Page 100: A Brand New Year.
  After The Christmas festivities  
  Christmas 2009 and New Year 2010 have been and gone. Nothing left but good memories, a few extra kilos, a hole in the bank balance and - in my case - another year under my belt. Sixty eight! Two to go to my three score and ten. What then?

On a brighter note there are only eleven months to go until we start Christmas preparations all over again. Don't groan.

Can I make a plea to everybody who reads this page? Pam and I received written invitations to three "End of Year" parties. Perhaps it doesn't matter to some people what we call the festivities at Christmas but to the vast majority of Australians, Christmas is special. It is to me, regardless of what I say to Pam when she drags me through the December shopping crowds. In my case, it's not for any religious reason but because I remember what a magic time it was during my childhood and because it's just as wonderful for children today - though their presents differ beyond recognition.

The "politically correct" mob are getting their way far too much and we follow, despite our grumbling, like sheep. Can we please dig in our heels on this one? Let's keep Christmas just as it is. If other religions want to keep their special times, that's fine. But let's not change our "Christmas" for anyone.

I've been very slack on this web page of late but Pam has recorded our Christmas in her journal. Anyway, we plan to hit the road again in five weeks from the time of writing so I'll have new pictures to bring you. We're setting off for Victoria on February 7th and people tell us it's a state of considerable beauty.
  Do you have times like this?  
  Last Thursday evening Pam and I went grocery shopping in Tamworth.
“Will you go to the butcher’s and get me half a kilo of best mince?” she asked me. “I’ll be in the supermarket.”
“Okay”, I replied.
“Wait" she called as I walked away. "Tell me what you’re going for".
“Half a kilo of best mince.” I repeated.

The butcher weighed out the mince, wrapped it and put it on the counter. I handed him a $20 note and he handed me the change. I took it, pocketed it and thanked him.
“Pam must think I’m a total imbecile, unable to complete such a simple task.” I muttered to myself. “Fancy making me repeat it back to her as if I was a child.”
And I walked away leaving the mince on the counter.

Friday morning, therefore, saw me back in the shopping centre. There was a young Asian girl behind the counter.
“Did some bald headed geriatric with a grey beard leave half a kilo of mince on the counter yesterday?” I asked her.
“What you want? Mince?” she asked. My attempts at self deprecating humour frequently fall flat so I gave up on the wit and tried words of one syllable. She still stared at me as if I was an idiot. Ha! Me? An idiot? She went to get the manager who quickly ascertained that nothing seemed to have been left on the counter.

“Well, I’d better buy some more then. Could I have half a kilo of best mince, please?” I asked, word perfect.
“Pet mince?” he asked.
“No, BEST mince,” I stressed.
He got it for me and, very kindly, refused any payment. Kindness . . . or sympathy?

On Saturday morning Pam took the mince out of the fridge to make a meat loaf.
“This is chicken,” she said. “What mince did you ask for?”
“BEST mince” I replied. “Exactly what you asked for! Did the stupid man give me chicken?”

It wasn’t until Sunday that Pam asked hesitantly, “You did go back to the butcher’s shop, didn’t you?"
"You do think I'm an imbecile, don't you? Of course I went back to the butchers. Where do think I'd go, the shoe shop?"

Monday morning saw me back at the butcher’s shop collecting the mince I'd left on Thursday and then to the adjacent chicken shop, apologising and offering to pay for the chicken mince they’d given to me on Friday.

“Pick up some milk from Coles while you’re there,” Pam had said.
When I arrived at the milk section in Coles I realised I’d forgotten my glasses. I knew I had to look for a blue label on a milk bottle with a blue cap, but you know what it's like trying to buy milk these days. Arriving at the checkout I then had a big argument with the chick because I thought she was overcharging me. It was an argument I was never going to win. As I walked away she yelled after me, “Hey, don’t ya want ya milk?”

Any spare beds in the nursing home, Mother? Will they mind if I lick the windows?

  Suddenly the park was full  

This picture of our lonely caravan was taken on December 22nd. The picture below was taken from
the same spot less than four weeks later as the Tamworth Country Music Festival got under way.

