I’m being punished

Bali, Sanur 2017 © PJ Croft

I’ve been to see the GP this morning. I’m still pissing razor blades, so different antibiotic prescribed.

But my main complaint is about the pain specialist. I had the CAT scan on 28 October and the MRI scan on 8 November. I’ve heard nothing from him since. For crying out loud – literally – how long do I have to endure this pain?! Why doesn’t he say something?

So the GP phoned the specialist’s office and it seems I’m on the list for an appointment – in January or February!! Fucking hell! I’m having trouble enduring this pain and the thought of having to wait another two months, at least, is unacceptable.

I said I want referrals to three other pain specialists in the hope that I might get in with someone who cares in a reasonable time. The GP has asked the radiological clinic to send him the scan results and he will let me know the results. But he has to wait as well. Shit!

Meanwhile, the UTI is still present, so I’m starting another antibiotic.

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After that, I went to the Vinnies shop to drop off some unwanted clothes and books. But they wouldn’t take them – something about their bins not being cleared. The lady very kindly took them (walked them around the corner) to the SCF shop but she said they can’t take them either. So she took them up the street to the Salvos’ shop. I don’t know what happened after that. I’ve still got a load to get rid of but it seems to be hard to get anyone to take them.

These are the wardrobe full of clothes that my former partner very kindly left behind and despite several years of pleas to come back and take them away, she won’t. I’ve had enough. Out!

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I finished the fifth series of The Crown on Netflix the other night, and unfortunately it cuts off unexpectedly as Diana is considering going to St Tropez at the invitation of Mohammed al Fayed, where presumably she will meet up with his son Dodi. I wonder how long we’ll have to wait for the next, sixth series?

It’s still very good. Imelda Staunton is magnificent as the Queen, very regal and intelligent. The guy who plays Prince Charles is not quite convincing, but pretty good.

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I saw this outside the pharmacy just now:

What is it? It’s a Morgan, a very much hand built classic British sports car. I’m not sure which model, maybe a Plus 8. It looks old, but they’re still in production and you can buy a brand new one if you have the moolah. Not for me, but it does look good.

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I’ve just found an anonymous envelope in my letterbox, no address, nothing to show who it’s from. I was a bit worried. Inside was a neat letter from a new small bar across the other side of Marmion Avenue, called the 4 Mates Bar and Grill, saying they’ve applied for a late opening licence between 21 November (tonight) and 19 December, to show the FIFA World Cup.

Fair enough, I’m pleased that they would go to this trouble to let me know. I might even drop in. This place has only been open a few months and I’ve noticed it recently. This is a very UK/Little Britain area, so it could be good.

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What a pain

Kalbarri, January 2019. One of my favourite pictures © PJ Croft 2019, 2022

Is this winter, still? I’m cold. The max temps are around 20-21degC, but it’s windy and my fingers are stiff. We’re getting a bit of rain between the long blue sky patches, which is good, but I want some heat.

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I’m bloody upset. I’m experiencing chronic pain, but although I’m talking to doctors, they seem to be operating in slow motion. I’m sick of this. I’m going to start shouting soon.

I had to wait 2½ months for the appointment with the pain specialist. That’s atrocious. Whatever is causing the pain has advanced in that time. I’m considering seeing a lawyer.

He ordered a CAT scan, which I had on 28 October. I’ve heard nothing since.

He also ordered an MRI scan which I had last Tuesday, 8 November (waiting, waiting). I phoned the pain specialist the next day, Wednesday, to say I’ve had the scan and I want an appointment. I said I’m suffering and I need an appointment asap. Again, I’ve heard nothing since. Bloody hell!

This is the LBW principle – Let the Buggers Wait. This is the bloody doctors’ unions, the Colleges, artificially restricting the number of specialists so as to keep a steady stream of patients and keep the incomes of the specialists up in Mercedes territory.

I’m assured this is not cancer, it’s some kind of nerve pain, but what??!! I’m living on Prodeine Forte, paracetamol plus codeine. Not excessive, but even that only dulls the pain. Shit!!!!!!!

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I went a bit loco (yok, yok, geddit?) and bought a few model locos last week.

These are all second hand. I’ve had the long Santa Fe (7502) for some years, having bought it in Australia, but the other three came from Hattons in the UK. They carry a big range of used equipment, very conveniently browsed on-line, and delivered quickly at reasonable postage cost. It only took about a month for my medium sized box to arrive from the UK, at a postage cost of about $32.

The big benefit of this order is that the three locos that came from Hattons are all DCC fitted, so I can run them straight away with the DCC controller I bought second hand a few months ago. As well, if I open them up, I’ll be able to see how ghe DCC decoders are fitted and wired. The 7502 Santa Fe that I’ve had on my shelf was not DCC ready when I bought it and although I’ve got the instructions, I’ve never got around to doing the conversion. It’s quite fiddly work, needing some fine soldering and fettling to fit the custom made decoder printed circuit board (PCB).

The top two, the BHP Billiton and the Electromotive (EMD) are also DCC sound fitted! That means they contain a small speaker, controlled from the hand controller, which makes all the appropriate sounds such as engine noises, clanks and clunks and so on. So I believe, anyway. I haven’t been able to try any of these yet. As you can imagine, fitting decoders (one for the motor, one for sound) plus a speaker in such a small device is pretty intricate.

Prices? The big Santa Fe was about $100 seven years ago. The other three were about $120 average from Hattons. It’s an expensive hobby!

I also bought these:

A set of three low loaders for container transport. These are die cast metal.

This means I’m seriously ready to start building a layout. I’ve got my design at last.

I can build this in two stages, corresponding to the two arms of the L shape, with a join roughly where that blue lake is.

My big quandary is how to build it so that it’s portable. Ideally I’d like it to be on wheels so that I can move it around. I already have a couple of wheeled shelf thingies but they’re in use at the moment. Hmmmmm.

