Saturday, 25 June 2011

Scary Cat

The Devil Cats are coming thick and fast.

This one is apparently a scary Devil Cat - according to my granddaughter he has big, scary, sharp teeth, sharp claws and a sad face. They are getting more and more artistic every day. I particularly like the pose on this one - reminds me a little of Peter Allen. Perhaps it should be renamed Rio Cat.

Friday, 24 June 2011

Learning to Drive

My partner handed in his drivers license before we met when he decided it wasn't safe to drive after he was diagnosed with a medical condition. Now, after my recent heart attack and restrictions on my driving, he decided the time was right to reapply to get it back as his health has improved. Like a lot of things, you need to start at the bottom and work your way back to the top. Getting back a drivers license is no different.

He has been driving since he was 12, where driver education consisted of driving a drunk parent home from the pub. 20+ years of driving experience and an advanced driving course along the way. A piece of cake. After successfully passing the first stage, the Learners Permit, he was ready to drive with supervision. He had the option of going for his license straight away, but decided driving as a learner was the best course of action, after all, he was a little rusty after not being behind a wheel for so long.

Today we went for the first drive.

In my time I've been to Disneyland and Knotsberry's Farm and ridden on the wildest, scariest, heart stopping, white knuckle rides that these theme parks have to offer. They don't hold a candle to what I experienced today.

Most cars these days come equipped with a handle above the passenger side door, which I now affectionately call "the Jesus Bar". I called it by name quite a few times while my face was squashed up against the roof lining as we took the first roundabout on two wheels. Pedestrians scattered, dogs ran up trees and women and children bolted in all directions as we made our way down the street. My partner reassured me that "he had done this before" and I should  "relax and enjoy the ride".

Thank goodness the foot well in the station wagon is roomy enough to accommodate me.The only problem with this is that as the supervising driver, I am required to instruct and teach the finer points of driving to the learner. I found it hard to talk and scream at the same time. At the next turn, the Jesus Bar bailed off the door and joined me on the floor.

I signaled frantically for him to pull over and stop. I'm so glad I had the brakes done recently and I'm sure the panel beater can knock out the dint in the firewall where my head hit. Learning to drive can be a traumatic experience I discovered, more so for the instructor than the one being instructed.

"What's wrong?" he said.
"I'm feeling a little queasy from all these new tablets," I said as I climbed back into my seat. "Perhaps we can go home and do this a little later?" I gave him a wane smile and it did the trick.
He nodded. "I'll take it nice and slow on the way back," he said.

The trip home was a little less dramatic, probably because I was too frightened to open my eyes. As we turned into the driveway, I breathed a sigh of relief and pried my fingers off the seat. I'm sure the panel beater can recommend a good upholsterer to fix the holes.

He was beaming broadly. "That was good!" he said. "Just like riding a bike!"

Tomorrow is another day.

Tomorrow we are going to practice parallel parking.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Devil Cat Update

At least this one looks happy even though it has pointy teeth. That's thunder and lightning on each side. One electrifying cat!

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Aladdin's Treasure

Every couple of months the local council has a hard rubbish collection. It gives you the opportunity of cleansing the house of all that accumulated stuff that you've hoarded because it was:

a.   Useful but you still haven't found a good use for it.
b.   Valuable but you're not quite sure what it's worth.
c.   Broken but easily fixed.
d.   Items found on your neighbor's rubbish pile at the last collection  that was far too good to go to the tip.

Our local collection was scheduled for the end of this month, but the council in its wisdom has delayed pickup for another few weeks. It's a good thing in one respect - it gives you a chance to add a little more to your pile and lets you hunt for Aladdin's treasure in all the piles around town. And treasures there are indeed. There are washing machines, TV's, DVD's, furniture, lounge suites, beds, car parts, exercise equipment - virtually all you need to comfortably set yourself up if you have the inclination to leave home.

Part of my recovery regime is walking each day to build my heart strength back up. This morning my partner and I took a lovely stroll along the foreshore before crossing the road and heading back towards town along the footpath. And there it was. The jewel in the rubbish pile.  The pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. It was like a beacon of shining light that dazzled my partner's eyes - an old, tarnished, brass wood bucket. Despite my protests, he managed to take advantage of my weakened state and elicit a promise from me to go back and get it at the end of our walk.

