Holiday Heaven

My husband recently decided he needed a holiday while he was home.  As he spends weeks away at sea I would have thought that just being home again was enough of a holiday but I went with it and looked at a few spots that might suit us – or rather a few spots that might suit my photography, as I was keen to add a few more sunrise and sunset beach shots to my already extensive experimentation.  You can never have enough beach shots, right?

My husband grumbled but as he was close to everything he needed, food, bed, bathroom and an occasional beer he was happy to comply – until I handed him a list of shots that I wanted to get on his ‘relaxing’ holiday.  I’m reasonably adventurous but I’m not stupid and hanging around somewhere to prepare for shots that for the most part are shot in near darkness is asking for trouble in certain situations so he was to be my ‘wing man’ and protector for however long it took me to get that ‘perfect’ scene.

As I’m more of a night owl than a morning sparrow it was his mission to wake me up before dawn and drive me to my predetermined destination for my sunrise shoot.  I was pretty disappointed that there wasn’t a single cloud in the sky as opposed to the previous day’s complete torrential washout but I worked with what I had and managed to get some half-decent orange hues and some silhouettes – besides, I was pushing my luck getting him to participate in yet another sunrise-stalking protection operation anytime in the near future.

For my sunset shot he just sat in the car and watched me from a distance as I snapped happily away.  I was surrounded by a bevy of shutterbugs, surfers and grommets.  As far as he was concerned, my safety in numbers and his comfy car seat trumped getting sand blasted in freezing mid-winter conditions on a bunch of cold, hard rocks.

On our last day I had booked a helicopter flight to get some great aerial shots of the coastline.  He’d been in helicopters plenty of times for his job so I wasn’t overly concerned during the drive to the helipad but at his shudder and reference to unreliable ‘kerosene canaries’ when he spotted it, I was on full alert for an ocean ditching, life jacket inflation and holding a very expensive camera out of the water at all costs.

Needless to say we made it back safely with some great shots – which is another story worthy of its own post.  I’m pretty sure my husband was extremely relieved to also make it back to his leather recliner and his flat-screen television for some much needed shuteye for the remainder of his stay at home.

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The move from Hell

Well, the move is complete and we are now settled into our new home.  I have decided that I am never leaving this place, not only because I really like it here but because I never want to experience another move like this one again.  They can carry me out of here in a pine box – I’m staying put.

We’ve moved a few times and most of the time things have gone smoothly.  We had been lulled into a false sense of security as we perused the classifieds for a ‘suitable removalist at a reasonable price’.  They came, they quoted, we booked it in and they left.  Everything was right in the world.

Two days before the move my husband was called back to sea so it was all up to me to get it done right.  I had a couple of friends over on the day for moral support in case I lost the plot as I was already hyperventilating before the removalist truck pulled into the driveway.

I took one look at the truck and decided that it was going to be too small for our furniture and it was definitely not the largest truck in the fleet – the truck that we had ordered – for the day.  The driver assured me that it would be okay and that he would fit it all in.  I looked at him and walked away before I said something I would regret.

As we lived on an island at the time we were dependent upon barges for transport to get to the mainland.  The deadline for the booked barge was looming, the truck was almost full and I still had a mountain of furniture to be loaded.  I gave the driver my best ‘I told you so look’ and stormed off to ring the company.  I was assured by the manager that they would send another truck to pick up the rest of the furniture and I told the manager that if they had have sent the bigger truck we booked in the first place then he wouldn’t have had to send another truck.  I’m pretty sure he told the driver and his offsider to go slow after that just out of spite because the barge time came and went and I had to book another barge for three hours’ time.

The second truck they brought over to the island didn’t come for another ninety minutes and it broke down just as it got off the barge ramp.

I had one truck fully loaded with three-quarters of my stuff, two sullen drivers, the second deadline looming with the second truck broken down and a third truck on its way.  You can’t make this stuff up.

It was at this point that I let them have both barrels – but I won’t go there.

We eventually just made the second barge and left the other furniture behind to be picked up by a third truck which only just made the last barge off for the day.

We started the move at 7am and the removalists did not leave my new place until 9.30pm.  Despite needing the barge to get us across less than a kilometre of water, as the crow flies one house was only 10 minutes away from the other.  They damaged my furniture and to add insult to injury they left my microwave in the house so I had to go back for it myself the next day.

Then they wanted payment.

