About Chris Riley

Eclectic in all things.....

The year it all went pear-shaped (part three)

Our return to Australia didn’t see our lives as Grey Nomads return any time soon. We commenced the renovations on the old house in Deloraine. Our plan was to complete the inside of the house during the winter, give the outside a bit of a paint and get the gardens into some sort of shape during the summer. Then we’d be ready to get on with our travels.

There was a lot to do, and we were up for the challenge. We purchased some basic furniture to make it comfortable. We even purchased a second car so as I had something small to drive. I think we had a vague notion that we’d probably return to the house for a bit of domesticity between tenants. We had it in mind to sort out some storage for the household goods and car on the property. We could then leave our rig on the mainland where ever we happened to be and fly to Tassie, saving the expensive fuel and ferry costs to get there.

My sister, a member of one of the non main-steam religious sects, lives nearby in Launceston. We’ve always been close, and despite some internal pressure from her religious brotherhood not to associate with her worldly sister, we were enjoying spending time together. To spend time in Tassie between tenants, catching up with her from time to time was something I was looking forward to. A post script to that is that her brotherhood have since won out and she can no longer associate with her worldly sister. Something that subsequently influenced a decision down the track not to keep the Tassie house. Going there for visits between tenants had lost a lot of its appeal!

But first, back to the house. Shortly after commencing the renovations I slipped over in the garden while doing some pruning and broke my right wrist – yes, I’m right handed. This slowed down the renovations considerably. News from the UK indicated Paul’s dad was going down hill. We were doing the best we could to get on with house, and hoping Paul’s dad would come good, or at least not get worse. My wrist came out of plaster around the same time Paul’s dad went back into hospital. The news wasn’t good. Friends in the UK advised us that we needed to put plans in place to get over there. He was stabilised and then placed into respite/care.

It was clear we weren’t going to have time to chip away at the renovations at our leisure. It was also clear no time frame could be estimated for the time we were  going to need to spend in the UK. What to do – we employed help to finish off the house quickly. Paul lined an existing shed on the property which was big enough to store the household goods we’d purchased, and with no time to set up storage for the car, we sold it. A quick sale meant a considerable financial loss, but at least it was something less for us to worry about. A tenant was found. We put the rig into storage and and in October 2015 we headed to the UK. October is the end of the Tassie winter and the start of the UK winter, so back to back winters!

A couple of months with good food, and company and Paul’s dad was a different person. It was clear that having company, and someone to care for him was giving him a quality of life he couldn’t sustain on his own. We wanted to stay for however much time he had left, and my six month visa was nearing its end. I applied for an extension but that was denied. They saw no need for me to stay longer… (sore point).

We did what we could to make it easier for Pauls dad. We found him a small flat for the elderly that had some support, and we arranged for the sale of his house. We had done all we could.

We returned to Tassie at the end of March, picked up the rig, and tried to book our fare on the ferry to return to the mainland. The earliest confirmed booking was July. We tried daily for cancellations so as to get out before the winter, and eventually one came through. At an additional cost of $500 we sailed away from Tassie on Anzac Day 2016.  It was only a couple of weeks before some dreadful weather hit the small island state with record flooding. Finally, a stroke of luck! We had managed to get out in the nick of time.

We were back to our Grey Nomad travels. We moved up the East Coast trying to remain always within internet and phone cover so as to keep track of what was happening in the UK. Our travel funds were poorly depleted. Part of our original travel plans had included doing some seasonal work as we travelled. We’d had more than twelve months not working and needed to replenish….

We found work in the Gulf of Carpentaria working on a cattle station. The internet cover was dismal. We’d do a 200 km round trip once a week to Normanton so as to check emails. It was awful. Pauls dad went into hospital once again, then back into respite care. We left the job after only three weeks. The job was pretty crappy anyway – or at least the boss was.

We moved onto Katherine in the Northern Territory where our son lives, planning to stay for some seasonal work. If another urgent trip was needed to the UK, Paul was to go on his own, and I would stay with Kelvin nearby for company.

