On the road again

The Pug is fixed and ready. See below.

Brrrrrrr, only 16C maximum today, so they predict. I suppose it would help if I put my warm jacket on.

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At last, I got a call from the RAC workshop to say the Peugeot is ready. They’ve replaced all the hoses and fittings in the cooling system and it’s not leaking, so it’s done. I’m picking it up on Monday. The final bill? $2,288.05. Ugh. What’s annoying is that the car won’t feel any different. It’s not as if this was a performance tune up or a fix for some knock or rattle. It’s just a fix for coolant leaks. Plus an oil and filter change. I suppose that will make me feel better.

Can’t be helped. What am I supposed to do, refuse the repairs and scrap the car? No, it’s in great condition. I suppose it’s shown me that to have two cars sitting in the garage, and another one sitting out in the laneway is um, a little crazy. I’ve missed the Pug, and I’m really looking forward to driving it again, but the Honda feels great too. What to do? I’ll have to seriously consider selling two of them, but which two? I like them all.

My friend who borrowed the Verada has finally been paid out by the RAC Insurance for his crashed car, so he’ll want to return mine. I want him to buy that Verada from me, but although he hasn’t explicitly said no, he keeps going on about the fuel economy, or lack of it. It runs about 12.5L/100Km, or can be up to 14L/100Km. For me, with all my short trips, that’s not a problem, but he does a lot of driving to jobs around the city. I’ve actually had it down to 8L/100Km on freeway driving and in cruise control, but you can’t do that all the time.

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The pain in my side feels somewhat better yesterday and today. I can still feel it at the moment (11.23am) but it’s bearable. I’ve been taking the recommended laxative and it’s kinda working; could that be the cause? Surely not? I hope it is, I hope it’s that simple.

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I’m being annoyed by a stupid thing with my landline phone. I’ve got a Panasonic cordless system with three handsets, one on the base station (which incorporates a digital answering machine) next to the computer, and two other handsets, one in the meals area and one next to my bed.

The problem is it’s decided that I’ve got a voicemail, and it’s flashing the LED on top of all the handsets to let me know. But there is no voice mail! There’s a menu item and the phone just says “The number you have dialled is not available.” But I didn’t dial any number! I can’t delete it, and I can’t stop the LEDs flashing.

Why does this matter? Because in my darkened bedroom at night, the flashing LED is enough to be annoying. It lights up the room (to a small degree). I want it to stop!

I’ve been through all the menus and I’ve removed all the batteries and the power to the base station for half an hour, to try to clear everything. Result? No difference.

Aaaarrrrgh! I don’t know what to do. This is a ten year old device – I’ve thought of getting onto a support forum, but would there be such a thing? Would Panasonic know anything? I guess I’ll have to try.

Of course, the simplest answer would be to cut small pieces of black tape and place them over the LEDs. How ridiculous.

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I slept well last night and I think I’m finally getting a handle on what affects whether I have a good night or not.

I’m pretty clear on what medication I can take and when, or not take as the case may be.

But, very annoying, I’ve finally realised that what they say about alcohol being detrimental to sleep seems to be true, for me. I’ve realised that I can’t drink after about 7pm. Unless I decide to have an enjoyable night and polish off a bottle or so. Very rare these days.

But there’s another thing – I like listening to the radio in the early hours. The routine is that I go lights out at around 11.30pm after reading for a while, then drop off fairly quickly until about 1am – 1.30am. Always. Can’t seem to stay asleep.

Up for a pee, then the radio goes on. Can’t seem to stop myself. ABC News Radio, which is the BBC at that time. Lots of interesting stuff. But I can still drop off to sleep with the radio going. Up again around 4.30am (old man’s problem) and World Business Report from the BBC on Radio National at 5am, followed by the Health Report at 5.30am on Mondays, Law Report Tuesdays and so on. I know all the schedules.

I’ve read that insomnia is one of the problems of old age. It’s true. I do sleep, but never right through. Sigh.

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I’m just reading about some new glasses developed by a company called XRAI Glass that are designed for deaf people. They have a microphone and electronics built into the frame. The mic picks up what people are speaking and the electronics translates it in real time, then projects it in front of the glasses for the deaf person to read. Instantly.