To cut a long story short they got paid but they didn’t get paid what they quoted for.  Nowhere near it.  They were lucky my husband wasn’t home as he was gunning for them and wouldn’t have paid them at all.

Like I said.  I’m out of this place in a pine box.  At least a removalist won’t be involved.

The laptop shop from Hell

I was recently in the market for a laptop as my last one’s hard drive got fried in a power surge when one of the bright sparks down the road decided to do some renovations and hit a power line.  Needless to say I armed all my power points with surge protectors shortly thereafter.

Buying a laptop is tedious yet serious business.  There are so many to choose from.  I know a little about computers in regards to size, speed and capacity so I wanted a laptop with enough RAM and hard drive to last for a while with at least an i3 Intel processor.  I decided to give a local large stationery company – who shall remain nameless – a go as they had a few desktops and laptops in stock.

After much haggling and looking at specs I decided on one particular laptop.  The salesman returned from the storeroom and told me that this particular model wasn’t available but they had another one and he could do it for a similar price.  I was satisfied with this and took the product home.

On getting it home and unwrapping the product I discovered that the product was broken.  Not just broken – the screen was smashed on one side, one of the lugs that holds the screen in place at the back was missing and some of the keys appeared to be glued back into place on the keyboard.  I was flabbergasted.  The product had obviously been put in the box broken as there was nothing wrong with the box.  I rang the company and unbelievably they tried to blame me for damaging the product.  After a heated discussion with the manager they told me to bring the product in and they would ‘have a look at it’ – and concluded that the serial number on the product did not match the serial number on the box and that somebody had swapped the product out.  Really?  The manager then had the cheek to ask me if I had a similar product at home.  By this time I was seeing white spots before my eyes and was about to burst a blood vessel.  I told the manager if I had have bought the product for nefarious purposes in the first place I would have made damn sure I got the product I asked for and not accepted a different product that was offered to me because the original product wasn’t available.  He eventually conceded that he may have some less-than-honest employees in the storeroom and offered me another laptop.

At this point I probably should have learnt my lesson, got a refund and walked away but I got a second laptop and took it home.  All was going well – until I tried to start it up.  It would get to a certain point in the setup process and then spit the dummy and go to a blank screen.  I tried this a number of times and got the same dummy-spitting effect.  I concluded that there was a software problem and once again rang the store.  This time I got the manager-bitch-from-Hell employee of the year who told me that I could bring it back but I wouldn’t be getting a refund and they would be sending the laptop off to get it fixed.  Get it fixed?  WTF?  It was broken before I even opened the box.  My shitometer hit unprecedented heights and I let her have it.  I told her I wanted to speak to a nicer, more customer-friendly manager or they would be speaking to my solicitor.  I was not a thief nor was I dishonest.  All I wanted was a laptop that worked efficiently and they obviously couldn’t supply me with one.  Twice.

In the end they gave me a full refund.  I took my mother with me for backup that day because she is the veteran of winning arguments around these parts and was angling for a fight.  It was all a bit of an anticlimax as the bitch from Hell was nowhere to be seen and I spotted the salesman I dealt with disappearing hastily out the back as I walked in the front door.  I spoke to a nice saleswoman who apologised and gave me my money back.  I went to another store and purchased another laptop and have never had a problem with it.

Lesson learned.  Open the darn box before leaving the store.

Arachnophobia

I don’t like spiders.  They scare me shitless.  I can’t even look at one in a magazine or on my computer.  I have to quickly turn the page or scroll past at light speed.  I’m not sure why as I know they can’t move off of the media and jump out and bite my ass.  Tell that to my ass though.

I’ve had my share of spider horror stories although I haven’t been bitten.  No doubt I have come close as I’ve wandered around in the garden or bushland at times but what I don’t know won’t hurt me.  It’s the in-your-face stuff that makes my hair stand on end and my brain melt into my spinal cord.

My first experience was the result of a good deed gone wrong and probably why I never offered to vacuum my adolescent room ever again.  My mother housed the crusty old cleaner in a box, in a cupboard and out of the light – an obvious favourite haunt of the eight-legged horror which I felt rather than saw as I put my bare foot on an enormous huntsman that continued to wriggle its way to freedom from under my foot and between my toes.  I doubt very much my feet hit the floor for the rest of the evening and I spent the night at my friend’s house.  I tend to wear foot covering everywhere these days except in the shower.