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I’ve started watching the new series of The Crown, series five, and I’m three episodes in so far. It’s good, maybe not as good as the earliest episodes in series 1 & 2, but those were exceptional. Prince Charles in this latest series doesn’t resemble the real man much, but that’s OK. Elisabeth Debicki is great as Princess Di. She’s just becoming part of the circle of Mahomed Fayed at the moment. Plenty of material there.

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I also watched a Netflix series of only four episodes, Inside Man. What a weird story. Not very believable at all, I’m afraid. Full of holes in the story line. But it held my attention, that’s for sure. Would I watch it again? Nah.

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I’ve just been out to the garage to put stuff in the bins, and rather annoyingly, I had to thread myself past the Peugeot which is too close to the back door. Why not move it, you say? Just push it forward?

It’s because you can’t put the gear shift into neutral unless the key is in the ignition. Bloody French car! I don’t carry the key with me, usually, so I can’t move the car unless I deliberately think of it.

Just another way this French car annoys me. Good points:

  • Torquey, powerful engine (twin turbo V6)
  • Fantastic styling
  • Good road holding and steering

Bad points:

  • Turbo lag – almost no power until you hit 1900rpm, then whoosh
  • Rattley diesel engine
  • Wind buffeting with almost any window opening
  • No ACC (accessory) position on the key – have to have ignition on to listen to sound system
  • Boot wires break (poor quality wire)
  • No rear window wiper – serious rear vision problem at times
  • Very poor audio system display

I could go on. In addition, air con doesn’t work, parking sensors don’t work, it keeps telling me I have a headlight fault, but I can’t see a problem, tyre pressure sensors are too sensitive, CD player is in the boot, not in the dash.

I enjoy driving this, but I suspect it will have to move on, as much as I love the style.

Win some, lose some

Maldives. I’d be a bit worried about climate change, I think.

Ugh, ugh, ugh … pain! It’s been six months now since I first reported a pain below my left rib cage. The GP said it’s not suspicious, probably scar tissue from a previous op (of which there have been a few). Prescribed Panadeine Forte. Hardly any effect.

Since then it’s been slowly getting worse to the point where it’s on my mind all the time – it’s always there, with severe jabs as if someone is shooting me with glass shards in the left side. At the same time I’m being stung by bees and wasps in the chest. Sharp pain! I’m crying out, yelling.

The GP reckons it’s nerve pain. Strange that it’s not position sensitive.

I finally got in to see a pain specialist on 16 October after a nearly three month wait! This is unacceptable! Anyway, I’ve had the CAT scan he ordered, but they haven’t told me anything a week later. He prescribed a pain patch, but no effect that I can tell and it was only for two weeks! I’m having an MRI scan on Tuesday. I still don’t have a follow-up appointment for that. Meanwhile I’ve run out of pain medication prescriptions and all the GP is prescribing is gabapentin, a nerve agent. Bloody useless so far. Nothing touches this pain! I’m sick of this. (As well, he’s taken me off Lyrica and that means the restless legs are back. Aaaarrrrgh. I can hardly sleep.)

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The headline refers to my battle with supermarkets trying to rip us off. For nearly ten years I’ve been frequenting an IGA near me, and for ten years they’ve been ripping me to shreds. My latest foray on Friday was the last straw. I can’t go on subsidising them. I know they’re battling. Half the cold cabinets are boarded up, and the shelves are becoming less and less stocked.

As well, they have a lot of stuff at “past use-by date” markdowns. I buy a lot of that stuff, as I figure it’s doing both of us a favour.

But on Friday I discovered four large pricing discrepancies on my docket, only after I got home, of course. I’m talking items marked at discount $9.95 but checked out at $12.99, and a V8 vege juice marked at $4.60 but charged at $5.94.

To add insult, I didn’t notice until I got home that the cap was loose on this V8 – someone has opened it and had a small swig. Can’t use it.

And how about this?

In the attached liquor store, I picked up a four pack of beer, but when I went to pay, we found one can was missing. The lady went to the fridge and got another can for me. Only when I got home did I find the above – the can she got me was different to the other three, and lower priced. But I was charged the full price as if it was four the same! Great balls of fire!! I’m not going to drive all the way back just for this price difference so I’m ripped off again, even in the liquor section. It’s enough to drive a man to drink.

I am 100% fed up with this IGA. I’ve been battling this for nearly ten years. They closed down a few years ago, driven out of business when Woolies opened at Butler Central, and Aldi just down the road. They reopened after a couple of years under new ownership, but they’re dying again. I want to support them but I am sick to death of having to go back and complain. It’s happening too often. What they’re doing is marking things as special on the shelf, but not changing their computer to reflect the lower price at the checkout.

What gets me is that it’s ALWAYS in their favour. The price I pay is ALWAYS higher, never lower. This is the last straw. I’m going to write them a letter to say that I can’t go on subsidising them! Don’t shop at Butler IGA, corner of Connolly Drive and Kingsbridge Blvd.

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Is it just me? Why do I keep having bad things happen to me?

You may remember I had my Peugeot 407 diesel coupe in with RAC Morley for around two months in June/July, having a coolant leak fixed, with a new water pump and hoses. $2,160 worth.

When I gave it to them, I left a printed sheet on the seat with my instructions. As well as fix the cooling system, I asked them to do a service – oil change and new oil filter. Their invoice was incredibly hard to read, printed in tiny type, about 6 point, fuzzy and hard to understand. When I got the car back, I assumed the service had been done as per my request.

But a few weeks ago I realised that the windscreen sticker was from the last service in 2019. Likewise there’s no stamp in the log book. So I’ve been driving it for the last two months thinking it’s got fresh oil.