The stress of the past year had taken its toll though. A house came up for sale at a good price in Busselton, and somehow to have the security of living in a home was outweighing our dream life of travelling around like vagabonds. We bought the house, sight unseen, and our dream of Grey Nomading our way around Australia for a minimum of seven years came to an end.

Postscript: Paul’s dad passed away four months after we moved into our Busselton house. We’ve since sold the house in Tassie to the tenant, and even made a very small profit. Our big rig has been replaced with a smaller rig for part time travel only. We’ve now lived in Busselton for two and a half years, and have made some great friends here. It’s not the life we had planned for ourselves back in 2013. Perhaps it’s a better life, who knows! All’s well that ends well – we’re content.

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The year it all went pear shaped (part two)

Our departure day for Rome was only a few days away when Paul’s dad became ill. He was so weak he couldn’t get out of his chair without help. A visit to the Doctor and  antibiotics were started. An appointment was made for two days time (the day before our departure was due).

Before I carry on with this story I’ll point out that Paul is an only child. His dad had no-one else to care for him, and I mean absolutely no-one. When we were in Australia and things went wrong for him he would be hospitalised, or put into a respite centre until he was on his feet again. But on this occasion we were there. We took him back for his follow up appointment – he was no better. He still couldn’t get himself out of a chair unaided. His Doctor,  knowing we were due to leave the next day, arranged immediately for the receptionist to type up a letter for the travel insurance. To leave his dad was out of the question, and as we were there on this occasion, putting him into hospital was also out of the question.

We called the tour company and cancelled. Of course at such short notice it was impossible to onsell our tour places. We hoped we wouldn’t have trouble being re-imbursed with our travel insurance!

We had not only the tour booked and paid for, but also hotels in Rome and Naples pre and post tour. We had first class tickets booked and paid for on the Euro star, and we had our return flight booked from Italy back to Manchester. Paul’s dad recovered, so we decided we’d try and still get to Italy for the  week of my birthday, and use what we could from our original bookings. At this point we additionally booked and paid for a tour of Pompei, some extra hotel accommodation, and a tour of the colleseum.

Our flight was due to depart Manchester around 6am. We slept in, but still had time to drop our hire car off and get to the airport on time. We arrived with what we thought was around a half hour to spare. Rather than go and check in immediately we dwadled around stopping to  exchange pounds for euros at the money exchange counter. I don’t know what we were thinking, or if we were thinking at all. Let me point out here that Paul and I both have the phillosophy that to be on time is to be late. We’re always early, and in the case of flghts we allow an extra hour. I can only think that because of the close proximity of all the countries in Europe we must have been thinking the arrival times pre-flight were the same as a domestic Australian flight. We weren’t thinking of it as international that’s for sure.

If you haven’t guessed by now, we missed the bloody flight!  Boarding was closed, the next  available flight to Rome was 36 hours later leaving from Glasgow. I was ashen! I  still have trouble believing that we, of all people, missed a flight. That just isn’t like us.

So, what to do now. Italy was out of the question. I wasn’t going back to Paul’s dad’s, so where to go. We decided on the Cotswolds. We collected the hire car and set off in stunned, stony silence. The tourist bureau was super busy – it was school holidays. All reasonably priced accommodation had been taken. We left, and drove around looking for somewhere that had a bed. We found a manor house hotel in a village called Lower Slaughter. I kid you not – there’s both an Upper, and a Lower Slaughter in the Cotswolds, and they’re actually gorgeous little quaint places, despite the ghastly names.  On this occasion though I could have been staying at Buckingham Palace and wouldn’t have been impressed.

Yes, the manor house hotel had a bed for approximately $500 Australian a night. No wonder it wasn’t booked out for the school holidays – Paul looked at me, what did I think? My answer was a very despondent, “I don’t care”. And I didn’t, I just wanted four walls around me so as I could cry.

We stayed for two nights in the most gorgeous accommodation I’ve most likely ever stayed in (absolutely wasted on us both at that point in time), and I cried. It doesn’t end there though. Even the best of accommodation can get things wrong!