I managed to avoid any chance encounters until a night on the town with my future husband turned into a nightmare as I walked through a group of trees near our destination and straight into the biggest spider web I never saw.  I’m sure I looked a picture of grace and dignity as I danced around like a lunatic trying to get the sticky stuff off me but when my date walked up to me and flicked a huge spider off my head and onto the ground I lost it completely.  He still talks about my screaming sprint past the jazz club windows while the patrons cheered me on.

Not long after that my son and I were downstairs sweeping the entrance when we spotted another large huntsman near the roof.  Commonsense and past experience prevailed and I left it alone but not my son – he decided to poke it with his broom which knocked it onto the floor and straight up his shorts.  I am ashamed to say that I laughed so hard I cried – until the wretched thing ran down his prancing legs and straight up mine.

My last and most recent experience with a spider once again involved my son.  We were putting out the garbage and spotted the largest red back spider we’d ever seen in a web at eye-level on the carport.  We both got close enough to look at the red stripe running down its back when it moved towards us and the sensor light went out at the same time.  We both nearly knocked each other out in the dark as we bravely scrambled to get away from it.  Needless to say we both lived to tell the tale and the spider was dispatched with haste.

I see a few huntsman spiders here and there now and again but I leave them alone.  I figure if I don’t bother them then they won’t bother me but if I find one in the shower with me then all bets are off.

The holiday from Hell

Over the years my husband has pestered me to get a passport so that I could travel with him and enjoy the many delights of different spaces, places, cultures and food.  I have never really been interested in travel but I got myself organised and got myself a passport.  A few weeks later.. or so a previous story goes… my husband booked a holiday to Thailand online and I bought myself a new suitcase.

The holiday turned out to be great apart from a bout of food poisoning which put me off the local cuisine and took me to as many Subways that I could find in Patong as at least I was only getting salad on a bun.  Having food poisoning with my illness is no laughing matter and I was out of Solu-Cortef injections so I wasn’t taking any chances.  Subways once again came through and I remained healthy for the rest of the holiday.

A year later my husband was being sent to Singapore for a company training course and asked me to come along.  We could pay for the flight with frequent flyers and the accommodation was company-paid and therefore mostly ‘free’ (I like that word a little too much).  As I had taken up photography the year before and didn’t take any cameras to Thailand I thought this would be a good opportunity to get some experience with wildlife and cityscape shots so I was keen.  After all, I was okay the last time I went overseas and as long as I stuck to bland food (Subways or hotel restaurant) I would be okay.

One day after we landed and my husband had gone to do his course, one of the wives (a friend of mine) who had come along asked if I would be up for some Singapore public transport to check out some of the tourist attractions.  I didn’t need to be asked twice – I packed up my camera gear and joined the fray of Singapore civilians going about their everyday activities on the rail system and bus routes.

We ended up at a fantastic bird park and I got some really awesome shots of a multitude of birds doing a multitude of bird things.  I was having a great time although a little tired from the overpowering Singapore humidity and the smoke haze that hung in the air from the palm oil fires across the country at the time.

On the way home I started to feel slightly nauseated and went to bed early with a headache and an extra dose of cortisol to make up for the strenuous day.  The next day I was feeling drained but I managed to get out and about and do a little shopping and sightseeing with my husband that night where I got some great photographs of the Singapore skyline Singapore night 3bfrom the top of a viewing platform.  It was after that the rot set in.

I barely made it back to the hotel room before I was throwing up.  This went on all night until I had nothing left and kept going.  I decided to get a doctor in to give me a needle to stop the vomiting and when my husband returned he gave me my Solu-Cortef injections to make up for the lost cortisol in my system.  Unlike Thailand, however, I did not improve and ended up in the Singapore Hospital for five days with some unknown virus, a multitude of IV medications and even more oral medications.  I lost count of the blood tests and my sodium was dangerously low.  The hospital refused to let me out until my sodium normalised and my endocrinologist in Australia was contacted for instructions on the correct dosing for panhypopituitarism.

As for me, most of my time in the hospital was a blur of sickness and fear.  Fear of being in a strange hospital in a strange country dangerously ill with an uncommon underlying illness that few of the doctors there knew anything about and a fear of not making it home.

I made it home mainly thanks to my hero husband running the gauntlet of hospital doctors, hospital administration, insurance company paperwork and rebooking flights home when I was well enough.