I phoned the RAC last week and asked about this. Oh no, they said, we didn’t do a service, just the cooling system repairs. What??!! I said I think I’ve been charged for the service. No you haven’t, they said.

Bloody hell! That means I’ve been driving it since, thinking it’s had a service, when it hasn’t, and it’s going to cost me another $200 – $250 for the service.

Bloody hell! Why do all these things happen to me? What have I done to deserve this?

The lesson is that you cannot take anything for granted, in any kind of service exchange, whether it’s for vehicle or shopping. You have to meticulously go over your bill and check every detail, no matter how tedious and nit picking it is and query anything. I’m fed up!

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On the other hand, I’ve been paying house and contents insurance to CGU for about five years, I think. Recently I’ve been getting emails from them saying “Sorry, we’ve made errors in calculating your monthly premiums. We’ve re-calculated and we’re refunding you.”

At first this had the whiff of a scam, since they say they’ll refund into my bank account. I was waiting for them to ask me to send bank account details. But they assured me I didn’t need to do anything, to just wait.

OK, good, a few weeks ago I got an ANZ cheque from them for $64 (who goes near a bank to deposit it any more?) Then last week I got another email with another recalculation and whacko! This time I’ve just found a refund of $565 into my bank account, plus another couple of amounts of $11 and $20 from them too. Nice one.

Add to that a payment to me from Synergy of $111. Must be for my solar rebate, I’d guess. I don’t care what it’s for, just keep ’em coming.

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Mind you, HBF are going to debit my account of $2,750 for next year’s fees in the next few days. Ouch! I do wonder if I can afford private health cover any more, but I do often have expensive bills. I’ll keep it going as long as I can.

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One of my Amazon purchases arrived the other day and I’ve just opened it up. It’s a Dremel gas powered soldering iron / hot knife / heat gun etc. Very neat. But when I went to use it I found that they don’t supply any gas with it. Booger. Made in Taiwan, by the way. Very high quality.

I bought it for soldering inside my car, but since it produces a jet of flame, another thing I plan to do with it is to burn the weeds away from my paving blocks at the front of the house. They’re not bad, but it looks untidy. OTOH, it might need something a bit bigger, like a butane torch. I’ll see.

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I mentioned that I bought a new mattress in mid-September. I bought on-line, so I couldn’t try it beforehand. What could go wrong?

Well, after this six week trial, I’m going to have to ring them up and say, “I HATE IT!”

The trouble is that the edges are soft, but as I lie down and roll onto my right side (from the left side of the bed), I feel as if I’m having to pull myself up a slope. Same when I’m lying flat, reading, I feel as if I’m rolling down a slope and if I don’t hold my body just so, I’ll roll out of the bed. That is, the edge is soft, but the middle of the bed is hard.

I can’t stand it. This is the most uncomfortable mattress I’ve ever slept on, except for the one it replaced. I can’t stand it.

I don’t know what to do. It has a warranty, of course, but is this a warranty fault? The company is A.H. Beard. Never heard of them, but they’re very proud to display Made in Australia tags.

So, wish me luck. I guess I’ll have to go to a stockist to try out another model of mattress before I can choose something else.

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I don’t go out much these days and I’m spending a lot of time watching Youtube. Wow, there is some really good stuff on there. This is stuff that twenty years ago we would never have known about or seen. Especially cars and car mechanicals. I have learnt a tremendous amount.

But in the past couple of weeks I’ve been watching one particular guy who calls himself the Vicarious Traveller. He’s a Canadian guy of Chinese extraction, but who grew up in Saudi Arabia. He’s a medical software developer and travels all over the world, on the company, and documents all his trips. His company pays for Business Class, but he often pays to upgrade himself to First Class (and uses his Frequent Flyer points to do this too).

Therefore we’re shown all the details of what it’s like to travel “upper deck” or “pointy end”, and wow! Flat beds, showers, all the champagne you can drink, and I’m talking Roederer Crystal, Krug, the absolute top brands. Not Moet, that’s too low cost.

He likes caviar and has that almost every flight. The first class food is just amazing, five star restaurant quality, always served on china plates with real cutlery. None of your plastic. The reviewer also rates Turkish as the best airline food in the sky.

I would also have to rate the Turkish decor, both in the airport and in the aircraft, as just amazingly tasteful and beautiful. It makes me wish I could go there, just for the experience. I never thought I would say that about Turkiye, as they want to be called these days, but there you go.

I’d say Qatar and Emirates are at the top, (Etihad is not mentioned because it’s not part of the loyalty group he’s in). Turkish is brilliant too, although he had a very bad experience with very rude cabin staff once, so that’s marked down. Japan Airlines are tops too.

But! Another reviewer showed a trip from Tokyo to Sydney on Qantas and boy oh boy, Qantas does not look good in comparison. It was shot a couple of years ago but the plane looked dated, like about 20 years behind the other airlines. Nothing especially wrong, but “threadbare”, like seeing fraying on uniforms. I don’t mean literally, just as a metaphor. Qantas doesn’t come close to the middle eastern airlines in Business or First.

And airports are all the same, right? Well, take a look at Istanbul airport! My jaw drops. This is the most beautiful airport I’ve ever seen. It’s also the world’s biggest. Not the busiest, but the biggest by far. It makes Perth Airport look like a country town wooden shack. Just search Youtube on Istanbul airport to have a look, and I highly recommend the Vicarious Traveller. He’s smart, shoots great video, is a genius editor, makes jokes and keeps me watching, even at 40 mins a time. Highly recommended.

It’s a pain

Fremantle Harbour. © Earth by Drone

We awake to the news that six US B-52 bomber aircraft are to be stationed at Tindal RAAF base near Darwin in the NT. Although I think this will make us a target in any conflict, I think it’s necessary to shoulder our responsibilities in the US-Australia alliance. So, I approve.