What a good idea. The glasses are a little bulky but not too bad: https://petapixel.com/2022/07/29/smart-glasses-allow-deaf-people-to-see-real-time-conversation-captions/

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Which reminds me – 3M are marketing a mask with N95 specifications called Aura. It’s supposed to have extra sealing around the bridge of your nose which stops the exhaled air escaping upwards and fogging your glasses.

I asked at my local pharmacy and they knew about them; one of the assistants was actually wearing one, but they said they can’t stock them and they are only available to health professionals. Huh? The 3M ad shows a Bunnings logo and Bunnings stock them at $43.50 for a pack of ten. Trouble is, they are out of stock near me and I have to drive to Wangara. OK, the sun’s out, so that’s where I’m going this afternoon.

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Many years ago, around 1966 to 1970 or so, I used to work with a guy at TVW7 called Mike Humphry. I learnt during the week that he’s published a book about his times as an Outside Broadcast supervisor, first at TVW7 in Perth, then at SAS10 (later (SAS7) in Adelaide.

He’s entitled it Mike’s Memories – crumbs, I think he could have come up with a more imaginative title, but it doesn’t matter. I immediately ordered a copy and it should be here this week, I hope.

Interestingly, the book web site (Booktopia) said it’s printed to order, so when you pay, a copy is produced. Good idea.

As soon as I heard about this book, the jealousy monster dug into me and I got the urge to restart work on my memoirs. I have started on the early Sydney years and I wrote about 40 pages on my time at TVW for a book project which another guy tried to get going via FaceBook. Unfortunately it failed, because only about five people (me included) contributed anything.

At least I made a good start, but I ended my chapter way early. I have much, much more to add and expand on. This is giving me the strong urge to get going again.

A friend told me once that when you find yourself drifting, unable to get going on a book or video production or slide show or whatever, the answer is to set a deadline. Set yourself a date, such as Christmas, that it must be finished by. I followed his advice on a slide show once and it worked. OK, I have to finish my memoirs by Xmas. Promise. But which Xmas?

The grain in Ukraine

Lightning in the clouds of Jupiter. Webb Space Telescope image.

Aaaah, nice day today and my washing was dry. I hung it out last Thursday and as usual, couldn’t be bothered bringing it in too soon. Well, rain! It rained on Friday, then Saturday and Sunday it bucketed down, didn’t it? My washing got a beautiful extra rainwater rinse. That’s great, by my reckoning. Saves me ironing. As if I would, he he. I haven’t ironed anything in five years. 🙂

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Phew! PHEW!! Good news. I had a C/T scan last Friday for the pain in my side, and as you can imagine I’ve been shitting bricks ever since. I’ve been pretty worried, that’s for sure.

But the doctor phoned a little while ago and said it’s all clear, nothing to worry about. Liver’s a bit enlarged, but I knew that. Mainly, he said I’m too constipated and I need to use a laxative. OK, that’s easy. The trouble is, the opioid pain relief tablets I’ve been taking cause constipation. Damn, I can’t seem to find anything in the analgesic department that (a) works; (b) doesn’t cause me insomnia; and (c) doesn’t have side effects like that.

So what’s causing this pain? It’s like a reverse pin cushion with a bunch of needles and it’s being pushed into my left abdomen, just below the rib cage. It varies, bad at times, hardly anything at others. Still as long as it’s nothing ominous, that’s OK.

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The doctor I saw who ordered the C/T scan is the haematologist, for my CLL. More good news: the blood results from last Tuesday show an improvement. Another “Phew!”

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Re the Peugeot, we’re now into the sixth week that it’s been at the RAC workshops and still no news. They usually phone me each week to give progress reports and ask permission to proceed, but they didn’t call at all last week and they haven’t today so far.

The last time they called, the bill was around $2,400 plus another amount for labour. Ouch!! Frankly, I’m glad they’re not calling. I’m happy to delay paying that bill, especially as this is council rates (~$1,200) time of year and I had to pay the licence fee for the Honda ($950) last week. Life is expensive!

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I saw some vision of the new Hyundai and KIA electric cars last week. Holy smoke! These are so advanced, so technologically and stylistically superior that I’m left thinking how far behind we have fallen in that area, automotive design and manufacturing.