The room was massive, as was the bed. The en-suite was all marble and huge, with double vanities, spa bath and double shower. The bed had a rather heavy bedspread on it, which i folded back only to discover some very large and rather unsavoury stains on the underside. They were clean stains, but stains all the same. I folded the bedspread in the corner of the room with the stains clearly visable, and told them at reception to make sure the bedspread wasn’t put back on the bed. We returned from an outing the next day, and you guessed it – the bedspread was back on the bed! The last straw!!!

Down to reception I marched. Paul ducked for cover. “WHERE’S THE DUTY MANAGER”, I demanded. The duty manager appeared. “COME WITH ME” I ordered, and marched him upstairs to our room. I’d had a good few days of disappointments the likes of which I’d never experienced before – let’s just say my fury was tangible. The manager was most apologetic and humble. Were we eating in the restaurant that night – he would make it up to us!

We arrived for our dinner reservation and were met by the manager who led us to the best seat in the restaurant. Neither of us were much in the mood for drinking, but I ordered a glass of bubbly, and Paul a glass of red. They had a tasting menu (in Australia a degustation menu). Not wanting to make any choices we opted for the tasting menu. I think from memory it was around seven small courses. I couldn’t tell you what they were, I’m sure it was very nice, but totally wasted on me.

The next day we went to pay our bill, expecting the meal would have been gratuitous as compensation for the bedspread. But no, only the glass of bubbly and the glass of red wine had been omitted from the bill. Again Paul ducked for cover while I let them have it with both barrels blazing. Needless to say our meals did end up being struck off the bill.

So that was how I celebrated my 60th birthday. The next day we checked out and hid out for a few days in Portsmouth at Paul’s cousin’s house until the date we were due to return from Italy. Then we went back to Paul’s dad’s.

We returned to Tassie via Melbourne. Paul booked a hotel in Melbourne for a couple of nights, forgetting he’d already booked a different hotel. We didn’t realise the mistake until the visa came through with the charges on it. Then, back in Tassie we attempted to claim the cost of the tour back on insurance. If Paul’s dad had lived in Australia it would have been covered. But a sick relative that lived outside Australia wasn’t.  We tried,  but it was clearly written in policy – we didn’t have a leg to stand on.

At this stage it was feeling like we’d have had more fun taking a suitcase of bank notes to the top of the Eiffel Tower and throwing them off. I think it would have cost us less.

So that’s part two of, ‘the year it all went pear shaped’. But wait – there’s more. Stay tuned for part three….

 

The year when it all went pear shaped (part 1)

I’ve just finished reading a post in one of the blogs I follow:

jwalkingin.com

Their post today was about the lightbulb moment when Joanna and Jonno  committed to their vagabonding lifestyle.. Read what they had to say about it here:

The Coffee that changed our lives

Joanna and Jonno call themselves vagabonds. They sold up everything two years ago and now travel the world doing bits of this, and bits of that. It’s worth reading about their lifestyle and how it’s working out for them.

We chose a similar lifestyle for ourselves approximately six years ago. Our plan was to live our Grey Nomadic life for a minimum of seven years, but we hoped it would continue on for much longer. We had purchased our rig, sold up most of our other possessions, and in May 2014 we hit the road.

The beginning of 2015 found us in Tasmania with a doer-upper house purchased that we planned to rent out after we’d spent some time doing it up. We had a fantastic holiday booked in Europe for May to celebrate our 60th birthdays, after which we would return to Tasmania and spend the the summer plodding through the house renovations.  Our life’s journey was going well. After the house was finished and tennented we were to be back to the mainland and continuing on with nomad adventures.

The main part of our planned holiday was to be a two week small bus tour of the Amalfi coast and Puglia in Italy. First stop though was the UK to see Paul’s dad. The plan was to celebrate Paul’s 60th in early May with his dad in the UK, then we’d head off to Italy for the tour, which was to conclude prior to my birthday at the end of May. We would then be in Rome for my birthday.