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Brrrr, it seems like a return to winter in the past week. I look forward to rising temps in the next few days. Up to 31deg on Thursday. Hooray. I’ll be starting my summer regime of cold showers soon.

Which reminds me, I’ve been uncomfortable for years that my gas storage hot water heater is burning gas 24/7 every day of the year, heating about 200 litres (?) of water that I use for only about 10 mins each day for my shower. It goes to the kitchen, of course, but it takes so long to heat the pipes before the hot arrives that I never use it. Laundry? I always do a cold wash.

I’ve read about heat pumped hot water and I think I should make the change. If I got one of those installed, I think I would completely remove gas from the house, so that I’m not paying anything by way of “service charges”. I have a gas cook-top but I really don’t need it. I’ll keep you posted.

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Speaking of the US-Australia alliance, I think we can expect China to attack Taiwan in the next couple of years. We are likely to be drawn in, probably by naval encounters at first, and long range bombing.

But the stupidity of China just amazes me. Repeat, STUPIDITY. Just suppose the Chinese succeed in taking Taiwan, what will they gain? The Taiwanese will fight like hell and even if China invades and wins, they will face anger and non-cooperation for ever more. They will gain a surly, angry population which will be a continual drain on their resources and finances for decades to come.

Just suppose, by some miracle, The Chinese Communist Party military dictatorship came to their senses and saw the folly of it, and decided to accept the status quo. They would gain praise, good will, world approval at the minimum. I’m sure this would lead to improved trade for China and an improvement in all other areas.

But it looks very likely that there is going to be a serious shooting war. There will be hundreds of thousands of casualties, losses of hundreds of ships, thousands of aircraft. It will cost China hundreds of $billions. No-one will ever be able to trust China again.

What is wrong with these people?

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I’ve just been on Facebook and seen a post by Tania Lawrence MHR saying that she was a student at Northam Senior High School. She’s posted a photo of herself in her school blazer. Well well well. I think I’ll send her an invitation to our next reunion, usually held in the first week of April each year.

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I have much more to say but I can’t at the moment. I’m in severe pain.

Century!

Today is the anniversary of Dad’s birthday, 29 October 1922, and he would have been 100, if he was still with us. He died on 2 August 2001 at age 78. Happy Birthday, Dad.

He was the best father I could ever have wished for. He was loved and above all, respected, by all who knew him. I wish I’d been able to say more about this when he died.

He was born in Sydney in, as he said it, Nineteen Tooty Too. That meant he was ten years old when the Sydney Harbour Bridge was opened in 1932, and he was proud that he rode his bike across it on that day.

I was born in Sydney too, in Mona Vale, in 1947 and I still feel a kinship with Sydney whenever I go there. Unfortunately I don’t think I’ll ever get there again.

We moved over to Western Australia, to Bruce Rock, in December 1949 and we’ve lived here ever since. We moved around, next to Cunderdin in 1955, then Wundowie in 1956, Rockingham in October 1959, Beverley in 1961 and finally to Perth in 1967. I was independent by then, having been away at boarding school in Northam from 1961 to 1964, then uni in 1965 and working at Channel 7 from 1966 on, living in South Perth, initially.

So anyway, Happy Centenary Birthday, Dad.

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This date is also significant for me – it’s the 23rd anniversary of my “retirement” from my job at TVW Channel 7 in Perth. Yes, I took my voluntary redundancy on this date (it was a Friday in 1999) and walked out for the last time after 33 years. I had a break of eight months in 1974, but I don’t count that.

These days I’m regarded as one of the veterans, an elder statesman of the former employees, being able to say that I worked on the first Telethon in 1968, for example. I was so junior that I didn’t do much, but at least I was there and working in the videotape department.

In those days, we were politely asked to work a donated shift, and we did it willingly. But after a few years, maybe eight or ten years, we heard that the camera crew were being paid their normal rates, so we started to grumble. The company also stopped asking us to volunteer; they just rostered us without asking.

I think most of us in Engineering continued to work an unpaid shift for quite a few years – I really can’t remember what happened in the later years. I do know that the fun went out of it – it just became another shift, another chore.

Anyway, 29 October is a significant date for me.

One thing I’ll never forget – I used to be a Friday night regular at the North Beach Rugby Club, drinking with a few Channel 9 mates (apart from one guy, I could never get any Channel 7 Engineering guys to come along. It’s odd – when I was younger, I was super shy. I didn’t feel I fitted in at parties and functions so I hardly ever joined in. But as I got older, I became the only guy from Engineering who participated in work functions. Almost no-one else ever turned up.)

One night in about 2009, in fact 29 October, I mentioned at the bar the significance of the date, being my father’s birthdate and my ten year anniversary of leaving Channel 7. I got a couple of seconds of blank looks from my “mates”, then one guy said, “DILLIGAF”. Huh? I said. “What does that mean?” “It means, Do I Look Like I Give A Fuck” he said.

I was stunned. Apart from the sheer rudeness, he was insulting my memory of my father. I was so offended I slammed my glass down and walked out. That played a big part in my subsequent attempt to move completely to Bali to live. I was so sick of the racism, the rudeness, the boorish manners, the stupidity of the people I knew that after I saw the sign offering Bali villas for US$300K, I thought, “Get out of there! Walk away.”

At that time, end of 2010, January 2011, you could live in Bali and still get the pension, and get your prescription medications every three months on Medicare. Unfortunately the rules have changed now to make it more difficult.

Minnie the Labrador. My beloved daughter.

Anyway, that started the Bali saga. I think I was quite depressed at the time, which lowered my defences, and putting a deposit down on a villa seemed quite a reasonable thing to do. Unfortunately, what I didn’t realise was that no dogs were allowed into Bali (due to rabies on the island) and it looked as if I was going to have to leave my beloved Labrador Minnie behind. I was distressed! I was distraught! It’s too long a story to tell here now, but things spiralled downwards from there, leading to a major family rift which still hasn’t healed and looks as if it never will. Dad would have been very, very sad to see us this way.