Hyundai IONIQ 6
Hyundai IONIQ 6
KIA EV6

Damn, we once had a strong Australian car industry! Not that long ago, less than 20 years, GM Holden, Ford and Mitsubishi made great cars, designed and manufactured in this country, as good as anything from overseas. Toyota and Nissan assembled imported parts and customised the cars to our conditions.

But it’s all gone! All thrown on the scrap heap, wasted due to government rulings. I know it’s not as simple as that, but South Korea has leapt ahead of us. Light years ahead. Their electronics industry is far superior and forging ahead. We not only can’t compete, we don’t even try.

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I’m old enough to remember when Australia not only designed and made electronic goods (radios, TVs, stereos, car radios etc), we also made ALL the parts needed to build them. We made valves (vacuum tubes), CRTs, transistors, integrated circuits (ICs, “chips”), resistors, capacitors and every other part needed to design and build electronic items. Now? There’s a small scale integrated circuit manufacturing capacity left, but just about everything else has been abandoned to imported components. Made in China!

That means we have almost no electronics manufacturing capacity in this country any more. That has huge implications for defence. Modern military equipment is packed to the rafters with the highest tech electronics you can imagine, and a helluva lot you can’t imagine. If military conflict breaks out, which is looking more and more likely, we will need overseas suppliers and supply lines, and that’s not guaranteed. Not by a long shot.

We do make military equipment in Australia (Bushmaster APCs for example), but how much reserve capacity is there. Maybe we don’t hear about it. I hope so, but I doubt it.

Old timers

Jindalee Beach looking north, 2016, Sony RX10 © PJ Croft 2022

It’s a beautiful day at the moment – sunny, blue sky, no wind. It’s remarkable how the weather has changed in this part of the world. We used to be at the top of the Roaring Forties, being at latitude 32deg South. That meant Perth was Windy City, always blown around by westerly winds. I used to notice on my travels how calm it was in the places I visited (e.g. Singapore, Bali) and wished we could have the same.

But it’s all changed. Now, I’ve got my wish. The Roaring Forties have moved further south. Perth and the lower part of WA are no longer blasted by the westerlies. That’s not always true – we still get the winter storms, but we get many more calm, still days, like now. I like it!

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I had lunch at the Kings Park Restaurant on Thursday with five of the old gang who were at St Christopher’s House Boys’ Hostel, Northam, from 1960 – 1964. Well, not quite true, one of the group was from Toodyay, but he’s good company so we make him an honorary Hut Lad.

It’s 60 years since we shared dormitories. Sixty years! Yet we’re still mates and it hardly seems any time at all. We moved apart in the decades after school, but have come back together in the past couple of decades. In fact we have reunions every year and we have more than 150 on our list of alumni of the school. We get about 40 along to the reunions each year (COVID permitting) and people are still keen to meet up each year.

Alan (‘Harry’) and Jim (‘Wedge’) actually drove up from Dunsborough and Bunbury respectively, just for our lunch, then drove back again afterwards. I’m impressed. That shows respect, I think. Roy (‘Yorkie’) and Geoff (he didn’t have a nickname) live in Perth, so that’s OK, and Mick (Toodyay Boy) lives in Leeming – the Near South. I’m ‘Bull’, have been since about October 1961.

I live in the Deep North, Butler, 55 mins drive on the freeway, so I reckon I deserve a medal for the long drive as well. Actually, I look forward to these long drives. I enjoy driving and the Honda makes it a pleasure with its comfy leather seats and cruise control. I am bloody tired of the road works on the freeway, though!! It never ends. They have been digging up the south bound lanes for the past two or three years. When are they going to finish??!! Same with the northern extension of the freeway, up past Clarkson to Yanchep. They’ve been going at least two years now and completion is not expected until end of next year! So slow …….

I had a beefburger for lunch, with added cheese and egg at extra cost. The total cost for a burger was $30.49! It wasn’t worth it. The burger patty was thin and boring. I reckon a Hungry Jacks burger is better. Hmm, I should be in advertising.

