you—for a fee—publish eBooks and paperback books that will be available on line. Going indie has the bonus of giving you complete control over the finished product: the look, the size, the cost, the cover, the print run, and of course, the quantum of financial loss you can bear. And it also gives you the chance to become a marketer, a distributor, a self promoter and all those things that anyone who writes, and is therefore most likely to be an introvert, truly dislikes.

But on the plus side, it can all be done in under three months.

So that’s what we did.

And after four long years, we’ve ended up with a real book with a cover that looks like this:

                                                              Superb design by Christa Moffitt 

and a story that can be summarised thus:

Twitter? … WhatsApp? … Tumblr?

Six women in the riverside city of Albury  realise that, without social media skills, they’re staring irrelevancy in the face. Their book club won’t cut it any more. Time to go virtual.
But their decision to plunge into the on-line world brings horrifying revelations and unexpected outcomes. Friendships, new and old, are tested and their lives teeter on the edge of collapse. They must navigate a path through the chaos, but who exactly can they trust?

A small town
A world wide web
Is the net really a friend?


So if you’ve enjoyed reading this blog over the past six and a half years and would be interested in moving on to Contemporary Women’s Fiction written by the same author, but one whose writing has been markedly improved by having a second, better author join her, Secrets of the IN-group is now available.

It’s published by Resisters and will be officially released on May 2:

(Resisters. That’s us!)

You can order an eBook or print copy at Amazon or Booktopia or find other eBook retailers on books2read.

If you live locally, Dymocks in Albury is stocking it, as well as Beechworth Books and Collins Booksellers in WaggaWagga.  Perfectly timed for Mother’s Day.

Should you enjoy it, please do tell your friends …

and we’ll cherish you for life if you post a positive review on Goodreads.

Featured image from Gladys Peto’s Told in the Gloaming published by John F Shaw & Co Ltd London, circa 1920
Resisters Logo designed by Laura Pike

#74 Admire Public Art

Imagine being in a job where you’re rarely praised, often the target of harsh complaints and dismissively known as the Rates, Roads and Rubbish people.

Such is the lot of local councils, but in reality, they’re so much more than that. The council can help make it a real pleasure to live in your town or city.

At our most recent Discovery Group meeting, a local artist, Ken Raff was invited to speak to our members about the public art works he’s been commissioned to create for the Albury-Wodonga area. Since hearing him speak, it’s caused me to stop, look around and …

# Admire Public Art

Ken spoke about the evolution of a public sculpture, and it was the first time I’d realised that our council has people assigned to this very process. Impressive!

Extensive work is involved in the development of such pieces, involving the tender process, the artist chosen, site evaluations, various council departments as well as engineering and fabrication experts and businesses. And through all of this, the artist has to hope that the vision of his work will be maintained.

Here’s one of Ken’s wonderful creations, where it all came together so well.

Called Porta, this installation is sited at the entrance to Victoria from NSW

The choice of colours and even the tilt of the spheres have been meticulously considered by the creator.

And a panoramic shot may give you a better sense of its imposing height and perfect positioning …

This also shows the importance of ‘place’ in public art. In the wrong spot, it might have been lost, but here – simply magnificent!


My public art crawl has now ranged from the stainless steel facade sculpture by renowned artist Matthew Harding, sited at the back of our Art Gallery, MAMA,

Degrees of Separation  (Crossing Paths)

to another of Ken Raff‘s works in the main street …

                                                                      The River 

and on to the imposing galvanised steel artwork called Grow by Warren Langley, representing the crimson spider orchid, an endangered flower found in Albury, but few other locations …


Then there’s the latest sculpture in the Botanical gardens …

The Fern by Michael Laubli

… so perfectly suited to this position.


Public art can also encompass improving some of the plainer aspects of modern living, like applying mural art to otherwise dull areas such as drains and NBN boxes –

Birdwatcher painted by Kade SarteBanana Joe by Kristina GreenwoodThe cover-up!

It’s exciting to come across the art in your local neighbourhood.  I know there are several more pieces for me to discover.

During this adventure, I stumbled across a copy of Banksy’s Rage  – local artist unknown – stencilled under a bridge on the New South Wales side of the Murray River.

It’s positioned to look like the person is about to lob a hand grenade – into Victoria!

Fortunately, the missile is a bunch of brightly coloured flowers.

Cute.