Six months later I am still suffering the after effects.  I came home mentally manic from all the different drugs that I was given and had to see a psychiatrist for medication to slow my brain down.  I am still feeling the after effects with some insomnia and bad dreams when I do sleep.

I am getting better, however, but have decided that my next holiday will be a long time coming – and won’t involve flying to a foreign country.  I think Cairns would be nice.

The Black Dog

I watched a program on television recently that dealt with the issue of suicide and mental illness and how prevalent it is amongst our younger generation.

Don’t get me wrong.  Suicide and mental illness are not limited to the younger generation but it is especially heartbreaking to lose a young and troubled soul without feeling sorrow for a life not well-lived and the unimaginable anguish of the parents, grandparents, siblings, friends and school friends left behind.

Suicide has touched us all to some degree, whether it be somebody we know, somebody close, a friend of a friend or even our own morbid thoughts at times when things have been at their darkest in our lives.  I have not escaped unscathed with my various health difficulties without wondering at times whether it is worth the effort of struggling with the pain and functional difficulties that I have been left with.  I keep on top of it.  I keep busy.  I work and study and develop interests to keep the black dog at bay but others may not have the support that I have had or indeed the will to keep on dog paddling when they would rather sink to the bottom of the abyss.

The reality of the abyss was brought home to me again last year when my son’s best friend decided that he simply did not want to keep on paddling for another minute more.  He left behind a beautiful family, many friends and a community of people who he had helped in his short life wondering what had happened.  He didn’t drink, smoke or take drugs.  He went to church and believed in God.  He was kind, generous and loved.  He was planning a trip overseas and had booked the tickets.  He did not appear to fit the profile of a depressed and mentally ill young person and he simply slipped through the cracks.  He had sought help a few months before his death and unfortunately was not followed up.

The abyss will always be there.  It does not discriminate.  It can affect anybody.  There is no clear answer but it is clear that we need to become more aware of our fellow man and be a little more compassionate.  ‘There but for the grace of God go I’.

Travel bug bites

It’s been a while.  Between illness, travelling and new hiPad pics 195obbies I haven’t given much thought to writing this blog.  Although I should.  I have been asked more than once to keep this blog going and so I shall endeavour to do my bit for the literary world.

I have had a few highlights in the last few months, one of which was that overseas holiday that I was so busy procrastinating about in one of my last blogs.  It turned out alright in the end and laid my travel paranoia to rest until the next time.

We started the trip on a high with a hired limo to get us to the airport.  I was a bit reluctant to leave the plush leather surrounds and the free sodas to get into the confines of Qantas cattle class but as I got to watch the latest movies on the flight over with a set of headphones that drowned out the screaming baby a few rows in front of me I was reasonably content.

The concerns I had about my pharmaceuticals and my portable fridge were unfounded and with my specialist’s letter in hand we breezed our way through the Phuket airport terminal into a wall of humidity that would have put the Queensland tropical weather to shame on its worst day.

After ‘OMG, the heat’ and ‘why did I bring a jacket?’ we settled into our air conditioned taxi and hung on for a nail-biting  30-minute breakneck ride through Phuket to our resort in Rawai.  I was really not sure what roundabouts, red lights or pedestrian crossings were for anymore as they were completely ignored by everybody as drivers went for gold to get to their destinations in the shortest amount of time with complete disregard of impact statistics and safety regulations.  I saw five people on one scooter, four on another and one old scooter with three adults, two chickens and one dog on board.  There were also people in Tuk-Tuks, in the back of utes, in cars and pushbikes topped off by a multitude of massive tourist buses dodging the lot of them.

After three days my husband was zipping around in the traffic like a pro with me on the back silently screaming and mentally telling him to hit the brake.  We zoomed through red lights with the rest of them, dodging anything and everything that came our way.  I wasn’t quite sure whether it was my husband’s skill that got us through it or the skill of everybody else getting out of our way.

We moved from Rawai to Patong and discovered ten different ways to say no to the spruikers and stall holders at the various markets wanting us to buy everything from T-shirts to tattoos.  I also discovered paraflying and spent a nail-biting few minutes sailing high above Patong beach taking in the view and not worrying too much about travel and accident insurance.

For my first time overseas I think I did okay.  Apart from one bout of food poisoning I came out virtually unscathed with a new appreciation of just how lucky I have it here in my own country with services that I take for granted.  True, I could have more in life but I could always have a lot less like some of the people I saw in Thailand…and for that I am grateful.