Page 146: Two weeks in Tamworth then Glen Innes, Stanthorpe and Brisbane
     
  Health and stuff.  
 

Unfortunately it was that time again when we had no choice but to visit the doctor if we wanted our prescriptions renewed. We were back in Tamworth where we were known to a certain medical practice so opted to make an appointment there, knowing that even the first patient in the morning is kept waiting twenty five minutes because "the doctor's running late". This isn't limited to any single practice, of course, it is common everywhere. It's probably the first thing instilled into medical students; "Show your superiority by keeping your patients waiting." Dentists do it too. The only exception is the one time that you are late, then the doctor takes in another patient, making you wait even longer, knowing you can't say a word.

We were familiar with this doctor. You describe your symptoms (if you have any) and he asks you certain questions. If you don't give him the answer he expects, he asks you again, pointing you in the right direction. If you still don't answer correctly he will return to the subject again and again so you might as well agree that you only feel dizzy when you jump out of bed and that's why you fall off your bike.

We were subjected to the usual grilling - we go into the consulting room together for moral support. That's only fair because he has the home ground advantage. The object is to tell him as little as possible and Pam, who went first, managed very well. I, on the other hand, let slip that I drink a litre of red wine every evening. I wasn't going to cop all the flack that followed on my own so I dobbed in Pam. He finally ended his diatribe by asking if I realised that I am probably an alcoholic. Well of course I realised, and if I am I thoroughly enjoy being one.

The path lab was quite close by so we walked there for our blood tests. I mentioned to the nurse that I had just had a rollicking from the doctor for drinking too much red wine.
"Oh, I love red wine in the evening," she replied.
"Me too. How much do you drink?"
"A bottle and a half every evening," she told me.
Roughly the same as I drink.

I rather think the doc was disappointed when all our tests came back negative but he wasn't going to let us go that easily; he was very keen to have a camera shoved up my backside. I was less keen; considerably less keen.
"What a shame, Doc, we're leaving town in a few days but I promise I'll have it done as soon as we settle somewhere for a few weeks."

"You can have it done in Brisbane", said Pam brightly, as we walked back to the car.
"In your dreams," I replied. "Certain parts of your body are intended for one way traffic, and that's one of them."
"You big wuss," she jibed, "I had to have a camera down my throat!"
"Yes, I believe they use the same camera that they push up men's bums."

It went quiet . . . or was that a retching noise I heard from behind me?

 
     
  Tamworth - like coming home.  
 

Yes, like coming home to so many lovely friends but the temperature - so c-c-cold. One morning Pam turned the kitchen tap on but no water came out. "Blue job", she yelled but the plumber just grunted, snuggled down under the covers and went back to sleep.

He was awakened a little later by an announcement that, according to the weather report on the 'net, it was currently -5° C. in Tamworth. "That's why the taps won't run," the plumber grunted. "The water in the hose is frozen." And turning over, he went back to sleep. This was a job for the sun which was now shining brightly.

Seriously though, in six and a half years of travelling Australia this is the first time our water supply has frozen. Global warming? My arse! As the crow flies we're only 216 kilometres from the Queensland border and only thirteen hundred feet above sea level. Yet it dropped to -5° C. overnight. Never happened when John Howard was Prime Minister.

 
     
   
  A deceptive picture on the banks of the Peel River. The weather looks perfect but the wind was biting cold.  
     
 

Much of our time in Tamworth is being spent taking stock of our caravan and contents. Since we left Perth in 2004 we have steadily acquired bits and pieces yet never disposed of items in case they "might be useful one day". The day they would be useful, of course, would be the day after we chuck them out. One item to go was our satellite dish, associated cables and decoder box. It's so seldom been used yet so heavy to cart around that we bit the bullet and gave it away. The caravan boot and car are full of 'stuff' that should have been dumped long ago. When we wave Tamworth goodbye we will be travelling lighter. Trust me.

