Uh oh, another missed day. A friend suggested I’m only posting on even days. It’s not intentional, just accidental, it depends on whether I have anything interesting to write about. Today I’ve started early and I’ll add things as the day goes on.
There’s a piece in The Guardian today by Paul Daley urging us to keep a diary of this time. He did some research and found that people a hundred years ago in Australia at critical times, such as the flu pandemic in 1917-18 kept diaries, and they make fascinating reading now. It doesn’t have to be detailed or a great literary tome, just observations of the mundane which although of slight interest now, will be of great interest in the next century, if we last that long.
That’s a big part of why I write this blog. I’ve read a great book about Samuel Pepys who kept diaries of his life in London during the 17th century. He lived through the Black Plague and the Great Fire of London in 1666 and his accounts make great reading. He was not averse to writing about his touchy-feely urges toward his maid servant, even though he was a married man, and nearly always ended his daily writing with the phrase, “And so to bed.” The book was so good I read it twice and when I went to London in 2008, I hunted down the street where his house was, near the Tower. It’s even named Pepys Street, but unfortunately there’s not a trace of the houses left. It’s just brick walls and new office buildings.
Well! I’ve just had two very interesting phone calls.
The first was from Western Power to explain, after my complaint, why we had three major power failures in a week, two of them in three days.
It seems the first two were faults in a 22KV underground power cable in Alkimos, up the road, which feeds this suburb. Get that? 22,000 Volts! I jokingly said, what was it, earthworms? He didn’t laugh – he didn’t know an actual cause for this cable fault but he said termites are a real problem with underground cables. Wow. I asked if the cable is in conduit and he said not unless it’s going under a road or similar. If there are rocks in the area, they can rub their way through the cable as well with movement.
Anyway, he said it’s highly unusual for two breaches of the cable to occur in three days but that’s what happened. As you can imagine, fixing damage to a massive copper wire cable in a thick jacket underground takes time and expertise. First they have to find the break. Then a section has to be cut out and a new length put in and jointed at each end. I’ve seen YouTube video of this being done and it’s a major job.
Then the third failure was caused by a bushfire burning a pole down, a pole carrying high voltage lines. That also took time, (2hrs and 10mins, I timed it) and was just bad luck.
So he was very apologetic but it was just misfortune. I said we, as customers, would rather power lines were underground from the visual aspect, but I can see that they are not immune to damage after all. I told him that I used to be a tech (used to be? Once a tech, always a tech I think) and I always thought of current in terms of microamps and milliamps. But in Western Power work, they talk in terms of hundreds or thousands of amps, which I visualise as like treacle or oil flowing in the wires. We finished the conversation on good terms.
Next I had a long chat with a guy I used to work with at Channel 7, Rosco for those who know him. It was fascinating.
At Ch.7 he specialised in the TV equipment and radios installed in the helicopter, very specialised work requiring a huge amount of knowledge, not just about the electronics but also about all the rules and regulations and licencing involved in working on aircraft. People have no idea of how much expertise is involved and the paperwork dealing with CASA, the Civil Aviation Safety Authority and their inspectors. Techs like him are very, very scarce.
Anyway, he left the station last year to work for himself. He’s built up a “truck” as he calls it, a van fitted out with all the equipment he needs which, in particular, involves specialised antennas which go on the roof of the van, which he can swap depending on the job. These require special and expensive cables leading from the antenna to the very expensive equipment inside the van. He’s very experienced in “interference” work, that’s tracking down the sources of interference to TV and radio reception. I don’t mean just your TV in your house, it can mean interference with vital radio services such as medical equipment. Or just annoying stuff – like the case recently where people with modern cars were parking in a carpark and locking using the small transmitters in their keys, then returning to their cars and being unable to get in or start the car, since interference was causing the keys to fail.
In this case, he tracked it down to a small company using high power transmitters for pagers. The transmitters they were using were on the same frequencies as the car keys, probably illegally.
He estimates that to get himself to where he is now with the equipment he needs, the van fitout, the insurance and licences has cost him around $45,000 so far. In order to make an income he mainly takes work from big companies who don’t balk at the price he has to charge. There are not many people (fingers of one hand?) who can do this kind of work so he charges what it costs.