But first,Paul’s birthday needed to be celebrated. There’s a lovely little Italian restaurant not to far from where Paul’s dad lived, almost on the banks of Hollingworth Lake,   near the village of Littleborough in Lancashire. Paul didn’t know the name of the restaurant, so looked it up on trip advisor – and found the Italian restaurant in Littleborough.The booking made, Kelvin our son, came over from Australia for the celebrations, his close friend, Kerriann, was in the UK at the time, so Kerriann came over from the east coast. Also Paul’s cousin, Margaret, and her husband Geoff came up from Portsmouth.

The 8th May, Paul’s birthday, arrived. This is how the grand celebration went:

Margaret and Geoff set off with Paul’s dad in their car, and a surprise birthday cake for Paul. Margaret had baked the cake in Portsmouth and carefully transported it up to Lancashire, and had kept it secret from Paul. Paul’s dad knew the restaurant well, so directed Geoff to the planned restaurant beside the lake, despite Geoff’s Sat Nav trying to take him somewhere else.

We set off in our hire car, also with our Sat Nav set for the booked Italian Restaurant (keyed in by name). Only it wasn’t the restaurant near the Lake. What were we to do, we’d given the name of the restaurant to the others, this was the one booked, and we didn’t have a phone to contact them. Never mind, thankfully we’d given them the name of the restaurant rather than just the directions, so we were sure they would arrive.

Meanwhile, Margaret, having been assured by Paul’s dad that the restaurant by the lake absolutely was the correct place, they went inside. No, there wasn’t a booking – but mistakes happen.  Yes,  they could rearrange a few tables and fit us in  The surprise cake was smuggled out back to their kitchen, and Margaret, Geoff and Paul’s dad sat down to await our arrival. That’s when Margaret noticed the name of the restaurant. Investigations revealed they were in the wrong place, and the restaurant by the name provided by Paul was a short drive away from the lake.  She explained the mistake, apologising profusely, collected the surprise birthday cake, and headed to the place with the correct name.

Meanwhile, Kerriann, Kelvin, Paul and myself were assessing the place booked in error. Yes it was Italian, but it was more like a Pizza Hut than the swanky place we’d thought we were booking. Paul was mortified!

Margaret arrived, cake carefully concealed, and after seeing us seated and waiting for them, had the cake smuggled away to the kitchen for the surprise later. We ordered drinks, and had a laugh over the mix up. Paul continued to be embarrassed.

Kerriann took control – whispering to everyone – do not order any food yet. She phoned the place near the lake and explained the situation. Yes they still had the table hastily found for us earlier. Geoff,realising what was happening was almost hiding under the table with embarrassment. Paul’s dad, partially deaf, was only hearing bits of what was going on. He was convinced that the mix up was of his making.

Margaret and I then sent everyone out to the cars while we went and explained our mistake. With big apologies, and an even bigger tip, we collected the surprise cake and headed off to the Italian by the lake.

The cake hidden away in the kitchen once again and the rest of the night went off brilliantly. The food and the service was amazing!

The night was like a comedy of errors. Poor Paul, I don’t think I’ve ever seen him so embarrassed. But the laughs we had. All’s well that ends well, and the night certainly ended well. I wish I could say the same for the rest of our 60th birthday celebrations. But you’ll have wait for part two to see what transpired next.

The garden evolves

Our garden continues to evolve. I’m not one of those people who can have a pristine lawn with concrete bordered gardens. I’ve had houses before that have had  immaculately bordered garden beds, and within a few months of moving in, out come the borders and the shape of the garden starts to change.

We’ve been in this house for two and a half years now. There’s been a lot to do, both inside and out, and I’m pleased to say stage one’s garden evolution is over, and we’re now moving onto stage two.

We went from the ugly orchid sheds that were here when we moved in, to native/cottage gardens, with a temporary gazebo.