On a ton

Phwooaar. BMW 850Ci. It’s a 5litre V12. But it costs a fortune to fix and keep going. They sell for $40K – $70K.

To my foreign readers, being “on a ton” means you’re within a stroke of the bat, in a cricket match, to make 100 runs. Tomorrow is a big day for a century.

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Damn, this Word Press is so annoying. They’ve changed the type face and size – it’s small and a bit hard to see. Why do they keep changing things?? I do not like this blog software. It’s inconsistent, changeable, hard to use. Why can’t I stay logged in, for example? I’ve complained to them and at least they answered but all I got was a suggestion that it’s my browser that’s logging me out every time I take a break. No help!

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I’ve been to the Joondalup Health Campus this afternoon and at last the new multi-storey car park is finished and in operation. Thank goodness. It’s good – easy to drive into and leave. I arrived at about 1.45pm and found a space on the ground floor with little trouble. When I left at 2.45pm, there were plenty of spaces.

The interesting thing is that you don’t need to stop and take a ticket when you drive in. There are no tickets, no boom arm when you enter. It was only after I parked that I thought, “Hang on, where’s my ticket?”

The thing is, when you’re ready to leave, you have to enter your car licence plate number into the machine. You’d better be able to remember it!

When I was ready to leave I walked up to the ticket machine and asked a uniformed lady how to do it. She explained it, then, seeing me having a bit of trouble walking, offered to carry my bag and find my car and its number plate. I knew it was 1CGY but I couldn’t remember the numerals. So she walked with me, carrying my quite heavy bag, and found my car and its number. Then she walked me back a bit to a payment machine half way along the floor and entered the number plate in for me. Bingo, there’s a picture of my number plate up on the screen. What a nice woman. I am very impressed.

So I place my VISA card against the screen, ping, and it’s done. I didn’t get a receipt so I have no idea how much I paid or how long I was there for.

Anyway, I just drove out of the car park and up to the boom gates leading to the road. My number plate appeared on the big LCD screen and since it obviously matched my payment, the boom went up and I was out.

Jeez, I’m an electronics tech but this is beginning to look like magic. The only drawback is that you have to remember your number plate, and I’ll bet a lot of people have trouble with that.

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I’m feeling very pleased, even a bit excited. I’ve finally found a model railway layout that I like and want to build.

As you can see, it’s the L-shape that I like, which means I’ll be able to divide it into sections so as to break it apart and move around. It’s US based, but that doesn’t matter. I’ll change it to suit any locality that I like. Since almost all the locos and rolling stock I’ve bought and collected is UK based, that will have a big influence. For the moment, I’ll call it Cripple Creek since it rolls off the tongue.

Thing I like is that it’s got long straight stretches, lots of dual track, interesting branch lines and plenty of scope for simple modifications to make it even more interesting. It lends itself to endless variations. The Black Hawk City station, for example, could be made much more complex. Something like this?

Only joking. But at the moment there’s only one platform at the Black Hawk station, and I’d want several platforms.

The next step is to scale the layout and bring it into my AnyRail software so as to make a full working drawing. Unfortunately, it’s several years since I used AnyRail and I’ve forgotten how to use it! I’m struggling with it at the moment. You might remember this:

I haven’t done any work on that for several years. Too bad, this new plan is better.

A couple of weeks ago I saw an ad on Facebook Marketplace for N-gauge rolling stock. I contacted the guy and drove out to Thornlie (jeez, it’s a long way!) and ended up buying ten tanker wagons from him for $15 each. Yes, $150. This is an expensive hobby. It was amazing, the guy was selling because he seems to be obsessed with upsizing. He has scores of locos and carriages for sale in N gauge but he wants to go to 1 gauge. This is enormous. N gauge is 1:148 or 2mm to the foot. 1 gauge is 32mm to the foot. He plans to build a garden railway.

Anyway. Last week I went a bit mad and bought a load of stuff from the Hattons website in the UK, all second hand stuff. I’ve bought four locos, but there are two interesting things about them.

One is that all four locos are already fitted with DCC decoders, ready to run. That means I can open them up and see how the decoders are fitted. I’ve already got several decoders that I bought about five years ago, but I’ve never got around to fitting them. Plus two of my new second hand purchases have sound already fitted. That means I’ll get all the sounds of big diesel electric locomotives – horns, engine sounds, coupler clanks and so on. I’m not interested in steam.

Better still, one of the locos is painted in BHP Billiton colours. In my mind is to make a small attempt at modelling the Pilbara and the mining company railways up north. I’ll be able to copy this BHP loco.

And finally, several months ago I bought a second hand DCC controller at last (above). This is the handheld controller that generates the DCC signal which is fed to the track. This signal carries the codes for each loco and tells it what to do. Each loco is given an address (a number from 1 to 99) and only responds to the commands from the hand controller that you send.

So all in all, I’m ready to roll. All I have to do now is make the base boards from Craftwood and 50x100mm pine beams. Whoo hoo.

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I finished the last episode of The Crown on Netflix last night, that’s series four. Series five, the latest, starts on 9 November.

This is the third time through for me. What a superb show this is! It’s a triumph of television docudrama in my opinion. The acting and the way the modern actors look and sound like the royal family (as far as I or anyone knows) is just amazing. It must be very strange for the real life royals to watch themselves being dramatised like this. Frankly, Charles doesn’t come out of it looking very good.

I’ll be queuing up to see the next series. This will show the events leading up to Diana’s death. Hmmmmm.

What’s real any more?

Nice photo, eh? Whipped up with a few lines of text.