Some of the caravan trim and attachments have deteriorated too. For example, the crappy front and rear 'outline' lights that Jayco fits just crumble to dust after a few years exposed to sunlight. I have now replaced front and rear lights with LED fittings. Wondering what to do about handles and other bits and pieces that have either yellowed or turned a mottled grey over the years, I decided that white paint might do the trick as no cleaner or polish will make the slightest impression. The parts I've painted look really good - like new - but what will time and UV do to the paint, I wonder? Still, it's cheap enough.

The fibreglass of the caravan shell is showing its age, too. My confidence that a lot of the marks would polish out was unfounded. I wonder whether the manufacturers would supply a caravan coated in polyurethane paint instead of gelcoat? I'm sure it would be more practical.

 
     
  New software  
 

Ever since we started this web site I have been using Jasc PaintShop Pro for editing our photographs. I started with Version 7, then upgraded to Version 9. Checking to find the latest revision, I discovered that Version 13 is current, only it is written X3 and Jasc has been taken over by Corel. The software is now "Corel PaintShop Photo Pro X3" and it has become considerably more sophisticated.

Getting to grips with it is now my objective. There are all sorts of useful gadgets to help you change a photograph as the two images below will demonstrate. The top one is as it came from the camera. It was taken by friend Greg with my Canon 60D at "Utes in the Paddock" (see previous page).

 
     
 

The lower one has had the background removed, both of us slimmed down a little, wrinkles smoothed out but not removed, teeth whitened, a twinkle (catch lights) put into our eyes, the shine removed from Pam's face and our complexions improved. The odd blemish was been removed and text and a frame added. Oh, and though it isn't obvious at this image size, my cheeks have been 'shaved', too.

And they used to say the camera doesn't lie. I suppose it still doesn't but what happens afterwards sure does.

 
     
   
  I look quite different with hair, don't I?  
     
 

So, as you see, you can have endless fun with this type of software if you have the time and inclination.

 
     
  Glen Innes  
 

After a couple of weeks in Tamworth we hitched up and moved on, stopping overnight in Glen Innes (from where, indeed, I am writing this). Tomorrow we head off again to Stanthorpe where we will bide for five nights. We explored Glen Innes and the surrounding area in January 2006 so we are just breaking our journey here this time.

 
     
  By the way  
 

Did I tell you that I had a dementia test in Tamworth? That was fun. I had a sneaking suspicion that my old grey matter was falling apart since my memory has deteriorated quite a lot - in fact, I seldom remember a word Pam says. She claims it's because I don't listen; I say it's because she only talks when I'm not listening. Anyway, added to my memory loss was the fact that my dear old mother suffers from fairly severe dementia. Is it hereditary? I think that can be an influence that comes into the equation somewhere.

So, Pam asked the doctor to test me so we'd know once and for all. I was given thirty simple tests. For example, the doctor handed me a sheet of paper and asked me to fold it in half and place it on the floor. I did that and asked, "What now?" expecting to have to stand on the paper using one leg, or something. "Nothing else. That's it," he replied.

"What floor of the building are we on?" It was a single storey building.

"What day of the week is it?" This one nearly got me but ask any retired nomad the same question and they'll struggle.

"What is the day of the month?"

"What is the season?"

"Starting at 100, count backwards in sevens." Okay, hands up all those - schoolteachers included - who can't do that?

I was asked to read the short sentence: "Close your eyes."  Then do what the sentence said.

I was asked to write a short sentence so I wrote: "I love retirement." That was fine.

I was shown a design consisting of two pentagons which overlapped each other at one corner and asked to draw it. And so on.

At the conclusion I had scored 100% and the doctor declared I did not have dementia. Er, have I told you all this before? If I have, the doctor is probably wrong.

 
     
 

Stanthorpe

 
 

Our next stop was at Stanthorpe where we spent five pleasant days. We hoped to hear Penny Davies and Roger Ilott perform while we were in Stanthorpe but we were out of luck in that respect. However, an invitation to afternoon tea more than made up for the disappointment. It was lovely to visit their house which is practically on the banks of the lake formed by the Storm King Dam.

