Cyber Dad

I’m really enjoying living close to my parents again and being able to see them more often.  Dad is now taking advantage of the fact that I am close by and gets me to help him with his day-to-day ‘electronic difficulties’.  This can cover anything from making sure his television is connected properly after he has played around with it and messed it up, making sure his  new phone is working after he has played around with it and messed that up, too, and ringing utility companies when something goes completely wrong and Dad has tried to fix it and it becomes yet again even more messed up.

Just recently Dad decided that he wanted to enter the world of cyberspace.  We all cringed but we went with it.  Everybody else was doing it, apparently, so he wanted to do it, too.  Mum says that if everybody went out and bought a pink elephant in a purple tutu for no apparent reason he would want one, too, even though he didn’t quite know why.

He wanted a tablet because my uncle had a tablet and wouldn’t stop raving about it.  I wish my uncle would stop raving about stuff because the last thing he raved about was a coffee maker and Dad bought one even though he doesn’t drink coffee.

I had a look around and decided that the best tablet for the money by comparison and quality was the Apple iPad.  I couldn’t get Dad down to the store fast enough as he wanted to get his hands on one and start pressing the buttons.  I explained to Dad that to have the iPad connected to the Internet he would also have to have an Internet connection established as well.  I naturally got the job of Internet organiser and it was an agonising wait of 24 hours after he purchased his iPad before I could set up the Internet.

My father is not technically savvy but he did his best to learn and was amazed when I downloaded a few game apps like solitaire and jigsaw puzzles.  The irony was not lost on me that Dad had just paid five hundred dollars to play Solitaire and do a few jigsaw puzzles when he had a perfectly good five dollar pack of cards and some good jigsaw puzzles which would have cost him around thirty dollars.  I have also taught him to explore the world using Google Earth and he’s been everywhere from the pyramids in Egypt to his old house as a kid.

My dad may not be technically minded but he is having a darn good time tapping away and feeling like he has one up on most of his retired jigsaw genius, card playing, travelled friends.

And it’s not a complete loss, of course.  When Dad finally gets sick of it and moves onto a computer or back to his cards I may be the new owner of the almost-new Apple iPad.  I may have to fight my son for it, however, as he apparently doesn’t have one of those in his more technically-savvy-than-me arsenal.


Smokers anonymous

My husband has recently given up smoking.  He told me he was going to give up smoking when he turned 40 and as he turned 50 a couple of months ago, it has taken him quite a while to throw that ‘last’ packet in the bin.  As he likens it to cutting off an arm or a leg I suppose 10 years isn’t that much of a stretch.

He seems to be going well but I’m keeping a low profile and out of the way as he can go from being a happy little vegemite to an angry bigger troglodyte in 0.5 seconds.  He certainly gives my so-called PMS a run for it’s money – and he wins the Golden Globe for grandiose dramatics on suffering withdrawals.

I’ve noticed my sweet treats going missing on a regular basis and empty ice cream wrappers turning up in the rubbish bin every other day.  He came home yesterday sporting a red ring around his mouth but knowing his history – a jam doughnut trumps another woman.  The former may kill him eventually.  The latter and I would kill him immediately.

I’m starting to get a little worried about him as he is starting to look like the Goodyear blimp.  I have bought healthy snacks for him to find around the house but he zeros in on the 100 percent fat content like a homing pigeon.

I’m hoping it is a phase and he wakes up one morning and actually looks into the mirror he is avoiding at present.  It is only a matter of time before he either frightens himself into taking up smoking again or gets serious about getting healthy.  I’m having an each-way bet.

Solar savings

My husband decided that we were going to go solar with our new house purchase which was not unreasonable given the unbelievable power price surges in the last few years.  As we live in one of the sunniest regions of Australia getting solar would be the equivalent to giving greedy power companies the third finger which was very appealing to me so I was keen to get a quote.

My husband took researching and gathering information to a whole new level in his quest to find the best system for the most competitive price and became quite knowledgeable on exactly what he was after.  I just went with the flow, as I knew from past experience he would go for the biggest one he could get his hands on.

We had various companies and salespeople through, some my husband offered a beer to when they got through the front door and some he disliked on sight.  The last quote came in with the biggest system, the best inverter, the best sun-tough solar panels, a wireless monitoring system and a wrangled deal with my husband to remove the old solar hot water system from our roof for free.  It was a no brainer.

The installation day arrived and everything was running smoothly until they tried to remove the old hot water system from the roof and it bounced off its perch, to the ground below and went through the neighbour’s Colourbond fence.  The only good thing about that was it went through the back fence and not the side or we would have all had a rather large pit bull to contend with as well as an irate neighbour.

To their credit, they finished the job on time, took a photo of the damage to the fence and got somebody out to fix the fence before the end of the week.  It may have been hastened a little by my husband telling them they wouldn’t be paid until the fence was fixed, however.

We now have fully working solar after a few mishaps and miscommunications between the power company, the solar installer and the company who actually came to turn it on – but that is another story.

I can now happily monitor what our 7.19 Kw capacity can do and it’s marvellous.  We are certainly not using as much electricity as we produce so a lot of our power goes back to the grid for a small bonus payment back to us as well as a reduction in cost of the actual electricity we use.