The above photo is not real. It’s the product of artificial intelligence. I believe, from what I read, that all it takes is a text description of what’s in your mind, entered into a software program, and voila, there’s your picture. Another one:

Who needs a camera any more? Who needs creativity? Also:

Who is this? It’s no-one. It’s computer generated.
Computer generated, no credit needed.

The point is, there used to be the adage, “The camera doesn’t lie”. Well, I’m afraid that doesn’t hold any more. Completely over-ruled. You cannot tell whether any image is real, altered or entirely false now. Even video can be completely faked now. This is quite worrying.

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Maybe it’s time I came clean about one of my images.

Venice, October 2008 © PJ Croft

I’m quite proud of this, but I have to confess it’s a composite of two images. I did this about 15 years ago:

The above right picture lacked something, so I cut the girl in the cloak from the group on the left and pasted it, twice, into the empty street. I spent a lot of time adding the shadows and adjusting the size of the girls so they are in proportion to the street. I also duplicated one of the girls, adding it back in, changing the colour of the cloak, adjusting the size, adding the shadows and adjusting the height above the pavement so they aren’t floating. So, although it’s a composite, I’m happy to show my work.

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What to do? I bought a new mattress about a month ago, and I hate it!

I bought it on-line as the company not only delivered, they took the old mattress away for me. Naturally, I didn’t have a chance to try it before I bought, but I didn’t think it would be a problem.

But what I’m finding is that I feel as if I’m having to climb up a slope from a soft edge to a hard middle of the bed. It’s listed as a medium hardness, but as I say, it’s too soft on the edge and too hard in the middle.

So I guess I’ll just have to phone the company’s 1 800 number and ask what to do. Damn, I don’t want to have to deal with this. I just wanted a clean changeover.

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CHAOS! I used to be an optimist. I used to think all would be well. I used to think science and engineering would produce solutions to the world’s problems.

But I’ve lost hope. I truly believe we are seeing the decline of civilisation. I truly believe that the money motive is overriding common sense, leading to destruction of the environment in every respect. The oceans are being polluted so badly as to be destroyed. Plastic pollution is growing by the year. Fish stocks are declining. Pesticides and fertilisers are polluting the soils. Animals and insects are declining. Forests are dying. The weather is turning against us. Wars are growing. Famines are growing. Viruses and bacterial infections are increasing. The Earth is biting back.

I’m afraid I’m a bad pessimist now.

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I’ve just finished watching a Netflix Japanese TV series called Japan Sinks. Bloody hell, what a joke. I had to finish it, just out of morbid fascination, but is this how Japanese people really behave? All the government committee meetings are punctuated by “We must do out best!” and “We must try harder!”

The story is that undersea seismic movements result in almost the entire Japanese chain of island sinking beneath the waves. They have to find a way to move 120 million people to other countries. I’m glad to say that Australia finally comes good and agrees to take 10 million or so. I’d like to think it would be possible, but I don’t think so. As I said, this is a deeply racist country.

Death wish

This picture is called Cacklebeans. It’s from an article about eggs and egg colours.

Phew, I’m really sorry for the guy, but what was an 82 year old guy thinking? He was riding an electric bicycle on the freeway at 5am (in the pre dawn dark) a few days ago. Didn’t he see the signs? No Pedestrians, Cycles, Animals.

The result was, he was hit by a 4WD and killed. The main story is that the 4WD driver didn’t stop, even though there was quite bad damage to his vehicle. It seems he drove it to his brother’s place, who subsequently made an insurance claim for the damage! Whaaat? The driver has been arrested and charged. Good. If brains were dynamite …

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Russia is a terrorist state. It is being run by a madman. Putin is insane. This insane madman has his finger on the nuclear war trigger. He must be stopped!

Russian soldiers are ruthless killers. They deliberately target civilians, including the aged and children. They must be stopped!

Surely it’s past time when NATO and/or the US stepped in and decisively flattened the Russian army, air force and navy. This can’t go on!

Putin thinks he’s waging this war to gain respect for Russia. Instead, he’s turned Russia into an international pariah state. He’s inflicted enormous economic and reputational damage to Russia, without even mentioning the tens of thousands of dead and maimed troops. Even his own population are leaving for foreign countries, to escape the madman.

Russia must be stopped!! I wouldn’t normally wish death on someone, but Putin does not deserve to live. He should be killed!

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“Why would you? We fluffed it,” former prime minister Paul Keating said on Wednesday. “If Australians have so little pride in themselves, so little pride that they are happy to be represented by the monarch of Great Britain, why would somebody like me want to shift their miserable view of themselves?”

He is referring to the referendum in 1999 which voted for Australia to remain a monarchy with the Queen or King as our head of state. This referendum was cleverly manipulated by the PM at the time, that racist prick John Howard, so that it was confusing about how the head of state would be selected or elected. He did this deliberately, as a monarchist himself.

Mr Keating said the case for Australia to become a republic was so obvious it made itself.

“Who in their right mind could believe that the monarch of Great Britain could represent our aspirations here?”

“We occupy one of the oldest land masses, the oldest continents on Earth, perhaps one of the oldest societies on Earth – it’s so pathetic. [Becoming a republic] barely [needs] an argument … and there was [Scott] Morrison running off to Cornwall with that other fruitcake, what’s his name … Boris Johnson.”

Couldn’t have said it better myself. Obsequious toadies, monarchists like Howard and the Liberals.

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From The Guardian cookery pages: “It’s possible to find live, Australian-grown, pot-ready mussels for as little as $9 a kilo – less than half the price of free-range chicken thighs and considerably cheaper than steak.”

Yes, but most of this weight is from the shells. If you like eating mussel shells, be my guest, you can have mine. There’s not a lot of “meat” in mussels, in my opinion.

I broke a tooth on a part of a mussel shell in 1996, just a week before I was due to fly to Jakarta to work. The dentist did a very quick fix for me and it’s lasted perfectly since.