Any Aussie who listens to Macca (Ian McNamara) on Sunday morning radio will have heard Penny and Roger sing but perhaps not realised it. Remember the book-reading of Sugar in the Blood? Remember the introductory music? That haunting song was Where The Cane Fires Burn, written by Bill Scott and performed by Penny and Roger from their album, Opal Miner. We loved it so much that, in common with many other people, we bought the album - then just about every CD Roger and Penny have recorded before or since. Our great grandson and great granddaughter in the UK fall asleep listening to Penny's lullabies.

When we arrived, Penny was waiting at the gate with her dog and a donkey which caused Pam some consternation as she believes four-legged critters are best given a wide berth. Roger and Penny's welcome was warm and we were invited in for afternoon tea and to sample some scones that Roger had made. Hey, they were good!

 
     
   
  Not a good picture, unfortunately, but here Roger and Penny sing in a small, intimate restaurant.  
     
 

Roger, like me, loves trains and particularly steam trains. Many of the songs he sings are about trains from small (sugar) cane trains to huge coal-hauling trains. One song, written by Bill Scott, is called Coal Train (Trust the Jesus Box). This reference to the Jesus Box had me stumped, even after enquiring at several railway museums. Roger was able to enlighten me. When a freight train is hauled by several diesel locomotives - some at the front, others in the middle and/or at the rear - they all need to act in unison. Obviously. So, with the driver in the lead loco is the Jesus Box. It relays the driver's control inputs to the other locos so they all act together.

Roger tells the story of a huge ore train struggling up an incline. It was losing speed and the driver feared it wouldn't make the summit. As a last resort, the 'fireman' grabbed the instruction manual, searched for anything relevant to their predicament, and . . . found a possible solution. The driver removed the cover of the Jesus Box and found a non-conductive prodder as instructed. Finding the electrical relay described, he pressed it with the prodder. Immediately there was a bellow from the lead diesel, black smoke belched from the smoke stacks of every locomotive and the train began to pick up speed. The power of the "wondrous Jesus Box".

But I digress. Roger informed us that the Girraween National Park was a fabulous place and just up the road. We should certainly pay it a visit before leaving Stanthorpe. So the very next day we did.

If we doubted that Stanthorpe was 'built on granite', a drive through Girraween convinced us. The park seemed to consist of granite outcrops and hundreds of giant boulders. In one place we were amazed to see a huge section of tree trunk that had fallen and come to rest forming a bridge between two rounded boulders. What are the chances of that happening?

 
     
   
  Since it would take a crane to lift this log, we assumed it fell and came to rest up there.  
     
 

I'm sure I mentioned this last time we visited Stanthorpe but its original name was Quart Pot Village. Isn't that a lovely name? It originated from a quart sized pot found beside the creek that still bears the name, Quart Pot Creek, from back in the tin mining days. However, some self righteous bishop decided it was an unsuitable name for a town and had it changed to Stanthorpe which, literally translated, means Tin Town. Interfering, non-representative clergy still exist today, unfortunately.

On the drive through Girraween National Park I spotted a small tortoise or turtle in the middle of the track. Reversing back I moved it off the road for its own safety. We stopped the engine and observed it - the tortoise, not the engine - for a while but ended up concluding it must have been dead when it didn't move.

 
     
   
  No sign of injury but, unfortunately, no sign of life either. Tortoise or turtle? We don't know.  
     
  Brisbane  
 

We left Stanthorpe on a Sunday morning, confident of avoiding heavy trucks. Wrong! The road was full of trucks which we went to great lengths to avoid inconveniencing. On one occasion I overlooked a probationary driver in a car behind the truck and caused him to move over to pass me, accompanied by a loud, long and angry horn blast. Well, I was in the wrong.

Brisbane was lovely and warm with a clear blue sky. How nice to be warm again. Pam has described how we came to be having lunch at the Breakfast Creek Hotel with four good friends so I won't duplicate here.