The blue cottage garden is taking shape – I’ve waited more than 20 years to plant a blue plumbago and surround it with blue agapanthus – gorgeous when it all flowers together around Christmas time

The next big overhaul has now commenced. We’ve started on a shady fern garden outside our garden room (garage converted to man cave).

Shady fern garden will continue the green theme from the inside to the outside of our garden room/man cave

A Chinese Tallow tree has been planted to provide the shade, and the clothes line that was in that area has been removed. Paul has left a small frame from the clothes line for hanging baskets,  and we’ve placed a couple of potted palms around to get things started. The tallow tree will need a year or two’s growth before it’ll resemble our shady garden in Duncraig. But, hey, once begun, half done! And we’ve definitely begun!

Chinese Tallow has been planted. Now all we have to do is wait for it to grow

Eventually the tree will be strong enough to support hanging baskets – this photo was taken at our Duncraig house where we lived for 13 years (our record in any one house). We’re working towards having something similar again

The newly planted Chinese Tallow is near to our three Frangipanis. These two areas will eventually flow together with palms, ferns,  lush jasmine and hanging baskets. 

 

Temporary gazebo will go. In its place productive vegetable gardens

We’re putting in three raised garden beds for rotational vegetable crops. Also planned is a smaller raised bed for asparagus along the fence line, and another one for strawberries. I think we’ll find some space for a few potted miniature fruit trees, and some blueberries too.

one raised garden bed partially filled with soil and manure – two to go yet. By the week-end we should be ready to start planting

Of course, one can’t have a successfully producing vege garden without a compost heap. I’m still on the look out for a spot to start my composting, and along with a compost heap will be a worm farm. The worm farm will be a bit different than the commercially purchased plastic worm farms. I can’t wait to get that going, and when the worms are successfully providing nourishment for the crops, I’ll be excited to show you the farm. Perhaps I’m a bit weird, but I love composting. Turning the slowly decaying vegetable matter regularly and watching as it turns into sweet smelling, rich loam, and then putting handfuls around struggling plants. To see a struggling plant almost instantly burst with vigour and renewed life when given a compost boost – what’s not to love about that.

Perhaps the best change coming though is a change to our side verandah. We’ve struggled with not having a patio that flows from our main living area, and have been trying to come up with an idea that’d work ever since we bought this house. A month or so ago Paul had a ‘light bulb’ moment. We’ve had the builder out, and yes it’s possible. We’re going to get steal beams engineered that’ll be fixed to, and run from the house, along the underside of the two metre wide verandah and continue another metre out to the fence line. The existing veranda posts will then be removed and moved out to join the engineered metal posts. This will give us a workable area of around 7 x 3 metres to play with, and there won’t be any posts in the way.

The posts are to be moved out to the fence line

It’s this wonderful idea that’s allowed all the other changes to take place. Now our side garden will meet our desire for an outdoor seating area, and our rear garden can be put to productive use. I’m so excited. What a pleasure it’s going to be picking our own sun ripened produce.

Oh, and before I finish this post, here’s a close up of a new water feature. I went walking with the ladies this morning and came home to this lovely surprise.

A lovely surprise to come home to after my walk this morning

Also thought I’d show you my orchid plant, still going strong after Alice presented me with it for mother’s day more than 25 years ago. This year it’s had five blooms so far. A way to go till it exceeds it’s record year of 17 blooms, but I’m working on it.

Still going strong after more than 25 years

Playing the Devils advocate for George Pell

I hadn’t been giving the case for, or against George Pell a lot of thought. Priest, Catholic Church, paedaphile, victim of child abuse. – when these things are mentioned in the same sentence, if you’re like me, your mental verdict without conscious thought is, Guilty! You won’t put a moments thought into thinking that sometimes the accused can be a victim as well.  I don’t think I could see a priest at all now without wondering if he’s a paediphile. But is this thought process fair? Possibly there are more priests that aren’t child abusers than those that are. Perhaps my pre-conceived ideas are shared by the majority, and such thought processes cannot possibly mean an unbiased court case.

Does a day (or few weeks) in Court always mean the correct verdict is always reached? Do the jurors ever get it wrong?