 

 

Photo of the Tai Chi Bunnies taken at Circular Quay, Sydney in January at the Chinese New Year celebrations. I’m told they glow at night!  

.

#73 Master the Art of Holiday Packing

It was while my sister was trying to fit all her clothes, plus new Christmas presents and purchases, into a suitcase for her return to Sydney recently that I was reminded of a technique for packing that can reduce stress on suitcases and lower backs.

So today’s activity is a tip on how to:

#73 Master the Art of Holiday Packing

I did feel somewhat guilty watching how difficult it was to close the suitcase. Because back in Sydney resides a marvellous plastic, three-panelled board that allows my sister to fold clothes perfectly flat, and all ending in a uniform size, ready to be neatly stacked into a case.

Unfortunately, I’d completely forgotten that I’d promised to make one just like it for use at my place.

This strange looking contraption is, in fact, a genius!

To tell you the truth, when I was staying at her place in Sydney, I’d initially looked at it with surprise, before laughing at the idea of using a complicated-looking board like this merely to fold clothes.

But then I tried it – wow! I became a complete convert. It’s magic! Where on earth could I get one?

Careful examination revealed that all the fancy cut out holes and shapes don’t seem to have a vital function, even though a YouTube video by the manufacturer suggests they’re needed for ventilation and to reduce static. Hmm…

Unless I’m missing something, it seems you can get away without them.

So I took detailed measurements…

and once back home, realised that with a simple piece of corflute, it would be a doddle to make.

So here’s how to create your own masterful folding implement:

Step one: Cut the corflute into a rectangle measuring 70cm W by 60cm L. Then cut two thin vertical wedges (or slits) out of the lower half, 23 cm from each side edge like so:

Step two: Flip the board over and make three shallow incisions only half-way through the corflute, so they remain attached but can bend; the first cut is made across the middle third in the centre, and the other two cuts are made vertically to extend the slits thus…

and you end up with a plain, but perfectly functional folding board, admittedly without ventilation …

                                                               too easy


Now it’s time to have some fun. Lay your jumper/shirt/blouse/t-shirt/pants etc face down on the board and arrange it so the item fits into the confines of the template like so:

then quickly ‘flip’ in the right panel first to fold in the material on that side, before flipping the panel out again, then repeat these actions with the left panel, before finally ‘flipping’ up the lower panel and flipping it back down again.

Then turn the item over to showcase a perfectly folded piece of clothing …

I know, I know, this may seem like a lot of trouble to perform something so simple, but when you have a heap of clothes you want to fit into a small bag, trust me, it only takes seconds doing it this way, they all end up exactly the same dimensions and you feel like a magician.

If you then stack these perfectly folded items and slide them into clear zipped vacuum packing bags that allows you to squeeze all the air out, you’ll be amazed what you can fit into a small case …

Not only that, when you arrive at your holiday destination and unpack, the items come out looking reasonably well pressed! I’m convinced now that every hotel and household needs one.

But failing this, there’s another sure fire tip to minimise the horror that is packing.

Store duplicate toiletries, PJs, dressing gown, spare shoes, a pillow and anything else you may need at your destination in a specially purchased, large cedar chest provided by your host.

Preferably one that can double as a coffee table in their living room the rest of the time.

Thanks for this, sis.

 

 

#72 Discover Odd Signs

It is the unalienable right of retired people to spend their days tut-tutting about the state of the world and remonstrating about the general drop in standards to anyone within earshot. Or, in the alternative, to pen outraged letters to the editor about the shocking loss of civility in current times.

Being loath to miss out on this activity, and noticing how many bizarre signs abound, signs that would never have been seen in my youth (like the above advertisement where a beautiful face was deliberately graffitied to sell a product!)  I thought it worthwhile turning into a fussy old pedant myself, and using this blog as my pulpit:

 #72 Discover Odd Signs

MISPRINTS

Is it my imagination or are there more egregious misprints nowadays?

Although having said this, I can’t tell you how exciting it was to find a misprint that described my fellow pedants so glowingly:   

But I did wonder where this restaurant goes on the other 6 days. 

Presumably to somewhere further away?

Misprints that sound real can be puzzling, like this one in an article about an Archbishop’s speech.

Verison sounds so much like a word one might find in the Macquarie dictionary, that I’ve decided to start using it to mean a misleading statement about faith.

Schools, above all others, should take care with spelling. One can only feel sympathy for young ‘Sohpie’, having her moment of glory spoiled like this.