Hard rubbish collection time is one of those moments I regret owning a station wagon. Once the back seat is folded down, there is no end to the amount of junk you can fit in. You have to be strong and resist the urge to fill the back to brimming point. So it was with a great deal of trepidation that I drove towards the wood bucket pile. It's funny how after spotting one jewel, other semi precious stones are suddenly visible to the naked eye. This pile was no exception. By the time we left with the wood bucket, we also had a boat anchor (we don't have a boat, but we might one day) and a contraption for adapting a hose to virtually any type of tap.

Our pile in contrast is pretty pathetic and consists of one broken office chair. This favorite finally made the collection pile after one of the supports at the base snapped. Irreparable. We did however, salvage the wheel castors and put them on an architects chair I salvaged off a throwout pile in town.

And the count so far?

1 item out,  4 items in.

Not bad, considering.

Friday, 17 June 2011

Devil Cat

My family has gathered ranks around me since my heart attack.

Last night my son, his wife and my grandchildren came over, more I suspect to check that the voice on the phone saying I was fine wasn't a recorded message and I really wasn't propped up in the corner like some bizarre scene out of "Weekend at Bernies." After reassuring them I hadn't dropped off the perch, we settled in for a lovely night of chatter and catch up.

My grand daughter, who is 5, loves to draw. Every time she comes over she draws me some sort of picture, usually happy homes and flowers, sunshine and beach and the odd crocodile. All the nice things that 5 year old girls draw. Then, a couple of weeks ago she drew me this:

I thought it was pretty good and a little different to what she normally draws. Great control of the pencil, a bit of flair, a few hearts. Very touching.
"Is this a cat?" I asked her.
She nodded. "Yes," she said. "A Devil Cat."
I had to ask. "What's a Devil Cat?"
She rolled her eyes and sighed. "You know, just a Devil Cat."
Unfortunately I'm not really familiar with Devil Cats, but being the Nanna and supposedly the wise old soothsayer of the family I nodded as if I knew what she was talking about.
"Ah, yes," I said. "A Devil Cat."

Last night, as per usual, she drew me another picture. As she casually gave it to me, she said, "here you go Nanna - another Devil Cat for you."
I had visions of Garfield with red trim, happy, smiley, little hearts and kisses and flowers.

And here it is:

WTF???  There's something about Devil Cat this time that's a little off centre. I don't know whether it's the flaming arrows or the little black hula skirt, but Devil Cat seems to be having a bad hair day. I hope those red marks on Devil Cat's face aren't sores, because then I think Devil Cat may have an issue with substance abuse. My granddaughter was so calm, so confident with this one that I didn't dare question her about the finer intricate details. Perhaps a Devil Cat is all it is, no more, no less. Make your own interpretation.

Perhaps this drawing is just a reaction to all that has happened over the last few days.
Perhaps not.
Perhaps it's a prediction of things to come, like the end of the Mayan Calendar.

If this is the case, then I'm in deep Devil Cat Doo Doo.

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Sunday Too Far Away...

I had a heart attack on Sunday morning.
I always thought that a heart attack would be more dramatic, more of that clutch at your chest moaning and groaning then falling to the floor action. Mine was a little more subtle, a tightness, a strange numb feeling in my elbow and nausea. I put it down to the latest bug going around town, a not so discreet vomiting bug that had everyone on the Peninsula running for the bucket.
I was driving at the time, about 20 kilometres from home when the first signs appeared, an uncomfortable tightening in the chest and a strange numb feeling in my elbow. I drove past the ambulance station and even briefly wondered whether I should turn in and get checked out. By the time I got home I was starting to sweat and was extremely nauseous. Once I got inside the house this seemed to pass, but the tightness was still there. In my wisdom, I decided to have a lie down. There was no excruciating pain to talk of, just this uncomfortable pressure in my chest. After tossing around for a while, I got back up and decided to self medicate with Google.
Google is a wealth of information. You can Google symptoms of any kind of disease you can think of, and they will point you to a website somewhere. My initial query found all sorts of symptoms from severe chest pain to a sore jaw. After all this research I was no closer to deciding if I was having a heart attack or not, but it had planted the seed that something was seriously wrong. My partner dismissed the heart attack theory as he didn't think I was in enough pain and I must admit, I did tend to agree with him. But there was still a niggling doubt in my mind. While he finished bathing our dogs, made the decision that we needed to call someone and get checked out.
I still remember feeling kind of stupid ringing up about what I thought were symptoms of some bug. And I'm only 52 - not ready to sell the farm yet. The ambulance paramedics arrived in no time, asked me the essential questions then hooked me up for the big test - The ECG. I was sure I was going to fail, they were going to look at me reproachfully, shake their heads and say there was very little wrong, you were right, probably just a bug. But that's not what happened. Their faces changed, everything stepped up a notch - the ECG showed I had suffered a heart attack and I was in serious danger of dying.
The ride into Newcastle was a memorable one. Lights and siren, honking horn, seriously fast driving, as well as constantly monitoring me and pumping me full of life saving drugs. It wasn't easy for them either. The back of the van is small and cramped, and thanks to the terrible condition of Port Stephens' roads, administering medication at high speeds is an art in itself. Thanks to the quick action and skilful driving of these two great guys, by the time we reached hospital, the blockage had cleared and I was out of danger. I was scheduled for angioplasty the next day and now have 2 stents in my heart.
I am still surprised that I came so close to death but it didn't feel all that serious. If I had let it go longer, the outcome could have been very different indeed. I'm scheduled for release tomorrow, home for a fortnight to rest before I take up where I left off. A small hiccup in my life, and I won't forget that it could have been the hiccup to end all hiccups.