We get to stick it to the power companies – but only on a sunny day.  The next step is power storage systems.  After even more research my husband has decided to wait for that one for a few years so he can get the biggest and most innovative deal for his dollar, as usual.



It’s common knowledge around these parts that my family is full of eccentric-type nutters, myself included.  Not that it’s a bad thing but it has its moments.  In a world where mental illness and mental stress are now the norm – some members of my family can give those categories a run for their money, be somewhat challenging or at the very least, downright entertaining.  I’ve managed to keep a lid on most of mine over the years but I suspect that if I had ever done drugs or alcohol I would be spending a bit of time in the local mental health unit by now.

My father is no exception.  I wouldn’t call him crazy but he is definitely out there.  I suspect he has undiagnosed adult ADHD from my stints working with psychiatrists and my discussions with them about him over the years.  He has managed to navigate through his life in blissful ignorance in times of stress with a somewhat childlike attitude to problems and an attention span of a mudskipper.  Mum undoubtedly has shouldered most of the day-to-day burdens, bills and disasters and would probably only now just be getting out of prison for murder if they hadn’t separated twenty years ago.

I get along pretty well with Dad although it can be hard work keeping up with a conversation with him as he flits from one subject to another, talks loudly at lightspeed, looks blankly at me when I ask him a question, says “eh?” and then answers it.

Shopping is fun with Dad albeit a little scary because I never know what he is going to do next.  I have lost him in department stores because he has wandered off or stopped to have a detailed conversation about almost anything he can think of with somebody he doesn’t know.  Going to the cinema is a real challenge as I can’t hear the dialogue over my father’s constant queries about what is going on.

I often take him with me when I go to buy something because he gets bored and has nothing better to do but I try to refrain from taking him into electronic stores because he is likely to come out with something that he didn’t want and knew nothing about but just had to have because it was shiny and had a lot of buttons he could press.  I took him with me once when I went furniture shopping and he managed to smash a three hundred dollar lamp because he was so excited looking around at all the fancy items he wanted to buy he didn’t see the two-feet-tall designer lamp sitting on a side table near his gesticulating right arm.  The manager insisted, however, that we didn’t have to pay for it after I purchased a very expensive guilt-driven dining suite and my father purchased a plush leather recliner that he said he was going to buy anyway.

They certainly broke the mold when they made my father – and for all his oddities and foibles growing up with him was never dull.  He often took me on his adventures and I always returned home not always unscathed but still alive.  He added to my childhood ideals and experiences.  To me being different, odd or eccentric is just another facet of being human.  Thanks to my father and my family I don’t really believe that there is an ideal to live up to.  Human beings are made to be faulty – it’s just the way it is.  We break, cope or strengthen in different ways depending on our map of the world.

I’m not even sure that there is such a thing as being ‘normal’ or whether it is just a media-generated phenomena that the disillusioned and brainwashed feel the need to aspire to. Thank God for weird dads.

Just another day…

I really like my electrician….

He lives locally, which is important, as I live on an island.  He works on the premise that  ‘if you’ve got the money, then he has the time’.  To be fair he is reasonably priced but he has been shafted so many times by our local island skin flints that he makes it a rule these days to be selective.  Thankfully, I am one of the chosen, as he is quite good at his job.

As far as listening to instructions outside of his electrical realm, however, he falls into another category.  Mere male status.

He fronted up last week to install the fancy leadlight fittings that I had purchased and he proceeded to blaze a trail in and out of my house to his truck to collect all of the necessary bits and pieces that he would need.

After his the third time out the gate I asked him if he was going back out the gate again could he please shut and lock the gate behind him, as my dogs would be out before he could blink to check out all and sundry smells in the immediate vicinity.  He nodded his head and stared at me.  I should have recognised that blank look for what it really was.

Approximately 10 minutes later, as I was holding the ladder the electrician was perched on, I heard a terrible screaming  and rushed outside to see my two fat Bichons running for their lives towards the gate and a larger, ferocious looking mutt being chased off by my neighbour who then informed me that the aforementioned mutt had my Bichon, Angus, in a death grip before she managed to scare it off.

As Angus had shot into the house and under the ladder to hide in the corner, it was impossible to see how much damage had been done to him but the electrician soon learned a new vocabulary as I pushed him and his ladder aside to get to my poor quaking dog who was beginning to howl.

To cut a long story short, my dog had three rather large puncture wounds in him and had to be taken to the vet for sedation, antibiotics and various other medical administrations.

Apart from the trauma for my poor dog, the entire day cost me approximately three times my original estimation for light installation, as I had the gate fixed up so it would never again be left open.  I’m thinking of adding an extra-large spring to flick back on any potential offenders in the future.

As for my electrician, he beat a hasty retreat after the job was done and I received a half-price guilt-induced bill  in the mail.

The renovation run

The last two-and-a-bit weeks have been a testament to my resilience while under duress, my tact, my dedication to the cause and my patience.  My mother will probably argue in regard to my habitual and distinct lack of patience of the past but I am nonetheless holding my own at present, amidst what resembles a disaster zone of dust, wood, plaster and more building implements that you could poke a stick at.