I wonder if the two Sophies fought over whose name was the misspelled one? Or is it possible that somewhere, some 16 or 17 years ago, a father and mother decided to call their daughter Sohpie because no-one else in the class would spell it that way? (Speaking of which, is Aby really a name?)

Especially satisfying are those misspellings that throw up an incorrect, but real word that completely changes the meaning.The anti-abortion group mentioned are actually called ‘The Helpers of God’s Precious Infants’ but as legislation now prevents them standing directly outside clinics invading the medical privacy of the patients attending, maybe the misprint ‘previous’ is perfectly apt.


ATROCIOUS GRAMMAR

Bad grammar can throw up some disturbing visual images:

Really? The bullets were singing Amazing Grace? Now that is amazing.


TERRIBLE PLACEMENT

Poor juxtaposition of discrete articles can lead to unintended outcomes. I suspect someone’s head may have rolled when the bosses discovered this posted on an ABC news site. It was only up for about 10 minutes:


DOWNRIGHT LIES

But the signs that really make me hot under the collar are the ones that lie.

First, there was this outside a shop in Balmain …

A shop that cared so much about their ‘beloved Balmain doggies’ that they didn’t even bother putting out any water!

Then there was the hoarding for Clive Palmer’s party, erected recently at the end of my street.

We’re supposed to believe that this man cares about farmers?

So I ‘virtually’ graffitied the sign at home on my computer to make it a little more honest, at least:

But before I had a chance to slip out on a moonless night with my hoodie and black paint and fix it in real time, someone else’s anger had spilled over and this was the result:

It wasn’t me, I swear!

And what about the house with a sign proudly calling itself Wisteria Lane but with not a flower or a vine or a trellis in sight:

Sorry, but if you’re going to call yourself by that name, at the very least you should look like this:

…taken at Tabletop by my Bunnings buddy

or this

Anything less is, quite frankly, misleading advertising and I’ll be writing a stiff letter to the editor about it.

#71 Research Weather Vanes

Browsing through the back pages of a gardening magazine recently, I came across a dazzling and tempting advertisement for weather vanes.

Now over my lifetime, these roof/garden accessories have never really occupied my thoughts. They’re nowhere near as vital as, say, a capacious water tank, nor as obsessively absorbing as a rain gauge.

But due to the power of advertising, I looked longingly at these beautiful fripperies and began to hanker after a weather vane for my own little pitched roof.

And so began the journey to

#71 Research Weather Vanes

This activity has thrown up so many questions.

  • How long have weather vanes been around?
  • Who purchases them?
  • Are they in any way useful?
  • Now I’m wandering the streets around home looking for them, how many have I missed over the years? (In short, every one of them)
  • Why are there so many roosters on weather vanes?

This little cutie’s just a block away from home, and yet I’d NEVER spotted it!

Also known as wind vanes (which is a more logical title, bearing in mind the point of the arrow can only tell you where the wind’s coming from) it’s claImed they were invented over 2000 years ago by the Chinese and the Greeks, who independently arrived at the idea.

The Greeks love to say that their design was first, but I’d give bragging rights to the Chinese, as theirs was documented in 139 BC, a full 89 years ahead of the bronze Triton built atop the Tower of the Winds in Athens.

And despite it being the wealthy Greeks and Romans who adorned their homes with wind vanes in the shape of ancient gods, the term ‘vane’ is not a variant of ‘vain’ at all, but comes from the Anglo-Saxon word ‘fane’ meaning wind.

It does seem that they have little functional purpose for most domestic homes, but now I’m on the hunt for them, they’re the prettiest, most eye catching little adornments on a roof you’ll ever see. If you actually notice them.

Another one I’ve blindly walked past numerous times over 27 years

This brings me to the rooster question. I’m beginning to spot so many of these birds that I’ve lost my child-like excitement at finding another vane and feel disappointed if it’s a boring old rooster cut from the same template.

There are two theories for the prevalence of roosters. The first is that in the 9th century, Pope Nicholas 1 ordered their image be placed on every church steeple to remind the congregation of Peter’s thrice betrayal of Jesus (before the cock crowed). The second theory is that the tail is the perfect shape to catch the wind.

I have a third theory. If you’ve ever owned a rooster, you’ll know that they think their rightful place is on top.

It was pleasing to come across another vane nearby that didn’t bother with the rooster theme, though…

Yes. Another one close by that I’ve never noticed before [sigh].