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I’ve just been watching a YouTube clip about all the inventions we no longer use, and I was amazed at the length of the list:

  • the dial or pushbutton phone
  • the mechanical analogue wrist watch
  • the pocket compass (superseded by GPS and the smart phone)
  • the VHS home recorder
  • the Betamax home recorder
  • the VHS or Beta camcorder
  • the Video-8 camcorder
  • the laser video disc player (never a thing in Australia)
  • the 8-track tape player, although it never caught on in Australia
  • the reel to reel tape recorder
  • the audio cassette recorder
  • the DVD recorder (still in use, but dying out)
  • the CD recorder (never really a thing)
  • the dial-up modem
  • the 8mm or Super8mm film movie camera and projector
  • the 35mm slide projector and screen
  • the desktop calculator, mainly used in labs and offices
  • the cassette Walkman with headphones
  • the ‘Boombox’ or ‘Ghetto Blaster’, the giant portable stereo radio/cassette
  • the portable TV receiver (CRT type)
  • the full sized CRT TV. Huge, heavy, expensive.
  • the pager, the belt carried LCD screen to show a small message
  • the Discman portable CD player (much to my regret – I used mine a lot)
  • the floppy disc – 7½”, 5¼”, 3.5″ – I used to have hundreds of the latter
  • the record player – OK, not quite dead but not main stream
  • the Minidisc recorder – again, not mainstream and not quite dead, but you can’t buy a new one
  • the portable Minidisc player – same, I have one and it’s great, but not available new
  • the portable transistor radio – still available new, but a niche product
  • the VHS and Beta video recorder/players
  • the mechanical typewriter
  • the Micro-cassette voice recorder/memo taker
  • the data backup tape drive (still used in some big data centres)
  • the PDA – Personal Data Assistant. Who remembers the Palm Pilot or the Sony Clié? (I have one.)
  • the calculator wrist watch
  • the film camera – again, not quite dead but little used
  • Morse Code – not quite dead, but little used. It was a very early form of digital communication.

What a long list! And that’s not everything. Nearly all of these date from the 1960s and onwards, not such a long time ago for someone like me who’s been involved since the 1960s and can remember nearly all of this. The other surprising thing is how many of these were invented or strongly supported by Sony. That’s an amazing company. So inventive, so far-thinking, such good quality products.

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Nearly forgot to mention: I’ve had another progress call from the RAC Morley about the Peugeot. They’ve had it for more than a month now (it will be five weeks on Tuesday).

They’ve found it needs yet another coolant hose! This is the third one. The first one cost about $200, then they found another one at about $60. Then they found the thermostat housing needs replacement (that’s what I originally thought) at $320, and now they’ve found yet another leaking hose. But this one costs $416! Bloody hell! The parts costs alone are up to $2,200 so far, with 3 hours labour at $145 per hour. Plus the cost of an oil change and filter. We’re looking at a total nearing $3,000 at the moment.

What can I do? I have to say keep going because it’s not a junk car. It’s in superb condition. I can’t just say “Stop, it’s not worth it”. The only consolation is that I only paid $4,400 for it, and the current values for this model and year (2006) are $6,500 upwards, reaching $12,000 or more depending on engine and options. I may have to sell it. I need either a station wagon or the Honda with its SUV body. The Peugeot is an indulgence. Besides anything else, the cost of a licence is around $950 per car now. This is a damned tax, not a licence. I’m reaching the limit.

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Crikey, I’m suffering from some quite strong pain at the moment, intermittent but enough to have me squirming and groaning at times. It’s bad enough to want to take strong pain relief, stronger than Panadeine Forte.

I saw the GP last week and he diagnosed internal scar tissue from previous operations being pulled around. Take analgesia, but nothing more to be done. OK, all very well, but I can’t live like this. It’s strong pain and it mostly doesn’t let up. And as usual, the analgesics stop me sleeping!

The thing is, I tried to make another appointment yesterday as I can’t bear this 8/10 pain. But I can’t get in to see my GP until the beginning of August, 11 days away at best. I looked at another GP at the same centre, who I’ve seen before, and he’s booked out until Wednesday next week.

This is almost bad enough to need to go to the ED at Joondalup Hospital. I suppose I could try for an appointment at the two other medical centres near me. I’d better try that, I guess. This is quite a problem.