I had managed to remove myself and my office from the chaos and relocate temporarily to the lounge room to tap away quite happily, unperturbed by the screaming saws and nattering nail guns.  My Bose QuietComfort 15 headphones lived right up to their hype of complete noise cancellation until the builder systematically worked his way through the house plans and began pulling the main door out of the lounge room to build my new frame.

I decided, at this point, that dust was more hazardous to productivity than noise pollution, so I shut my operation down with some good sheeting and a bit of packing tape and headed out the door for some renovation retail therapy.

My first port of call was the local bathroom showroom to pick out some tasteful tiling to match and compliment the neutral overall colour scheme that I was aiming for, which should have been a snap, as I considered myself to be the Chief Art Director and Colour Coordinator of the household.  After two hours of wading through fancy Italian-look natural stone, stone lookalike, glazed porcelain, unglazed porcelain and marble lookalike, I was seeing double, so I decided on a travertine-type fancy stone lookalike without the Italian price tag.  I paid the deposit and left them to the order, continuing on my way to the carpet showroom down the road.

Picking out a piece of carpet was even more educational with a choice of commercial heavy duty loop, heavy duty twist, home and commercial heavy duty loop and twist and home heavy duty twist and loop.  I was pretty much over it by the time I reached the luxury shag line and made my choice on colour, durability and price and headed for the door.

I made it home in good time with the groceries in tow and was feeling pretty pleased with myself on a job well done.  My husband was looking pretty pleased with himself too when he pulled into the driveway with my vanity a half hour later – until he spotted my face when he opened up the top of the container.

‘You got the wrong one.’

‘Yeh, I know.  But this one is bigger.’ he shrugged.

It’s the wrong one.’

‘Yeh, you said that.  But it was the same price.’

‘It’s still the wrong one!’  I threw a piece of packing foam at him.

‘I got a bigger one for the same price,’ he ducked and smiled at me.  ‘I thought you would be pleased.’

‘What is it about being bigger and pleasing women that so fixates you lot!’  I screamed at him and started marching inside.  ‘You better tell the darn builder, because he’s going to want to know all about your bigger dimensions!’

Somebody snorted and I looked up to see the building crew lined up along the veranda watching the show.

I slammed the door to their chortling and left them to it.

My husband made peace later and bought me a bunch of flowers and the dust has metaphorically settled somewhat.  The bigger vanity managed to fit into the allotted space and the style was still in keeping with the overall appearance.

My husband tells me he was considering me when he picked the bigger vanity as I would have more space in which to put all my ‘junk’, but I’m not buying it until men all over the world are finally extolling the virtues of medium-sized 4wds, warships, planes, trains and condoms.


me angus and rubyWell the day finally came recently for our photo shoot.

I’d had this organised for ages and my husband wasn’t getting out of it, despite his aversion to any type of recording or digital photographic device.  I hadn’t had any decent photos done since our wedding and even those weren’t done by professionals – just family members who were pretty slick with a camera click.

I was determined I was getting a few nice shots before I got too old and wrinkly to have something nice to look back on when I was too old and wrinkly, so the date was set in stone for when I could organise the photographer around my husband’s work schedule.

He grumbled a bit about it all but he grumbled even more when I told him that our dogs were going to be included in the shots, as I had missed getting my last two much-loved dogs in any good photos and I wasn’t prepared to let this happen again.

A bit of preparation was involved in getting myself ready for the photo shoot, ie, makeup, hair, the right clothes and clean teeth but that was nothing compared to the preparation that was involved in getting my precious dogs ready.  My husband ‘volunteered’ for the grooming  job, as I was working  but he was ready to spit more than dog hair out of his mouth by the time they were finished.  I decided to keep a low profile, as the stakes were high and I just wanted us to make it to the photographer’s looking like we all loved each other to create a bit of ambiance.  I could come out swinging later.

I was feeling very pleased with our presentation despite the hair-raising, teeth-grinding ride into hell with my cranky man.  He’d even spruced himself up with a clean, buttoned shirt and a shave which was a good sign, so I let it go.  Just after we got through the studio door Ruby, my Bichon female, threw up all over the floor – no doubt the result of her hair-raising roll in the back seat on the way here.  We were off to a great start.

We got a few good shots in with us and the dogs, me and the dogs, my husband and the dogs and the dogs on their own before my husband began to get a bit twitchy.  He doesn’t like to stray too far away from his environment when he is home from sea and this was a foreign country as far as he was concerned.  I had paid for a two-hour session but he managed to get back out of the photographer’s door to the car in under 68 minutes with the dogs in hot pursuit.

Thankfully, the photographer was fantastic and she had actually managed to fit in some great shots in that frenetic time period – enough to get a few favourites to frame for our walls.

We made the ferry in record time and I dropped him and the dogs off and left him to it.  I wasn’t speaking to him and I was up for a bit of retail therapy to pacify myself.

He’s not off the hook yet though.  I liked the photos so much I am booking in another session with the photographer in a few months’ time with my whole family, including my husband and the dogs.  Let him throw a time-tantrum in front of my mother and see what happens to him.