We relied on Alice, our trusty but outdated GPS navigator, to get us there. What a nightmare for a driver unfamiliar with this big city. There are express ways, tunnels, complex intersections, many unknown to Alice with her outdated map, all being negotiated at fast speed by local drivers. There were signs everywhere but no time to take in their messages, there was a transit lane with a list of times and conditions that applied to its use, none of which meant anything to a stranger in the city. We passed signs indicating a toll road ahead but these days they don't stop the traffic to extract a toll from each driver. If you have a pass visible some device detects it; if not you have a day or two to pay somebody somewhere or you get penalised. Did we go on a toll road? We have no idea.

It was all a bit like a Microsoft help page; simple if you already understand it all but hopeless to those who actually need help.

In a few days we have to pick up Pam's girl friends at Brisbane Airport. We asked Alice how to get there. The airport is thirteen kilometres to the east of the caravan park but both Alice and Google Maps wanted us to plunge south towards the city centre before looping back out on big, wide, terrifyingly fast roads. Yet there seemed perfectly good roads which would take us almost directly there, albeit at a more leisurely pace. I decided I would force Alice to use those roads by inserting 'waypoints' along the way so we would proceed in increments. I tried removing one waypoint and instantly the map changed and our proposed route went south onto those nasty fast roads so I replaced the waypoint.

We decided to do a 'dry run' to see if the route I'd selected would work in practice. It was fine until we approached the airport and then the earth's surface became a maze of new, fast roads, some completed and in use but criss-crossed by roads under construction intersecting ours or going over us or below us. If poor Alice had arms she would have thrown them out in despair. The roads she told us to take no longer existed so we had to rely on signs.

We wanted Terminal D but I couldn't for the life of me discover the location of Terminal D, even with the help of the internet. In the end light dawned; the airport mainly consists of the International Terminal and the Domestic Terminal. Terminal D means the Domestic Terminal. All of it, not just one arrivals or departure gate; not just a section used by Qantas or Virgin or Jetstar. The whole place is Terminal D.

Anyway, we think we can find it again on Friday. Watch this spot.

Not being enamoured of city driving, the next day we took the bus into central Brisbane and bought a new camera. What, another? I hear you exclaim. Well, yes. You see, there are times when it isn't convenient to lug around a large, heavy DSLR camera on the off chance of needing it so we bought a little Canon Ixus 115 HS, smaller than a cigarette pack and very light. Despite developing a rapport with the salesman - we both love our Canon 60D cameras - attempts to lower the price were in vain. The price already included a 4 Gb memory card and a carry bag, so fair enough I suppose. You've got to try though, haven't you?

 
     
   
  Brisbane. Could be practically any city centre. Suits, ties, glass and concrete, Asians.
Less old buildings than Melbourne and no trams. Crazy traffic. Vibrant, exciting, unfriendly.
 
     
   
  We couldn't make out what this bloke was doing here but he must have had a very cold bum.  
     
 

The bus drivers in both directions were patient, kind and sympathetic to the two old codgers who, struggling with the unfamiliar system, held up the bus. Thanks, guys.

 
     
  remember that bush fire that damaged our home in perth?  
 

The fire occurred on 6th February - 19 weeks ago. The house was fully insured by Comminsure, the insurance arm of the Commonwealth Bank. Comminsure employed a firm called Cunningham Lindsey to assess the damage and report back. Cunningham Lindsey employed a company called Central Building Management to oversee the repair work.

Those three organisations have passed the buck back and forth. They all consistently fail to answer emails or return telephone calls. It is nothing short of disgraceful that nineteen weeks after the fire, repairs to the house - with the exception of thirteen cracked windows and three air conditioners - have still not even commenced.

The responsibility rests with Comminsure. The reason for the totally unaccepable delay is a mystery. Are they incompetent, overworked after all the disasters earlier in the year, or don't they give a damn? The claim is not disputed yet nothing is being done and no reason has been given to us.