I’ve taken a bit of time to read about the George Pell case, but only after his guilty verdict was handed down. Before I go any further though at playing the Devils advocate, let me state catorgorically that I am not a catholic, nor have I ever been one. I’m not religious at all. I generally have a dislike for religion, but I do acknowledge that a spiritual belief system, without fundamentalism is, for some people very therapeutic and therefore can be a good thing. For myself though I have no need of such beliefs, and after much logical thought define myself to be a staunch atheist. I can’t see any difference in believing that some supreme being will rise us up from the dead so as we can reside in an everlasting paradise, than believing that Santa Claus is going to deliver us a brand new, shiny, red bike on Christmas Eve.

Ok, that now said, let’s get back to George Pell. Trying to get the facts of the case isn’t easy. I only have the media from which to gather any information, and we all know how reliable the media is! From what I can gather we have an historical case dating back more than 20 years. Charges of sexual abuse have been laid against George Pell on behalf of two men, both young teenagers at the time of the abuse. I’m tempted to say, ‘alleged abuse’ , but as a guilty verdict has been handed down I don’t think that would be appropriate. One of those men has since passed away, but from all accounts he seems to have denied any sexual abuse to his parents. I gather that the charges on behalf of both men are based fully on the word of only the one man.

That then leaves us with the word of one man against another man. There are no witnesses, there is no forensic evidence either to prove, or to disprove the case against George Pell.

In years gone by, by virtue of being a priest, the victims of sexual or physical abuse at their hands were never believed. The priesthood managed to hide all manner of deviant behaviour, and even those not perpetuating the crimes against young children turned a blind eye when they saw it happening. The church itself supported the perpetrators of horrendous crimes.

Have we come full circle? Does being a priest now mean Guilty! Can a priest now get a fair trial? I’m not so sure. All I can say is that if George Pell is guilty as charged then surely there’ll be a lot more than one living victim to accuse him. Evidence suggests paediphiles are opportunistic, repeat offenders. It’ll be unlikely, and virtually inconceivable that these events are likely to be isolated, one of, offences.

One thing is  for sure, no matter what the verdict is of George Pell’s appeal, in the eyes of most people he’ll be guilty. Catholic Church, priest, and paediphile, how could we not believe it to be true! Mmmmm – food for thought.

The Wonderful two

A short stay in St Kilda, Melbourne on our way back to Perth, had us wondering when we came across this  huge sculpture of a rhino. What on earth was a sculpture of a rhino doing at St Kilda?

A rhino – near St Kilda’s beach

A closer inspection revealed the rhino had two heads…….

On closer inspection it’s two co-joined Rhinos

And then we read the story……..

A must read

so, so sad!!!!

 

Okiwi Bay

Okiwi Bay is located in the Rai Valley on the northern coast of the south Island approximately half way between Nelson and Havelock. The locals describe it as, ‘a quaint little drinking village with a bit of a fishing problem’.

My brother picked this for our final stay before returning to Christchurch. We arrived around lunch time and sorted out our cabin. Then off to explore this gorgeous little village. The only retail therapy in town is at the caravan park, which has as a tiny general store with a few basic supplies. Don’t expect to get your weeks shopping there though. I think they sell a few chocolate bars, ice creams, milk, and possibly they may sell some bait too. Being a village with a bit of a fishing problem, i guess that’d take care of the important stuff for the regular holiday makers.

After almost two weeks of clear blue skies, and hot summer’s days, the weather while in Okiwi Bay was overcast with low cloud. Clearly, swimming was out of the question.

cloud hovered low over the hills

A pretty little bay

It would have been a lovely day for boat fishing

Now I know what to do when my agapanthus drop their flowers

 

The bay on one side of us, and this little water way on the other

And a bridge leading you to a walk track

Its a shame we only had one night here. Definitely the prettiest place on our trip, I would have liked a few days to wind down and relax. I’m sure Paul would have appreciated tossing a line in the water too. Perhaps next time…..