I’ll have to finish this later – there was much more. Rosco! Talks the leg off a table. But full of interest.
Since this lockdown started my postie comes much earlier than he used to, before 9am rather than around midday. This morning I was still in bed at 9am and the doorbell sounded once. I get stray ding-dongs and I figure if someone really is at the door, there’ll be another bell or a knock. There wasn’t so I ignored it.
Yeah, you guessed it, there was a card in the letterbox, “attempted delivery”, collect at my local post office after 5pm. I get very annoyed. What a waste of time and resources. The postie has to make the trip to the local PO and I have to do the same. If he’d rung the bell again or knocked, I would have jumped up and opened the door, saving all this trouble. Why can’t they knock??!! That way I’d know it really was a person at the door.
I know, I’ll remove the door bell so that visitors have to knock.
I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that a local guy posted on the NextDoor web site that he could help if anyone needed it, like elderly people needing grocery deliveries or such like.
I answered him on the web, saying thanks for the offer, much appreciated, I don’t need any help but if I do I’d give him a call.
Well, yesterday I was surprised to get a message from him on that site saying, “Hi mate, how are you doing?” I immediately wrote an answer saying how pleased I am that he thought of me and saying all’s well, I have plenty to do and “plenty of toys” and thanks again.
I am genuinely chuffed that someone I don’t know from a bar of soap would keep me in mind. It’s like that offer from the guy who did my headlight polishing, that if I need help with anything he only lives in Clarkson and could pop over and give me a hand. Bloody hell, I am almost emotional.
Speaking of pandemics, I’m old enough to remember the polio epidemic in the early to mid 1950s, where many people who caught it were left paralysed and many had to be placed in an “iron lung” to assist them to breathe.
I think I was about seven or eight and I thought, at the time, that polio was a dog, that it could bite you and you would get that mysterious disease that way. I really didn’t know what it was about. Needless to say, I didn’t get it but I can still remember a scene in the street outside Grandma’s house in Bruce Rock associated with that idea of it being a dog. I don’t know why it was that place. Funny how we remember things.
My idea of hell, having to live my life in one of those iron lungs. Unable to move or watch TV or hold a book. Condemned to a life like that, I think I’d rather die.
I went shopping to Ocean Keys today, buying four magazines and four books in the process. Many shops were open as usual, including Target, K-Mart and JB HiFi as well as the grocers. A few shops are open in the food court but if you buy anything, you can’t sit down to eat it. As I hadn’t had lunch, that was a bit frustrating.
Anyway, one of the books is Hilary Mantel’s new book about Thomas Cromwell. Holy smoke, it’s hard cover and so thick you can hardly lift it, let alone hold it up for long periods to read.
I learnt something I didn’t know a few weeks ago, or didn’t realise: there were two Cromwells. Thomas Cromwell c.1485 – 1550, the secretary to Henry 8th and the subject of her books, and Oliver Cromwell 1599 – 1658, the parliamentarian and hard man. They were related: Oliver was “born to a family descended from the sister of Henry VIII‘s minister Thomas Cromwell”. That’s a defect in my knowledge of history, not that English history should be all that important to me. I’d heard of Oliver Cromwell for donkey’s years, but Thomas Cromwell first impinged on my consciousness in Robert Bolt’s play A Man for All Seasons. The movie with Paul Scofield is at the top of my list of DVDs. I had the two confused, or I should say fused, in my mind.
Always something new to learn.
Amazing – I filled my car (one of them, the Verada) just now and unleaded 91 cost just 81.7c per litre after the 4c discount. I can’t remember a price that low since maybe the 1980s. I can look it up; being a slightly obsessive list and note maker, I’ve been writing down the cost and distance of every fuel fill in every car I’ve had since 1978. Just handwritten in a spiral bound notebook that I keep in the car. It’s no trouble and comes in handy at times. Each notebook lasts me five years or more, so there are not many. It’s a bit of a diary, a log book. I stick receipts for work done inside. I’ll have to go back through them to see when we last paid that low price.