I don’t completely object to mussels, I’ll eat them, but I’m not a big fan of their muddy flavour. Maybe I’ll try a couple of different recipes which might enhance and disguise the flavour.

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I’m watching a Japanese TV program on Netflix at the moment, I can’t remember the title – Japan Sinks, I think. It’s full Japanese language with subtitles, and occasional bursts of English as needed.

Point one: The storyline – for goodness sakes! A scientist predicts undersea earthquakes leading to the sinking of major areas of Japan. But, as usual, this scientist is portrayed as weird, part mad, wild haired, eccentric, speaking in a crazy voice. Fer cryin’ out loud! When will TV and movie makers realise that scientists are normal people?? Scientists are always portrayed as laughable idiots.

Point two: As the story goes on, first a large part of Tokyo sinks, but then a new undersea earthquake is 100% predicted to sink all the islands of Japan completely. The story requires the mass emigration of 120 million people from Japan to some other country. Where could that be? Why, Australia of course. This is their first choice, the first country that comes to their minds.

Australia has so much land, so much open space, they think. We could easily accommodate 120 million Japanese people. So they consult a former Australian prime minister, who happens to be called Mr Travis.

Well, unfortunately, Mr Travis says the Australian people would not accept so many Japanese people. He rejects the idea completely and actually gets up and walks out of the meeting. Whaaat? This would be highly offensive to anyone, let alone the unfailingly polite Japanese. So Australia plays no further part in the story and China becomes the main focus.

Canada does get a serious mention, but for some reason is rejected.

I’m sticking with this series, up to episode eight at the moment, but crikey mo! It is slow, stupid, with silly orchestral music in completely inappropriate moments. I’ll watch the rest (how many more eps?) but it’s hard going.

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Personally, I think it would be absolutely marvellous to have 10 million or so Japanese emigrate here. They are intelligent, incredibly hard working, talented, inventive with such a rich culture. They would enhance life here wonderfully.

BUT! The racism in this country would stop that in its tracks. The male population of Australia are racist, violent, uncultured oafs who care nothing about anything except football, alcohol, gambling, swearing, domestic violence and fighting. Japanese people would be appalled! They could never accept our way of life and therefore racist violence would ensue. It would never work.

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I’ve been listening to the radio about the COVID pandemic, and the overriding message is IT AIN’T OVER! I’m going back to wearing a mask whenever I’m out of the house. We haven’t seen the last of COVID-19 by a long shot.

Still at it, I see

Blackwood River, SW WA ABC photo.

GRRRRRRRR!!! The title refers to Woolies, or BWS which is an offshoot of Woolies. Still trying to fleece their customers.

A couple of weeks ago I bought a six pack of cans of beer from BWS which were marked on the shelf at $21, down from $25. Silly me for not checking my docket before I left. When I got home I found that I had been charged the full price, $25. Grrrr! Of course, it’s too much trouble to go all the way back and complain, isn’t it? So I let it slide.

This time, last Saturday, I saw a four pack of cans of stout, priced at $31 or $7.75 per can. Expensive, but high alcohol and a special brew. And very nice it is, too.

Trouble was, someone had taken one can from the four. I wanted it, so I wanted the checkout to show 3x $7.75 = $23.25. The checkout ladies tried to get me to take something else to make up the four. I said no, but weakened and accepted a small 330ml bottle of Sail & Anchor lager from their mark down box. I expected a nominal charge for this bottle as it was out of date.

But when I got home, I found I’d been charged the full $31 as if all four high priced stout cans had been there! Bloody hell!

I am sick and tired of this robbery from Woolworths and/or BWS. This is dishonesty. It’s also laziness, in that they don’t keep their computer prices up to date.. What am I going to do? Dunno yet. But I’m warning the world, check your Woolies dockets because they will rob you. It’s ALWAYS in their favour, never in the customer’s favour. I NEVER have this trouble at Coles. Coles are so good that I hardly bother to check the till receipts. Lesson: don’t shop at Woolies.

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I’ve been watching The Crown series for the third time on Netflix and it’s amazing how much detail I’ve either forgotten or missed since I last watched it. It started in 2016, so time has erased a lot, but I’m getting so much enjoyment from seeing it again.

I must single out Clare Foy’s performance as Queen Elizabeth II in the first two series. She is magnificent! The slight tilt of her head, the steady gaze at her prime ministers, the courteous but regal attitude to her private secretaries and the other officials. The glorious sets! How did they do it? Did they build a replica Buckingham Palace with all its huge rooms and paintings? And Westminster Abbey? Amazing.

I’m just into series 4 at the moment, with one to go, and a new series 6 is coming on 9 November, we’re told. This would have to be one of the greatest television documentaries/dramatisations ever made, I say.

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I’ve also been widening my viewing with Netflix. I wrote a few weeks ago about how much I liked the Korean series The Extraordinary Attorney Woo, the autistic lawyer. It was memorable.

I’ve tried a few other Korean series but haven’t liked them as much, so far.

At the moment I’m hooked on two other Asian series: number one, The Midnight Diner, a small scale Japanese series about a tiny backstreet restaurant that only opens at midnight and closes at 6.30am. It’s run by one guy, the cook, and it has a small but loyal group of customers. Each episode is a vignette about life in Tokyo, with various characters, including a Yakuza gangster (who’s really a nice guy), three young women who are on the search for a suitable husband (each), and so on. Each episode also concludes with a quick lesson on how to make the Japanese dishes he serves. They’re not difficult to make.

Second is just called Asian Street Food, and as you’d expect, it showcases all the different types of street food from the Asian capitals. So far I’ve seen Indonesia (Jakarta), Bangkok, Japan, India (Delhi) and up next is Taipei in Taiwan. It’s excellently made. The camerawork, editing and colour grading is totally professional, highest quality. The narration is in English but there’s a lot of local speech with subtitles.