Then I spotted a weather vane on our city’s railway station tower as I was hurtling along the Sydney to Melbourne freeway.  It’s a big one, befitting such a building and I wish I had a camera with a telephoto lens to better see the design.

Almost the cause of a multi-car pile up on the M31

This led to a friend telling me that our Post Office tower also has one. As I first moved to Albury in 1978, this would make it, oh, 40 years during which I’ve managed to not notice it. D’oh.

The ball on top is simple, but the N-S-E-W takes the prize for artistry


One of the problems with weather vanes is that because they’re on the roof, they aren’t convenient to watch. It’d be just as easy to step outside and rotate your face through 360º to feel which way the wind is blowing.

Enter my Bunnings buddy, a peerless innovator and inventor, who’s designed the cleverest system to see the direction of the wind while the family sits in the living room.

With a wire and lever rig that’s way beyond my intellect to understand, let alone explain, he’s connected his roof’s weather vane down through the wall cavity into the living room so that a lever moves every time the vane does:

Here are three positions photographed to show how the lever moves. 

But there’s more genius to this device. The lever has been cleverly attached to the back of a 3-D bird on a water colour painting of his property (done by the very talented estate cartographer, @catherineo’neilldesign) hanging on the wall, such that as the lever moves with the wind on the rooftop weather vane, so does the bird in the painting. 

Can you believe this …?

It’s breathtaking in its beauty and cleverness. But quite scary the first time you visit my Bunnings buddy’s home.  Seeing the bird move out the corner of your eye is akin to being in a haunted house where the eyes of an Old Master’s portrait flick about … watching, watching.

And the weather vane to which this marvellous device and painting is attached?

A bespoke masterpiece he designed, of course:


Now that I’ve returned to the gardening magazine ads that set me on this adventure, I’ve realised that vanes featuring icons like a cockerel, a ball or a bird are way too prosaic.

I’m going to have to design a vane that befits my home and my life.

Perhaps something like this one I mocked up on the computer …?

 

 

#70 Commission a Bespoke Design for the Garden Shed

About five years ago, I snapped up a small garden shed at Aldi’s during the two-and-a-half day window they allow you to grab any must-have-item-you-didn’t-know-you-needed before they move on to their next set of specials and you’ve lost your chance.

(Aldi’s specials are so reminiscent of the rotating magical land at the top of Enid Blyton’s Faraway Tree. You never know if you’ll find the Land of Goodies, replete with tins of biscuits and chocolates, or Dame Slap’s School where bins spill over with lycra, gym equipment and barbells.)

Anyway, when this particular Land of Desirable Garden Equipment arrived, I was seduced by the kit shed and phrases written on the box like ‘easily assembled’ and ‘few tools required’, so I brought it home to put together over an afternoon.

Three gruelling days over Easter later, and after calling in a friend who’d once built the ‘Taj Mahal’ for his chickens, four of us actually followed the instruction sheets …

(… a stunning achievement on its own)

… and completed the task. Most satisfying.

                                                                    A sturdy little fellow

But despite loving it for the last few years for being so useful, I wasn’t able to get rid of the feeling that it was a little … plain?

So last year, when an artistic friend came to visit for a few days, we made a deal.

I’d

#70 Commission a Bespoke Design for the Garden Shed 

which she’d plan and execute, and in return I’d cook all her favourite meals for the duration.

                                                                      Preparing the templates

I messed up badly, though. Against her advice (artists must DESPAIR of some of their clients), I chose bright blue, water soluble paint for the background, thinking it would look like the sky on a hot summer’s day. But after cleaning and prepping and masking the shed, then applying the first coat, it was obvious this particular blue was more reminiscent of the eye-watering gaudiness of Willie Wonka’s Chocolate Factory.

Luckily, before we progressed any further, it began to rain, the water-soluble paint sloughed off and so the idea was shelved for another day, another season.

I slowly stripped it back, before repainting it with a dark green oil-based paint ready for its proper makeover, some day in the future.

                                                                 Looking better already 

Recently, when my talented visitor returned, she made good on her promise.

Watching the evolution of a work of art is inspiring, from first seeing it look like Banksy was indulging in some artistic graffiti using the pre-prepared templates …

… to the meticulous application of the paint…

…to the final masterpiece, and the knowledge that I now have the best bespoke-designed little garden shed in the village!

Five years in the making, but don’t all great things take time?

Thank you so much @province_