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.

Pffftttt! to you

My husband decided he would improve the ambience of our bathroom a few weeks ago.   I’m not quite sure how he thought he could do that, as we had the bathroom renovated about 18 months ago and I was quite satisfied with the outcome.  I didn’t have a functioning toilet for three weeks during construction, but that’s another blog.  It all ended well with a little help from the public toilet block two streets away and a finished, fancy, up-to-date Beautiful Homes design with a spa that I could have done the backstroke in.  There was nothing that it needed.

My husband apparently thought differently and being the fan of gadgets that he was, couldn’t resist the latest odour-fighting accessory that had been doing the rounds on the ad breaks between the 6 o’clock news and CSI Miami.  A fancy, battery-operated, movement-sensing fragrance squirter was just the thing, in his opinion, to fight off those lingering nasties that we all live with but don’t talk about.

I wasn’t altogether convinced of it’s authenticity and besides, I had a stash of essential oils, essential-oil soy candles and enough incense sticks to last me, so I was good to go for at least 10 years.

Still, it found it’s way into the bathroom and onto a ledge about three feet above my head so I couldn’t reach it to get rid of it even if I had wanted to – so it stayed put and every now and then it would emit a  lemon-scented hiss whenever anyone or anything got within cooee of it.

For the first few days I found myself looking around for large, scuttling things and checking the doors and windows before it twigged.  It was particularly disconcerting on the first evening being confronted by some wild, spitting beast hiding in the toilet bowl.  I have a vivid imagination when half asleep and under duress and it took me at least two hours to settle down after leaping around in the dark and getting a good workout before my husband turned the light on.

He might not think it’s so funny after he steps on that squeaker that I’m putting at his side of the bed when he goes for his afternoon nap after an all-nighter next weekend.

Salesmen suck

I went out and bought my husband a new television recently. Sounds like a simple enough exercise, right? Well, you don’t live on an island.

Up until now, we have only had 1 televison in the house, so it often turned into a bun fight when favourite shows were on at the same time. My husband was getting sick of watching his movies on his laptop, and often mentioned it in a loud voice whenever my television programs were on as he was passing through the loungeroom.

I decided that I would get him a television for the bedroom that could play movies from a USB stick. That way, I’d get to watch my shows in peace. It was a good plan

I took my USB stick loaded with movies with me to the store to test it out on some of the display stock, but the salesman wasn’t too keen on me sticking my potentially corrupted USB stick into the port of one of his televisions. He assured me that he knew which television would play my movies, and which would not.

I eyed the Sony in the corner, but he steered me away from that  to the store’s generic model and told me that it would definitely play whatever movie I wanted it to. I asked him if he had seen this television actually play movies in this fashion, and he said that he hadn’t, but showed me a printout that gave the specs as being movie player compliant. As the price was right, I decided to bite the bullet and lug the oversized box back to the island.

Getting it back to the island involved transporting it in my car, getting from the car to the ferry, getting it on the ferry, getting it off the ferry and into the other car  parked near the ferry on the other side, and finally getting it home. I decided to employ the skills of my son, much to his disgust. We almost lost it in the water before we even made it to the island when my son overbalanced getting onto the ferry.

We finally got it in the front door and we tripped over the dog on the way into the bedroom, sending us and the television sliding towards the floor. Fortunately the television landed on the lounge. I wasn’t so lucky and landed on the coffee table beside the lounge. My son landed on the floor, just missing the dog.

I limped into the bedroom to clear off the chest of drawers and take the television out of the box.

After much swearing, tugging, and screwing in the base, we finally got it started. I tuned it in and stuck the USB stick in.

It didn’t work.

The files were not compatible with the system. Or so it announced on the screen. I tried avi extensions, I tried mp4s, I even tried mov extensions. Nothing. The television was a dud, and I would have to take it back.

I rang the store and told them of the situation. I spoke to one salesman, who sounded surprised that it didn’t work. He asked me if I was sure.  I rattled off all of the extensions it wouldn’t play, and he shut up. I finally got to talk to the salesman that had  sold it to me. After he apologised profusely, he asked me if I wanted to buy a media player to go with the television so that it would work. I told him I already had a media player hooked up to the main television, and that this was not the object of the exercise. He asked me if I could bring it back today. I asked him if he remembered what I told him about where I lived. He said that I had a week to bring it back and replace it with another one, but he wasn’t sure which one would play from USB. He was telling me this now?

I was pissed off, that was for sure. I had gone to a lot of trouble so that my husband could enjoy his many movies simply by transferring them from his hard drive to his USB stick.

I decided to bring out the big guns and called my husband, who was in the middle of the ocean.

He called the store the next day from the ship and got me another, better television replacement at a discount price, an in-house demonstration of the movies being played from USB, plus a free 2 year warranty. He is a tough negotiator when he’s had a few weeks of rough seas and rough jobs. I was impressed.

The next day saw me and my son lugging the first television back to the store to get the second television. I took my USB stick again. The store manager asked me to bring it along to demonstrate that this other television would play my movies. He didn’t seem too worried about any ‘bugs.’

The television in question? The Sony sitting in the corner that I had wanted to buy in the first place.