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I’m feeling a warm glow these days from the new Labor federal government and their actions. At last, they are making me proud of Australia again, after the past near-decade of international embarrassment and shame at the Liberal-National actions. The climate change denial, the refusal to cooperate with international groups. The nose-thumbing at the Pacific nations. The continued subsidisation of coal, oil and gas producers, despite pleas from other countries. They brought shame on my country!

Now, at last I can say “Well done”. We’re not fully clean yet, but we’re on the way.

I’m prompted to say this because one of my old Hut Lad mates, who admits he’s been a strong conservative voter, last Thursday said “Your lot are doing a good job these days, I have to admit.” He’s been a conservative Liberal voter but he’s brave enough to say how good a job Labor are doing, both at state and federal level.

He mentioned how rigid the right wing conservatives – his words- are and we had a brief chat about how they are afraid of change, they resist change no matter what. I said I feel it’s because they don’t understand the science, don’t understand what the changes mean, therefore they just resist. He agreed. This is progress! I’m very surprised at his change in attitude. Let’s hope he carries it through to the next election.

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Hollow trees, Trigg Bushland, 2008 © PJ Croft 2022
Trigg Beach 1 October 2007 © PJ croft 2022
Minnie, Trigg Beach 13 Oct 2009 – I miss her so badly!

Rain, rain, come back please

In the wheat crop, Bruce Rock 1951

Another beeyootiful day, clear blue sky, bit cool 19C and no rain. The stats are saying we’ve only had half our usual winter rain to this date so far. We need more rain.

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I saved myself $179 last week.

I’ve never owned a vertical drill press and although I rarely need one, I want one. I’m sure you know the feeling – wanting something, but not needing it. For the last few years my eye has been taken by the Bosch PBD40:

But at A$439, I never needed it enough to buy it. Then Aldi came up with this one:

At A$179 it looked good but I procrastinated for months. Then last week there was one in Clarkson Aldi. I was sorely tempted, but decided to think on it. A few days later it was gone. No more stock.

Oh well, too bad, I don’t need it anyway, so I saved my $179.

But then I started thinking – Dremel.

I’m only thinking of model railway stuff, very small, very light duty. Dremel makes hand held drills, and what’s more, they make a vertical drill press accessory (below).

And they make a big range of useful tools:

To cut a long story short, I’d be far better off buying a Dremel and a stand. They come up frequently on Facebook Marketplace at about half price (why? Do guys buy them for just one job?) Once you’ve got a driver, you can add a router table, cut-off discs, rotary sanders, all sorts.

So I don’t need anything yet, but I think this will be the way to go – buy a driver from the range above, then a stand when I need it. It will add up to about the same price as the Aldi/Ferrex drill press and be much more versatile. Including battery powered. I’m thinking particularly about drilling lots of very small holes (0,5mm ?) in the rail tracks.

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I really, really have to make a start on my model railway! I’ve collected everything I need now. The NCE Power Cab hand held throttle I bought second hand a couple of weeks ago was the final item I needed to get myself powered up. That’s the item that takes the mains power (through a plug-pack/wall-wart) and generates the DCC signal which gets applied to the rails. In theory, I could take a length of rail from the box in my garage, connect this controller (“cab”, “throttle”) to it and drive a locomotive. It would be pretty boring, driving it from one end to the other and back again, but it’s theory, right?

I’ve found a supplier in NSW, Bowral, would you believe Bong Bong Street? They carry a pretty wide range of stuff but importantly, it’s all at $9.95 flat rate postage. I’ve been browsing EBay a lot, but the cost of postage often exceeds the cost of the item! Postage often amounts to $20 – $40. Better to buy locally.

I received 4x 10m lengths of 3mm thickness cork underlay yesterday. That’s what goes under the rails. I also have a 2m x 3m section of 3mm thick black rubber underlay out in the garage. It’s randomly perforated and is meant for flooring underlay or work area cushioning. I’ve had it for more than 7 years, waiting to use it as underlay for the rails. Being black, with a random pattern of holes, it will resemble black coal, like an industrial area. It will deaden the sound. Quite heavy, though. I’ll use a craft knife to cut most of it away in the areas which are not needed.