  There must still be plenty of money around. The latest 200 Series Toyota Land Cruisers were ten a penny in the park. There was one either side of us, and one right opposite - and yes, I know that isn't one in the picture. Their V8 4.5 litre turbo diesel engines sound very nice but it seems they are not without their problems.

As we walked back to our 'van one evening we passed a gleaming brand new red Mitsubishi Pajero parked besides a caravan. Pam knew I was green with envy. Then a very old Pajero approached, its suspension squeaking loudly. As it passed I remarked, "And there's a creaky, old Pajero". I thought I'd spoken conversationally but a female voice called from the retreating vehicle, "Yes, and I love it!"

I'm not going to bring you lots more Festival photographs as this is our fifth consecutive year and the photos from previous years are just as valid today.
  The day i went horse riding  
  The Country Music Festival over, our dear friend Roslyn fulfilled her promise to let me ride her favourite horse, Lady. Borrowing Pam's camera she took a photo of (left to right) Lady, myself and Pam. Just as she squeezed the shutter release a nasty fly bit Lady and everything went wrong but the photo is so revealing that I decided to show it to you anyway.  

A fly bit Lady and she spun her head round to grab it. She turned so suddenly that I forgot to hold my stomach in.
The expression on Pam's face exactly depicts her opinion of any large animal - a thousand kilometres is too close.

  Don't be misled by the green subtitle. The only time I was ever on a horse before was an occasion in Wales when the beast parked itself across a narrow, sloping lane and began to eat the plants in somebody's garden. When the man from the stables arrived to rescue me, my horse lashed out with its hind legs, kicking his horse's legs from under it, leaving the poor beast on its side in the road. I was still sitting on the monster as this was going on. Not happy, believe me!

However, Lady seemed such a lovely animal that I decided to put my faith in Rozza and try again. She promised to have the steering and brakes checked, and the battery charged before I arrived. She also gave Lady a work-out first to take off any rough edges before I mounted (with the aid of a large log). Rozza then gave me some condensed driving lessons; I was never going to get out of first gear anyway, although I did try reversing once - under supervision.
  Here I am, posing for the camera, looking the image of relaxed confidence that I certainly didn't feel.
I little realised that my need for a corset and bra was so obvious. I'm gonna have to do something about that. Sometime.
C'mon, Lady, no need to look so bored!
  Lady was a perfect lady and I discovered that I had little more to do than think about turning and she'd turn. The only really scary moment was when some damned fly bit her foreleg. Down went her head, on came the brakes, and I was sliding forward towards where her head had been. But it had gone! There was just a drop onto hard ground. Not funny, Lady.  
  Two great friends, two great girls, Roslyn and Lady.  
  I thoroughly enjoyed the experience with Lady and would love to do more but we're moving on towards Victoria in a week. But many thanks, Rozza. Some other time, perhaps?  
  A "Break-away" Problem.  
  For those who don't know, caravans with electric brakes have a switch attached to the drawer bar with a thin steel cable which you attach to the towing vehicle. In the event that the caravan should become separated from the car, the cable will snatch a pin out of the switch causing a 'black box' to apply the caravan's brakes and stop lights. A special battery inside the 'black box' will hold the brakes on for fifteen minutes. Well . . . that's the theory.

Clever? Certainly, but it will only work if all the system's components are functional. On checking our break-away circuit in the week prior to departure from Tamworth, I discovered the battery had failed. Replacing the dead battery was an extremely arduous operation as the unit is mounted under a seat in a box bolted to the caravan wall affording limited access. A new battery set us back $40 but the pain of that was minimal compared to the time spent on my knees struggling to remove the old battery and install the new. Jayco, why not place the damned thing where it's easy to get at?

On testing the break-away switch, a plastic part broke off necessitating a new switch. Another $38 and more work to attach and connect it. Ho-hum. At least we can now set off with confidence that, should the unlikely occur, we've done everything possible to ensure a safe outcome.
  Farewell, tamworth.  
  The closer we get to daparture, the harder it becomes to say goodbye to the many wonderful friends we've made here. Today is our last day so, to all of you who have made our stay so pleasant, a fond farewell and thank you for everything. I'm sure we'll remain in contact in the future and I expect we'll be back one day.