And to round it off, I rewatched the movie Mars Attacks last night. I must be desperate. I saw it many years ago and thought it was very average then, and it has not improved with age. Luckily it’s not too long. The overriding feeling I had is how bad their comic timing is. It’s too slow moving. There are too many gaps between action and punchline. Jack Nicholson as the president seems to be half asleep. Rubbish. The Poms and even we can do humour so much better.

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Which reminds me, Rolling Stone magazine has published their latest list of the top 100 TV shows. As you may have guessed, nine out of the top ten are American. The only foreign program is Fleabag, the British program.

Not one Australian program makes the top 100, natch. Nor does The Big Bang Theory. Huh!

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You’ll recall I had the Peugeot 407 in for cooling system repairs recently. When I put it into the RAC workshops, I left a note on the seat with a short list of things to look at, and the list included an oil change and oil filter.

Because it took so long and was a bit of a drama, when I got it back I didn’t check on the oil change. But now that I look, there’s no sticker on the windscreen and no stamp and notation in the log book. Grrr.

I haven’t kicked up a fuss yet but I’m pretty sure I’ve been charged for the service. I’ll have to phone them and ask if it’s actually been done, and if not, what do I do about it. Annoying.

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I’ve become quite an addict for YouTube shows lately, especially Cutting Edge Engineering, made by an Aussie bloke Kurtis and his wife Karen on the Gold Coast. He runs a sole trader engineering workshop and does heavy, and I mean heavy fitting, turning, milling and welding. He’s got about six giant lathes, a couple of enormous milling machines and does more kinds of welding than I knew existed. He fixes heavy machinery like graders, scrapers, dump trucks, tractors, you name it. It’s fascinating. They also feature their small bull terrier called Homeless. He’s charming, and viewers of the channel send in gifts of chew toys and pigs ears from all over, many from the USA. Good stuff.

The other two shows I’m a bit addicted to are a UK TV series, Can’t Pay? We’ll Take It Away, about debt collectors, high court debt collection agents or bailiffs. These are pairs of guys, heavyweights, who are given court authority to collect debts, or to take goods to equivalent value in lieu. Although they take a lot of abuse and lies from the debtors, I give them credit, they are unfailingly polite and never use violence.

But another UK series is quite a bit more violent: Re-po Men. This is about guys who are contracted to repossess goods, usually vehicles, from people who haven’t paid. This show does get violent. The collectors are big, solid ex military types. They don’t start the fights, but they often have to fight their way out of trouble. This show gets the heart racing. It’s not the best thing to be watching before trying to sleep.

Spring, sprang, sprung

Near Exmouth 1987 © PJ Croft 2022

Aaah, 23degC today and rising to 27deg, even 28deg later in the week. Spring has sprung at last. I hate August, I hate winter. Give me summer all year round, and especially give me October and November, the nicest months of the year.

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Today, Monday 26 September, is a public holiday for, would you believe, the Queen’s Birthday? I’m sure it’s been renamed the King’s Birthday, but it’s not his birthday. Anyway, it’s been tradition here for many years to maintain a fiction that it’s the Queen’s Birthday and it’s the first official day of the “Royal Show”. I used to go quite often as walking around the various exhibits was quite interesting, but I’m not up to it now.

Sympathy to the woman in Adelaide who stepped across a barrier and walked onto the track of a roller coaster trying to retrieve her dropped phone. Of course, she was hit by a roller car. She’s got severe injuries. What possessed her to do such a stupidly dangerous thing? Crazy!

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I got a shock last week, the night of the Queen’s funeral actually, when I received news that a long time high school friend, Jan Sobon, had died.

I only gradually got to know him as the years went by, as he kept a lot of his story to himself. But now I know that he was born in Germany in the same year as me, 1947. He was sent as a child migrant to WA by sea in the early 1950s and was sent to Northam. We met at Northam Senior High School, where he excelled as a swimmer in Northam’s Olympic length pool. He had the broad shoulders and big chest of a swimmer. I used to think he was Dutch, actually, only finding out he was from Germany much later.

In recent years I knew he was having trouble with a kind of arthritic condition in his hands, causing him trouble with gripping things and picking them up. But he was very active and made many trips to the Goldfields with a metal detector and his Subaru.

He graduated as an architect around 1970 and married one of the prettiest and nicest girls in the school, Vivienne. They had three children, Alexander, Gabriel and Zoe. Viv is an audiologist and that meant I met her son Gabriel a few years ago when I had a bit of hearing trouble. He is the only child I’ve met. Unfortunately the eldest, Alexander, succumbed to depression while at uni and took his life. That must have been very hard on Jan and Viv.

I went on a cruise with Jan in November 2014, a six week voyage sharing a cabin on the Arcadia. We flew to Singapore, boarded there and cruised via Bangkok, Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) Vietnam, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Nagasaki Japan, Busan South Korea to Tian Jin, the port for Beijing. Four days in Beijing, then flying Vietnam Airlines to Hanoi for four days, then on to Bali for five days and home. This was a long trip and I during it I got to know Jan well.

So it’s a bit sad, not knowing he was so ill and not having a chance to say goodbye. Not realising he was ill. Sad. The first of our close group to go.

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Among my Bali DVDs I have a movie called London Bridge Has Fallen. The Queen’s funeral reminded me of it, as the funeral was code-named London Bridge in all the British planning for many years.

However, the movie plot is that terrorists take the opportunity to stage a huge raid on the funeral, seeing that so many world leaders would be present. It’s an American movie of course, and the US president is the main target, but the terrorists don’t care who they kill or how many. It’s an Incredibly violent movie and you wonder how so many guns can be fired in public places with so few casualties among the innocent bystanders. Even the London Met Police are shown as undercover bad guys and get shot by the wonderful American good guys. Amazing. I might watch it again, just for laughs.