Waverley Station, Edinburgh, Scotland. I’ve been there, drove my hire car down the ramp on the left hand bridge, onto the platform, 2008.

I’d like to model that. Not too difficult, I think.

That sloping bridge at the top is un-nerving, for some reason. There’s no reason why a bridge can’t slope, it’s just that you don’t usually see a sloping bridge. I drove across it in the hire car in my desperate search for the hire car office.

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I saw my mate Barry, the real estate agent who sold my house in Charles Riley Rd, Trigg in 2013 for me. I mentioned that I’ve seen the listing for it recently (last year) as it was back on the market and the listing included a lot of photos of the renovation that the buyers did. Eg:

The interesting thing is that he was able to find the last sale price. I sold it for $687,000 in 2013. The sale price last year, after the renovations, was $1,185,000. Wow. But Barry reckons they would have spent around $150,000 on the renovations, so ($1,185,000 – $150,000 – $687,000) = $348,000 profit in eight years. Not bad, but a lot of work, and I can’t say I like the reno very much. It’s still only a 3 bed + 1 bath house.

Those Chinese jokers

Kyrgistan

Psssssshhhhhhhheeeeewwwwwwwsssshhh. That’s my exhalation of breath after talking to my doctor yesterday.

A few weeks ago I started to notice a pain in my left abdomen, just below the rib cage. It didn’t get very bad, but it didn’t go away. It’s still there and it’s bad enough to need Prodeine Forte (paracetemol + codeine) twice a day. Of course, I diagnosed myself, and to me, it had to be stomach cancer.

It took a week to get an appointment and by the time the appointment came yesterday, I was pretty damned nervous.

Anyway, we talked about it for a few minutes, then he got me on the examination table and started poking and prodding. There’s no lump, I could tell that. But what I didn’t know is that the pain is located right under a small scar where one of the laparascopic probes would have gone in when I had surgery five years ago, first to remove the gastric band, and later to remove my gall bladder. The GP put his finger on it and said he could feel the scar tissue internally. He says the pain is coming from an adhesion or rupture of the scar tissue. Not cancer. Phew!!

I forgot to tell him that I’ve also noticed that this pain started at the same time as I noticed an increase in my weight some weeks ago. It’s only 1Kg, but it’s noticeable. So that’s what I have to do – lose the weight and I think the pain will go away. Easy, right? Yeeeaaah.

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It’s arrived – my new multimeter combined with a digital oscilloscope. Brilliant! It’s hand held and I’m still “getting to grips with it”. That’s a joke, Joyce.

One of its functions is temperature and it came with a temperature probe.

It has instructions on the back of the packet:

Translated – “Suitabla for quickly Measuring air aud gas And not liquid”

If I were a manufacturer making things for foreign markets, I would have a native English speaker writing my instructions. Or a native Chinese speaker if I were selling to China.

Still, it’s good for a laugh, eh?

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Brrrrr, my finggies are stiff with the cold. This house is brilliant with insulation. I really don’t feel very cold. I haven’t added any extra blanket yet on top of my sheet and lightweight fibre doona. Nice.

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The Peugeot is still with the RAC workshop. Did I mention? They’ve found another coolant leak, and this time it looks as if it’s the thermostat housing. Again, it has to be ordered “from the east” and takes a week to get here. That was Friday, and it’s now Tuesday and there’s no news.

I’m pretty sure the cost will be $260 plus one hour labour, $145. The cost of this job is rising alarmingly – it looks as if it will be around $1600. Ouch. But it has to be done. I can’t abandon the car, it’s in almost perfect condition otherwise. I’m looking forward to getting it back.

1600: they phoned me again just now. They’re still working on it and they’re taking fright at the amount of disassembly needed to get at the thermostat housing. The housing fits on the end of the engine block, in the V between the banks, but that means half the damn engine has to be dismantled It’s going to take longer than an hour, so they’ll have to charge for another hour of labour, another $145. Kerrumbs! This will take the bill to well over $1600. I had to say “Go ahead”. What choice do I have? I can’t say stop and put it back together with the leak not fixed. They think it might be finished tomorrow. To be honest, I don’t mind how long it takes as it delays having to pay the bill.

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