Saturday, 11 June 2011

Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?

 I just became a millionaire.
Today I received an email from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) - no joke. It's official. Special Agent Bill Nicholson has verified it as 100% safe and guaranteed. My funds are sitting in the Bank of America, thanks to the hard work of the Agent in Charge Ronald Chong. I am amazed at how hard the FBI have been working on this one, Mr Chong is currently in Nigeria finalizing all the loose ends so my cashiers cheque can be drawn. There is a slight hiccup though, I need to pay a small fee of $300 to Mr Chong to get the money released. I guess it's a small price to pay. They even gave me a breakdown:

(1) Deposit Fee's ( Fee's paid by the company for the deposit into an American Bank which is - Bank Of America )
(2) Cashier's Check Conversion Fee ( Fee for converting the Wire Transfer payment into a Certified Cashier's Check )
(3) Shipping Fee's ( This is the charge for shipping the Cashier's Check to your home address and this fee includes Insurance )

This email was like a beacon of light at the end of the tunnel for me. Things have been tough lately, with rising interest rates and a mortgage that could sink a ship, power bills that match the national debt, petrol prices that need a payday loan to fuel the car and the rising costs of just everyday living. This windfall could change my life. My only troubling thought is - where am I going to get $300?

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Christmas in June

I have watched with interest the goings on with this old building in Hunter Street in Newcastle. After the last heavy rain the awning was hanging dangerously low and on the verge of collapse. A group of men which I assume were from the council dislodged the resident pigeons and their babies in a not so dignified manner and removed the offending part of the awning. After a few more days more people arrived to give the old building a coat of white. It was quite amazing how much this cleaned it up. This is where it gets interesting. A man armed with red paint and a stencil turned up and proceeded to stamp the white walls. Not content with that, next came the tizzy gold stripes between the red flowers. After a good windy day yesterday, the gold trim is peeling off. Who knows what this will look like by the end of next week. My first thought when I saw this? It looks like Christmas wrapping! Rumor has it that the new boss of the Newcastle Knights had a vision of buying some of the derelict buildings in Hunter Street, revamping them and turning Newcastle into the new Freemantle. Well, if this is one of those buildings, I suppose its a good start. Christmassy, joyous, bright and shiny, a little bit of bling to give a tired old street a lift. And if the rumour about the Knights boss isn't true, then who is getting this gem for Christmas?

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Pic of the week

I'm looking.....

A Religious Experience

Jesus walked past my office today.
He looked just like all those pictures you see of him - long hair and flowing, billowing robes, striding down the street like a tall ship in full sail. I think he had just been to the job center next door. My first thought was - what sort of job would Jesus apply for?
Feeding the masses with fish and loaves of bread was no mean feat - a job in the catering line would be my best bet. Or healing - there's a big shortage of doctors in the country areas, there might be a spot open for him there. And just what did he put down as his occupation on the form? Carpenter? Prophet? Don't get me wrong - my intention here is not to be sarcastic or belittle religion - my underlying thread of thought has no religious connotations at all. My views here are strictly neutral. I guess what I'm trying to say is that this poor soul is most probably unemployable in this day and age.
We often ignore things we see, take no notice of those who are less fortunate than us, blot out those images we think don't concern us. There are people all over the country just like this guy, homeless, unemployable and a little left of center. I see a virtual Cirque du Soleil pass by the office everyday, but for some reason Jesus was a standout.
So did this man who looked like Jesus make an impression? I guess he did - I gave him a second thought.