Wednesday, May 23, 2007

0705232200. The Most Technologically Advanced Timberyard on the Planet.

House repairs for the sale. The retaining wall needs to be replaced.
When my wife, who is, as a matter of fact and is not just my humble opinion, a world class teacher said that the retaining wall needed to be fixed, there was a mention of a reputable construction company and a reasonable price. At that stage I was looking forward to having the repairs. Somewhere the project was changed into a home handy-man project with me and our good friend and neighbour doing the job.
I have what I call “project panic” – it is an uneasy, uncomfortable feeling when a job has to be done but is not yet done. When I am committed to the task, but I have not even started it – that is when “project panic” is the worst. I get this project panic when I have make a meal for the family. I get it when I make the kids lunches in the morning. I get it a work when I am given a new project. It goes away when the job is finished. I have learned that the best way for me to alleviate project panic is to start the research and make a plan. Yellow pages and Google. Timber yards are not well known for their ability to take up the latest advances in technology – some do not have web pages or on-line ordering. Some did not even have an email address. I would have to talk to them on the phone the old fashioned way. I don’t enjoy talking to strangers, and I don’t like being questioned on subjects about which I know very little.
I wasn’t looking forward to calling them because I really do not know that much about timber. I picked a business out of the thousands available because their business name mentioned treated timber - the others just mentioned “landscaping”.

“I would like to buy 63 meters of treated timber for a retaining wall please”
“Yeah – what type of timber are you after mate?”
“Treated timber – 50 by 700 and in a convenient length”
“We do 2600 and 1800”
“Hang on – quick calculation - I’ll need four of the 2600 and about 24 of the 1800”
“Right then”
“Do you deliver?”
“Yeah, cost ya, $25 for local - $35 for further”
“Twenty five dollars... that is a bargain, I’ll have two at that price”
“Is Friday afternoon convenient?”
“Yeah Friday is good”

He told me the price and I instantly knew why people choose to make a retaining wall from timber instead of something more durable like concrete, steel, old tires or discarded carpet. Timber is cheap – the stuff, and I mean this literally, really does grow on trees.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

0705200845. Take me to the river, drop me in the water.


Yesterday, the fish that belongs to my youngest son, died. Although this is a bit of a relief that we did not have to find a home for it, it was a terribly sad occasion.
There are few options for a dead fish – bury, flush or bin. This special little fish would get a burial at sea – or at least a burial in the river.
Since we needed a break from packing, and it was a relaxing kind of Saturday, we decided to give the fish a decent funeral. It’s little dead carcass was delicately lifted out of its former watery home, resplendent with coloured rocks and full length mirror, and with as much dignity as we could muster for a dead Mexican fighting fish we gently wrapped it in some clean white paper towel. And then in a hygienic plastic bag.

Nearby is a mighty river that plys its way through the land dividing shires with authority, providing vital water for agriculture and has a convenient boat ramp. The sun was shinning, the birds were singing, the breeze was breezing – all was good with the world as we drove to the little place that would become a permanent part of our memory as the place where we had the fish funeral.

We stood at the waters edge, in the mud, under the shade by a tree and said a few words about the role of pets in our lives and how the happy little fish never understood that it was always looking at itself in the mirror – it would even go behind the mirror to see if the "other fish" was there. It did this every day for years. We found it amusing, the fish was probably terrified.

The sad little package of dead fish and paper-towel was lowered into the river while the gentle flow of water held it in a slow graceful turn. This event was not exciting enough for our youngest son - so he unwrapped the fish and put it in deeper water to be carried away by the current. He was quiet on the way home but said he would like another pet – an ostrich.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

0705192200. We go to Hong Kong in 9 weeks.

Nine weeks until departure.
We have started packing the house. The school called and said that they are having some trouble finding a three bedroom place for us. We looked up the three bedroom units on the South side of Hong Kong Island and they are spectacular.

House for Sale.
We thought that we were smart by not using a real estate agent. We had a buyer sign a contract within one week of advertising. That is the job of the real estate agent – however the deal fell through due to a particularly picky building inspector.
The biggest mistake we made in the house sale was to change our add on so that it said “under contract”. We would have other buyers lined up – just in case.

The building inspection was harrowing. The inspector was a stocky little builder that was almost clever and had no social skills and a particular annoying trait of not knowing when to stop talking. I don’t know what a building inspection is supposed to do, but I am sure it is not to insult the home owner by picking on every thing that he can find – even if the house was build to standard in 1985 that does not apply today. I am sure that he is not supposed to persuade the buyer in a decision either way. For example – the building inspector correctly stated that the beams for verandah are supposed to be, according to the standard, according to him, 600mm apart. Some are 650mm apart. If he stopped talking after that he would have been fine. Instead he started up a fictional “what if” story about if there is a board with a knot-hole and if someone over 200kg steps on it, then they might break through and fall in up to their knees. Not a comforting image to put into the buyers head.
The electrician said that I have 4 circuit breakers that are made by a company that went out of business four years ago – am I supposed to watch the ASX for the business failure of every company that makes circuit breakers and then replace them?

The contract was cancelled for an unspecified reason – the buyer simply said that one of the four inspections was unsatisfactory. The buyer is an electrical technician that services medical equipment and is scared of earth leaks. He went white when he saw the 240V lights in the workshop simply plugged into the power point.

All the inspectors are fear merchants.

We are now replacing the retaining wall in the garden and fixing the leaking shower.

Speaking Cantonese.
I can ask questions but I can’t understand the answers.

Friday, May 4, 2007

0705032000 Selling the little car.

We have sold the house, now we are selling the cars.

We have a little Hyundai that we have neglected by not having it serviced for over 6 years.
We tend to run our life on a “run until failure” maintenance program.
Everything that has ever happened to that car seems to be caused by us – it has never spontaneously failed due to manufacturing defects.

The timing belt needed to be changed 100,000 kilometres ago.

It burns oil at such a rate that it never needs changing. Last year the engine started to cough and splutter so I changed one of the spark plugs.

I bought some new tyres for it the other day – the mechanic said “you certainly got your moneys worth out of these tyres” he said as he rubbed his hands around the tread that had worn down to the wires.

It has some kind of dent or scratch in every panel.

The radio doesn’t work.

Alex bumped a shopping trolley into the tail lights about 7 years ago.

I bought a new battery for it once.

We ran it out of petrol on a hot summers day and it ruined the fuel pump.

I overfilled the oil and the extra oil leaked out onto a rubber engine mount and after a few months the mount crumbled away – this made the entire engine move around so much that it changed out of fourth gear when we accelerated.

When my dear wife, who is, as a matter of fact and not just my biased personal opinion, a world class teacher, would arrive home - I could hear the ratchet as the handbrake was “applied” even when I was sitting inside the house. After a time the handbrake was pulled out of the floor. I complained to the dealer and they welded it back on for free.

It has served our family well, it has carried us to school and work diligently and tirelessly for years, we have laughed and cried while travelling as we stared out its windows at this great wide brown land while its little motor purred away taking us on our holidays, we filled its little back seat with boxes as we shifted house, it has carried our weekly groceries safely home in its little boot. It waits patiently for me everyday at the train station car park like a little dog with big moist eyes, staring into the distance for a sign that its master will return. The little car has remained loyal to me after my fling with a motorbike - we will sell it as parts to a junk yard because our registration laws will make it uneconomical to maintain.

Farewell little car.